Friday, 31 July 2015

Angels Take Flight

Today I cast some Friendly Plastic pellets in the moulds I made for the angel wings and for some gearwheels. This was a lot more successful than the UTEE although I’ve had some further thoughts about that which I will mention later.

Here is the equipment needed for the FP pellets. You can see that I am working on my Presspahn ultra-heat-proof mat (as I did yesterday with the melting pot) – please see my sidebar for details of these mats which protect the surface underneath.

01 Equipment and Materials

On the left you can see my electric skillet heating up. I have put some water in it and set it to between 60 and 70 degrees centigrade which is the temperature at which the FP pellets soften and become useable. To the right is the tub which contained my original FP pellets and behind it, the ziplock bag of generic low-melting point plastic pellets that I bought to replace them – at greatly reduced cost! It pays to shop around because you are paying for the Friendly Plastic name and the stuff is exactly the same. You can certainly find it on Ebay. On the right you can see the moulds I made, and my UTEE spatula and spoon for fishing the FP out of the water.

Here are the pellets in the water, beginning to heat up. On the right is a ball of previously melted FP from a previous session. In future I shall flatten out any unused FP into thinner sheets which won’t take so long to melt. You can see that in its unmelted state it is opaque white.

02 Beginning to Melt the Pellets

Beginning to melt. If you look carefully you can see that some of the pellets are white in the centre and transparent around the edges as they start to soften. I call this the “frogspawn stage.”

03 Frogspawn Stage

Fully melted and ready for use (apart from the large ball which is still in its frogspawn state – you can clearly see the transparent “shell” around the still-unmelted inner core).

04 Melted and Ready

The water is just too hot to put your hands in, so you need something to take the FP out with. I use my UTEE kit – there’s a plastic spoon whose handle is also a pair of tweezers, and a silicone spatula. This is useful for pulling the small fragments of FP together so that they stick together, and it’s great because it’s non-stick. Melted FP does tend to stick to plastic.

This is what it looks like when removed from the water. You can see that I have broken off a small piece ready to use. It has to be moulded in your hands to get rid of air bubbles and to make it the shape you want. You have a few minutes before it begins to harden.

05 Removed from Water

At any time, if it starts to harden and go opaque, and you haven’t finished, you can put it back in the hot water till it goes clear again, and if you want you can put it back in its mould too – these silicone moulds are heat proof and come to no harm in the hot water. This will make the FP go clear and malleable again.

At this point I didn’t take any more photos because I was working fast and concentrating, and more or less forgot about the camera!

Here are the pieces I cast. You can see that they have gone opaque white again as they have cooled and hardened. You can see several pieces of left-over FP which I have flattened out ready for re-melting next time.

06 Castings

These are the two angel wings I made from the moulds I used yesterday for the UTEE. Because the moulds are so shallow, there was a lot of excess FP around them, and I cut this away with an X-acto knife, putting the offcuts back in the water to melt again.

07 Trimming the Angel Wings

This was quite hard work as the stuff gets fairly hard once set. I couldn’t cut most of it with scissors but used the scissors to help once I’d got started with the knife.

After the trimming, some of the edges were a bit rough. I tried filing these with a needle file but this didn’t work very well, so I heated up my hot knife and rubbed it gently around the edges, squeezing to the back any thickness that was generated around the edges.

08 Smoothing the Edges of the Angel Wings

You can see that on the smaller one, the inner edge is still a bit transparent from the heat. The hot knife made the edges a bit dirty but that doesn’t matter because they are going to be painted anyway.

Further thoughts on the UTEE

The main disadvantage of the UTEE was that it was too fragile. It was flexible when very thin but not nearly durable enough, and if thicker, tended to be more brittle and liable to break. Overnight I thought about this and wondered whether it would be possible to give it some support – this was my idea with the Angelina fibre but this didn’t work. I really like the look of the transparent wings, especially with the gold Perfect Pearls painted on the mould first, and if I can replicate this but with added strength, it might still work. It struck me that if I proceeded as before, and then, when the UTEE was still in the mould and still hot, I could lay down on top of it a piece of acetate which would stick to the UTEE and give it strength without sacrificing flexibility, and then trim off the excess. Being transparent, the acetate would be invisible. Of course, this would have to be acetate which would stand the high temperature – the normal variety would simply melt and buckle. I have a supply of acetate sheets for use with a laser printer which of course works by heat, and I have used this stuff in the past when needing to put heat in contact with acetate, for instance when one wants to use a hot glue gun. I think this might work. Watch this space.

