December 7, 2008

Art From Research

Filed under: Art and Drawings,Science and Art — sarah @ 8:00 pm

My friend Carina has won the runners up prize for the UCL grad schools ‘Research Images as Art/Art Images as Research’ competition. The pictures were all on display in UCL and were pleasant to walk around – some of them were stunning but a lot I felt were a bit contrived.

Carina had four lovely images made into one of the black lava structures she had observed on one of her field trips – she does volcanic hazards. I felt really happy as I had been one of the people she consulted as to what images to submit!

The website unfortunately still only has 2007’s winners on it but they are worth a look!

September 14, 2008

Glass Window Projects of the Future

Filed under: Art and Drawings,Science and Art — sarah @ 4:39 pm

I went to the Royal Astronomical Society where there was a fantastic glass window which I fell in love with. I have never seen glass in a window done like this – it had the glass textured into a swirl that was coloured subtly with pastel pinks and greens with geometic shapes frosted in. Unfortunately I didn’t get to have a proper look at it as I was enroute to a talk.

I have been entranced by stained glass windows ever since I was a small child and now I have seen a scientific and beautiful stained glass window it has started me thinking. One of the things I want to do when I have the time and the money is to learn how to do stained glass and maybe even glass blowing, though I am a bit scared of that as it can be dangerous and would have to wait until we’ve built the appropriate equipment anyway!

Projects using glass windows that I have so far envisioned:

I would like to put a stained glass window in the bathroom showing a boat and a lighthouse. This I think will be done with leading and no texture to the glass.

I would like to have a wine and cheese board including grapes in the centre of the kitchen window where I plan to have net curtains that swoop either side of the design. I see the grapes as being made of bevelled glass, adding texture and therefore a more three dimensional quality to the picture.

I would like the front door to show scenes of the stream including hills and trees and fields, butterflies, dragonflies and a myriad of other insectile life plus mushrooms and spider webs. For this I think I would really need to find out how to make the unbounded colours and how to texture the glass so as not to completely cut off the light coming in though the door. The door is basically made up of glass panels but I am aware that it might be nicer to completely change the door and have the picture spread across two different mediums, namely wood and glass. I think carving and staining the wood would lend a wonderful depth to the picture but as these are two sets of skills I have yet to acquire it will take a while before this one can be done.

For the living room window I would like to produce a picture of the old water mill next door to us complete with waterfall and flowered rock garden; I even managed to photograph a rainbow over it once which I feel would add a certain enchantment though I am aware that many people may feel this is completely over the top. I think that the waterfall would look very nice in textured glass of some kind. I would want to get in as many of the features without over crowding it as I could. My husband’s grandfather put a lot of the features in like using the old mill wheels as tables and stuff like that so I really want to capture the essance of the place.

The window at the back of the house that overlooks the the stream I feel should be kept mainly clear as a) I do not want to cut the light coming into the room down too much and b) it is the window that is great for watching the birds through on a bird table we have there. But I think that a border round the edges would look nice. A bat in one corner with the moon and clouds fading down to mushrooms and leaf litter with a hedghog snuffling about one side and a leafy tree with birds and ivy and insects, a mouse snuffling about the other. Again I think this is going to have to mostly be unbounded by leading with textured glass being used.

In my daughter’s bedroom I would like to put a storybook scene on the window but with children I don’t think doing anything permanent is a good idea so I am wondering whether I can do the picture on some sort of sheet that I can attache and detach when she wants a change but in a way that we get to keep the pictures. This way the pictures could grow up with her and reflect her interests etc…

The window that faces out to the front of the house in our bedroom I would like to simply paint with barge paint style flowers and designs in a nice border.

On the other window I would like to fade from deep blue through magenta purple, through pink and melon yellow with a silhouette of sand dunes a few palms and a camel trail, with a fine sliver of a crescent moon high in the sky of the picture and a few glinting stars, possibly actually metallic. I have always loved this style of picture and for some reason since I was about 13 have wanted it in my bedroom!

The large double doors at the end of the office I feel should show the fundamentals of maths and computing.

The middle window would show mechanics in motion.

My window would depict a paleo-landscape with trilobites and ammonites.

I’m not sure if any of this is possible and will probably never get the chance to even try but it’s nice designing the project and maybe I’ll get round to at least doing the concept sketches. 🙂

August 24, 2008

Making a Planisphere

Filed under: Kids Projects,Science and Art — sarah @ 2:34 pm

A planisphere is a device for working out where the planets and constellations are going to be in the sky and as I was doing the Astronomy badge with my Scouts I felt we should make one. So I printed two circles: one of them has all the constellations that are easily recognisable from the northern hemisphere and the other is slightly bigger and has the months round it.

I printed the two circles onto two different pieces of paper and then got the children to cut around the star circle. The second larger circle with the dates on it needed the middle cut out which was a bit more tricky and we had to help a few of them with it. 

sheets of stars

We then put each of the two pieces of planisphere in a separate laminating pouch each and put them through the laminating machine.


We then cut out the circles again but not the inside bit of the date circle. We made a hole in the middle of both discs using blue tac and a compass point. In the holes that we made we pushed a split pin through and opened it out at the back. Now we could rotate the discs and we had a working planisphere. 


July 27, 2008

Pom Pom Comet

Filed under: Kids Projects,Science and Art — sarah @ 2:35 pm


I have been working on the Astromomy and Astronautics badge with my Scout group and to go with the Coloured Card Solar System, I got them to all make these pom pom comets.

For this you need:

  • Medium sized pom poms in various colours

  • Crepe paper in assorted colours

  • String

  • Scissors

  • Glue or tape

Basically we cut crepe paper into strips which they attached to the pom pom to represent the comets’ trail; some of the kids added secondary tails at different angles. We then tied or threaded the string around or through the pom pom.

They then ran round the hall whirling them round their heads to make the ‘comets’ orbit them; the tails fluttered in a pleasing manner 🙂 and only one ended up in the rafters.

July 20, 2008

Grandfather-in-law’s Flower Book

Filed under: Art and Drawings,Paper Craft,Science and Art — sarah @ 4:16 pm

the book

This boring looking brown book was brought to me by my husband’s aunt. She said it was full of pressed flowers and that I could use them for my cards and things as she had seen me collecting flowers to press. I looked at the frail book and asked where he had got it from, ‘Oh he probably made it,’ was her response and when I looked at the way it was held together with a sort of canvas along the spine, you could tell it was homemade!

However it was not full of pressed flowers – no it was full of the loveliest flower pictures that he had drawn and painted. Here are the pictures – I hope to be able to get proper copies of these made at some point for a set of postcards we could send to people which I think would be nice. His