Another thought about UTEE is that I could make some simple, thick wings just cut to shape without a mould, and stamped with a texture stamp such as you can see here. I love this technique. You can introduce lovely iridescent colours with Perfect Pearls or equivalent.

I have also just come across some stuff called silk clay (thank you Diana of Velvet Moth Studio – Diana says she gets ideas for materials and equipment from my blog so it’s nice to be able to find things on her blog too, which will help me!). Before this I hadn’t heard of it before. It seems that it is an air-drying modelling clay that cures to a rubbery, flexible consistency, and I think this might work well. You can wrap it around something else as well (e.g. beads) so that you use less, and add strength, and if it proves too flexible for my purposes, I might wrap it around some acetate or card before pressing it onto the mould. It was this that gave me the idea of strengthening the UTEE with acetate. Anyway, initially I could find very little about it except kids’ stuff, and a lot of videos not in English (I think it may be of Danish manufacture) but eventually I came across some good stuff in English and for adults, including this very good tutorial on Splitcoaststampers, a site that is well worth a visit for those who don’t know it as it’s full of tutorials, galleries of people’s work, ideas, etc. It seems that you can colour this clay with water-based products (distress inks, acrylic and watercolour paints etc.) as well as alcohol inks and alcohol-based markers. It is available in lots of colours but for our purposes you really only need white. Again, watch this space! I’ve got a small tub of white silk clay on order and we’ll see how I get on with it.

I am glad that I did my abortive experiments with the UTEE because they may not have been so abortive after all. The Friendly Plastic wings are definitely better, and seem flexible and strong enough. Whether there is enough definition on them to show up the design remains to be seen after they are painted. As with the gearwheels I have made in the past from this material, I am planning to paint them (and the gearwheels from today) with black gesso and then add gilding wax, which I know looks good.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Flightless Angels

Today, feeling a bit better again, I decided to devote the morning to some experimental work in my ARTHaven. EPIC FAIL. However, I decided to blog about it anyway, because I did come up with some interesting results, even if none of them were useable for the purpose I wanted – some may be able to be developed further and used differently, and it’s always good to learn from one’s mistakes!

The other day I made these moulds from the metal angel wings I recently got from Etsy.

02 Angel Wings and Misc Charms 28-7

I needed to discover what kind of materials would work with these extremely shallow moulds, that would be strong enough and flexible enough not to be brittle. Today’s experiments were mostly with UTEE (Ultra-Thick Embossing Enamel), and also a little with Angelina Fibre and Fantasy Film.

My first plan was to use one of the large wing moulds to make some transparent wings by pouring in clear UTEE. First of all I painted the inside of the mould with some dry Perfect Pearls in Perfect Gold.

01 Painting Large Mould with Perfect Pearls

Using my melting pot, I melted some UTEE which was already in there, which had been mixed with UTEE Flex (granules which you add to UTEE to keep it flexible). Pouring it into the mould wasn’t a great success. It was hard not to get far too much in. I scraped half of it back into the pot with the spatula.

02 UTEE Poured onto Large Mould

Once it was set, I peeled off the mould. The UTEE was so thin that it tore, and wasn’t all there! The effect was nice, though.

03 UTEE Removed from Large Mould

Here’s a detail, showing the shimmer of the Perfect Pearls showing through the clear UTEE.

04 Shimmer on UTEE from Large Mould

It was obviously extremely flexible and unsuitable for self-supporting wings. This technique might possibly work if the piece was being applied to a flat surface as an embellishment, though.

I then moved on to the smaller mould, and decided on a different approach, this time sprinkling on UTEE and melting it with my heat gun. This time I used gold UTEE. I had to hold the heat gun well back so as not to blow the UTEE away, but close enough to start to melt the surface of the granules and make them tacky, after which I could zoom in with the heat gun and melt it easily. Here it is after the first layer had been melted.

05 1st Layer of Gold UTEE Melted on Small Mould

While it was still warm and tacky, I added another layer of UTEE and melted that.

06 2nd Layer of Gold UTEE Melted on Small Mould

The next photo shows the third layer of UTEE having been added, and about to be melted.

07 3rd Layer of Gold UTEE Sprinkled on Small Mould

Once it was cool, I peeled the mould off, and was surprised to find that where the top surface was bright gold, the surface that had been in contact with the mould was a dull brown! Very disappointing. Maybe this was the result of repeated heating.

08 Gold UTEE Removed from Small Mould - Back

It felt fairly strong and slightly flexible, and I was able to trim away the excess with scissors.

09 Gold UTEE from Small Mould Trimmed - Back

However, on flexing it a little further, it broke.

10 Gold UTEE from Small Mould Broken

My third test was to use the sprinkling method with the heat gun, but to add some UTEE flex. I painted the mould with Perfect Pearls again and melted a layer of clear UTEE. Once it was melted, I sprinkled on some of the Flex granules and melted it again, and then added two more layers of clear UTEE, melting each separately.

I did find that the melting UTEE tended to creep away from the mould and create holes in itself. I am not sure if the Perfect Pearls were making the surface of the mould too non-stick. Eventually as I added more UTEE, it seemed to fill up OK.

Here is is, cooling.

11 Clear UTEE Melted with UTEE Flex on Small Mould

After it had been removed from the mould.

12 Clear UTEE and UTEE Flex Removed from Mould

Again I trimmed this with scissors, and again, managed to break off the tip.

13 Clear UTEE and UTEE Flex Trimming and Broken

This time I decided to try and mend it, by pressing the broken edge of each piece onto the surface of the melting pot to soften it, and then pressed them together.

14 Clear UTEE and UTEE Flex Mended

I heated the whole thing gently from the top which eventually got rid of the join. I think a piece made in this way would be ideal to mount supported on a flat surface as an embellishment, but I don’t think it would stand up in flight!

Being unconvinced that it was strong enough not to break, I decided to re-melt it, and this time to spread some Angelina fibres over the melted UTEE in the hope that they might strengthen it. This is the back, after it was pulled off the mould. Quite opaque-looking.

15 Clear UTEE Strengthened with Angelina Fibre - Back

This is the front. Quite a mess. You can’t see much of the definition of the wing detail.

16 Clear UTEE Strengthened with Angelina Fibre - Front

The back, after trimming.

17 Clear UTEE Strengthened with Angelina Fibre Trimmed - Back

The front, after trimming.

18 Clear UTEE Strengthened with Angelina Fibre Trimmed - Front

Not a huge success.

I decided to try laying a piece of Fantasy Film over the mould and putting UTEE on top of that and melting it, hoping that the Fantasy Film would pick up the detail of the mould, but it just shrank and crept away from the mould, and I ended up with a shapeless piece which was somewhat wrinkled and pitted. It was an interesting effect, though, with iridescent shimmery colours, and I may be able to use this piece in other projects.

19 Fantasty Film and UTEE Layered

While still thinking about Angelina Fibre and Fantasy film, I decided to try a technique I have used before with rubber stamps. This doesn’t always seem to work, and it does seem to depend on what colour of Angelina Fibre you use, for the image to show up nice and clearly.

I spread some Angelina Fibre over the mould and laid a piece of non-stick silicone baking parchment over the top and ironed it.

20 Ironing Angelina Fibres Over Mould

Very unsatisfactory! All it did was flatten and fuse the Angelina Fibre and no image was visible. Simple stamps without too much detail work best for this technique, I think, and probably much deeper-etched ones than the depth of my very shallow mould.

I tried the same with Fantasy Film laid down first, and then Angelina Fibre. Same result. Total failure!

21 Ironing Angelina Fibres and Fantasy Film Over Mould

Here are all my failures together.

22 All My Failures

Oh well.

I need a new material to fill these very shallow moulds. I am sure that polymer clay is going to be too brittle to use this thin. There is a possibility that Friendly Plastic pellets may work, and when I next cast some things from moulds, which will be soon, I am going to try using this with these moulds, but because this stuff is more like clay in consistency when melted, and not pourable, I think it may be hard to fill the moulds neatly, and difficult to trim them afterwards once they are set. FP ends up fairly hard, and this thin, it may break.

I discovered something called silk clay last night and that might possibly work. This stuff behaves like modelling clay but sets to a lightweight rubbery substance which may stand up if the pieces are not too large. I need something strong enough not to break, and slightly flexible so it isn’t brittle, but not so flexible that it won’t stand up under its own weight.

For the moment it looks as if my angels are going to remain flightless, unless anyone can come up with some helpful suggestions!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Bit More Mould Making

I am now 4 days on from my fourth chemo treatment, and again, feeling better in the mornings so taking advantage of that to do a bit in my ARTHaven. I do seem to be at my best in the mornings, and then have to rest during the afternoon and evening. I am hoping that like last time, the effects will not last much beyond the first week, enabling me to take full advantage of feeling better before the next treatment.

This morning I made a few more moulds, using the Amazing Mould Putty. I had one or two fails from the past batch of moulds so remade these, and then I did a few more.

The reason one or two of my gearwheel moulds failed was that I pressed them down too far, and wiggled them a bit so they were rather indistinct, and not pressed in at an even depth all around. One or two had blemishes because of inadequate manipulation of the mixed putty, so they had air bubbles or creases.

To make a good mould, I have discovered that if you make a ball shape and flatten it slightly, so that it is still slightly smaller than the object, and then press the object down, it spreads the mould so it is big enough. Press down gently so that the top of the object is level with the surface of the mould and don’t wiggle it. The less manipulation the better. These redone moulds were very much better.

A few weeks ago I ordered some thin metal angel wings from Etsy and decided to try and make some moulds from these. I found the best way to make the moulds was to mix the putty and make it into a ball and then roll it out with my acrylic roller which is really for polymer clay. I laid the thin metal piece onto this thinly rolled out piece, and rolled over the top very gently with the roller, and then placed a flat board over the top with a weight on top, to keep it all flat. After curing, the mould peeled off the bottom of the board with no problem at all, and the metal piece remained nice and flat, making a good impression.

02 Angel Wings and Misc Charms 28-7

The wings are very thin, so the moulds are thin too, and this may present a problem with casting, but I shall do some experiments and see what works best with them.

I also made a few more moulds from some miscellaneous charms while I was at it.

Here is a detailed shot of the angel wing moulds.

03 Detail of Angel Wing Moulds 28-7

The impression is very good in each case. I think the best medium to cast in these moulds will be Friendly Plastic pellets because this stuff ends up quite rigid. Polymer clay at this thickness would probably be too brittle and break. Another advantage of the FP is that I could possibly warm the centre with a hot knife so that I could bend the wings up? Not sure if this would work but it’s worth a try!

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Mould Making and Stamp Mounting

I had my fourth chemo on Friday and although I felt awful for the rest of Friday, yesterday and today I am feeling quite a bit better and have managed to do a few things. The worst part has been raging peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet and the only thing to do is to keep them as warm as possible – not easy doing things with 2 pairs of gloves on!! Last time I had a good weekend but then crashed for the rest of the first week, so I am hoping this won’t happen again. Things were much better in the second and third week though, so I think the reduced dose is helping.

Yesterday I spent some time working on editing images for one of the secret projects I am working on, and this morning I decided to make some moulds from the new metal embellishments and gearwheels I got on Ebay last week. For one of the projects I am working on, I wanted to use a particular rubber stamp from a set I bought ages ago but hadn’t yet used, and I hadn’t realised that I had never got around to mounting them, so I did that today, too.

Mould Making

01 Gearwheels from Ebay and Steampunk Wings 26-7

In addition to the gearwheels, I also got a couple of metal pairs of wings and hearts from Ebay. All these metal embellishments are quite heavy for use on cards, and are better on albums and other projects, so I decided to make moulds from them – that way you can use the originals with impunity, but still have an endless supply! I make them up in Friendly Plastic or UTEE or polymer clay, or even Polyfilla One Fill (Joint Compound) – whatever takes my fancy.

I finished the EasyMold Silicone Putty (the purple sort) and then started the Amazing Mold Putty (yellow) to finish this project. Need to order some more of this!

The putty comes in two pots, one coloured and one white. You take equal quantities of each, and mix them together until you can no longer see any streaking, and then you press the object into it. It cures really quickly so you need to work fast – the large mould in the picture (the pair of wings and the heart) was starting to go off while I made the impression because I didn’t mix up enough to start with, so I am not sure how well that one will work. I can always make it again if it’s not a success.

Once they are set, you can pull the object out, but you shouldn’t use the moulds until they are fully cured. I usually leave them overnight to be sure.

Stamp Mounting

My last attempt at stamp mounting using EZ Mount Foam was a bit different! Usually this is a horrendously sticky and unpleasant job, and even with Tim Holtz’ wonderful non-stick scissors with their micro-serrated blades, they get coated with sticky gunk and have to be cleaned off, and it gets all over your hands… So last time I decided to use my hot knife, after seeing a Youtube video on this, and while it worked really well, it made the most humungous smell which took a long time to get rid of!

This time, therefore, I decided on the Talc Method. I always keep a jar of unperfumed talk on my work desk as it has all sorts of uses. This time I sprinkled some on the craft mat and rubbed some on the blades of the scissors and cut out the stamps which I had already stuck onto the ultra-sticky surface. I put the clippings into the talc and kept adding more to my fingers and to the scissors, and the result was pretty good!

04 Mounting with Talc 26-7

Clean-up was easy afterwards – all the bits went in the rubbish bin and didn’t stick to my hands. I wiped off as much talc as I could from the surface of the stamps, and put them back on their packaging. The scissors had a bit of glue on them (minimal) and I used a quick spray of Stick Away from Crafters’ Companion (an essential part of my kit).

05 Crafty Individuals Locks and Keys Stamps Mounted 26-7

Nice job, eh?

More later, on how I use these things.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


My desk today has on it the remains of the project I completed yesterday – a faux leather masterboard.

WOYWW 320 22-7 Annotated

As usual, I haven’t put stuff away after I finished, but then, if I had, all you’d see would be a bare desk. I don’t know why, but I’ve often just finished something when it’s time for WOYWW!

You can see the masterboard on the craft mat. Here’s a better picture of it.

20 The Completed Masterboard

I’ve got a bit of a deadline on to make several projects, none of which I can show you until the recipients have received them, but the faux leather is definitely going to be used for one of them. At the end of last week, I did a mixed media project which I also can’t show you… I haven’t even got a sneak peak of that!

Resting on top of the masterboard on my desk is a plastic box with some acrylic paints in it. I mentioned to my hubby last night that I’d used up practically a whole tube of burnt umber, painting 2 A3 sheets for faux leather with 3 coats of paint, and I’d have to order some more, and he said he had some acrylics somewhere which he didn’t want. Someone gave them to him but he does watercolours. He dug them out and there’s a nice lot of burnt umber, as well as some other colours, but I still need to order some more paints.

You can also see the three tubes of acrylics on the left of the masterboard, that I used to paint it. Further to the left (mostly out of shot, you will be glad to hear) is the same untidy pile of stuff waiting to be put away! I hate putting things away. It’s a very boring task. Eventually I can’t stand the mess any more and then I get down to it.

Still not put away are the distress inks I used for my last project (which is still secret). Beside those are the gel medium and acrylic wax (also not yet put away!) used to finish my two faux leather masterboards. You can also see the piece of kitchen paper I used to clean up the brown acrylic paint I used. I keep these pieces of kitchen paper and use different ones for cleaning up different colours and eventually when they are nicely covered, they can be used for creating backgrounds, or reconstituted into “hand made paper.” Just as I hate putting things away, I also hate throwing things away!

That just about covers my desk for this week, I think.

I am determined to crack on with my projects and get as much done as possible before Friday when I have my fourth chemo treatment. I am not sure how I am going to feel afterwards, and with deadlines firmly in place, I am not at all sure I shall finish my projects! Hopefully the effects will last only for the first week, like last time – I can cope with that. After this treatment I will be half way through! What a great milestone that is – after that I shall be making rapid progress towards the end, which should take place in mid-October.

After showering, hair-washing, tidying my bathroom (I’ve finally put away all the bags of samples we picked up from the stoma open day back in June – I have now tried them all and done a review on my Gutless Bag Lady blog), making the bed with clean sheets, sorting the washing, taking my WOYWW photo and also dealing with a bag leak and a major stoma fountain in the bathroom first thing (sorry if that’s TMI but it was fairly dramatic!!! Kermit, my stoma, who is usually very well behaved, decided he was fed up with being a goodie 2-shoes and showed another side to his character!) – I am now exhausted and on the recliner. Hopefully I’ll feel a bit better later and will be able to crack on with my latest project.

Have a great WOYWW everybody with lots of creative juices flowing, and I look forward to seeing what you are all up to.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Faux Leather Masterboard Part 2

When the two sheets of faux leather were dry, I was able to start painting them.

You only need a fairly limited colour palette – a darker and a lighter brown are all that are required, but when I did this the first time, I felt that the addition of a little yellow ochre lightened it a bit and gave it a little more interest.

08 Paints for Faux Leather

I worked on my non-stick craft mat as this is so easy to clean up, even when the acrylic paint has dried on it. Starting to paint the first layer of burnt umber, I used quite a large brush and added a touch of water. It is best to use a combination of stippling and short, multi-directional brush strokes in order to push the paint into all the creases in the faux leather. I went fairly carefully with the first coat, as I did not want to break up the surface of the paper, which although much stronger now it was dry, was still vulnerable if wet.

09 Beginning to Paint First Layer of Burnt Umber

The first coat of burnt umber complete. You can see that the cover is inadequate, and some of the whiteness of the card is showing through the paint layer.

10 First Layer of Burnt Umber Complete

At least two coats are required, depending on the coverage and the quality of the paint; I think three coats is best. Here is the faux leather after the application of the second coat. You can see that the coverage is a lot more even now.

11 Second Layer of Burnt Umber Complete

The third and final coat complete. It now has a good, overall coverage in a rich, dark brown.

12 Third Layer of Burnt Umber Complete

It could have been left like this – it now had the look of leather, but the finish was a little flat, and with some highlights it would appear much more like the real thing. You can see that the paint leaves a slight sheen – in the above photo the paint is still a bit wet, and it dries slightly less shiny.

To finish the piece, some lighter brown (in this case, burnt sienna) and then some yellow ochre, were dry-brushed on. The minimum of paint was applied; it is much easier to add more than to remove too much! It requires a very light touch, just enough for the paint to touch the tops of the creases.

The burnt sienna being applied.

13 Dry Brushing with Burnt Sienna

The piece with the burnt sienna dry brushing laid over the original piece to compare. Unfortunately the photos don’t really pick up the difference very well.

14 Dry Brushing with Burnt Sienna Compared with Not

The burnt sienna dry brushing complete. I think you can see that it now has a reddish tinge.

15 Dry Brushing with Burnt Sienna Complete

Dry brushing with yellow ochre. Again, the piece being worked on is laid on top of the piece with just the burnt sienna dry brushing, to compare.

16 Dry Brushing with Yellow Ochre Compared with Burnt Sienna

Once both sheets were dry, I applied the finishes. I decided that with the piece I was going to retain as a photographic background, it would be better if it had a matte finish so that I wouldn’t be troubled by reflections. This is where I made my mistake. I thought that if I painted on some soft matte gel medium with a foam brush, this would dry crystal clear (as the glass bead gel medium does) and that I would just get a nice matte finish, but the wretched stuff dried quite milky, and it’s not a success! You live and learn… I would have done better to use a matte spray varnish.

17 Applying Soft Matt Gel Medium

For the other piece, which is going to be used as a masterboard and cut up for different projects, I used one single liberal coat of acrylic wax, again applied with a foam brush. I have had success with this before on faux leather.

20 Acrylic Wax Complete

It has a lovely sheen, and brings out the colours and texture well.

Here are the two finishes compared. I may still be able to use the matte one but it hasn’t come out as intended! I am very pleased with the other one, though.

21 The Two Finishes Compared

The pieces are quite floppy and flexible and have the feel of real leather.

The finished masterboard.

20 The Completed Masterboard

I have deliberately left this masterboard unembellished. When cut up, I can emboss the pieces if I want, or add some gold highlights with gilding wax, or whatever else is required for the individual project. Leaving it in its original state makes it more versatile.

Faux leather can be used for cards, covering boxes, making book covers… its uses are endless, and limited only by your own imagination. The colour can be anything you like, and if the surface is further plasticised with the addition of wax or varnish to seal it, it is actually quite durable. It is very useful for making man cards as it has a nice masculine look! Watch this space to see what I do with my faux leather masterboard.

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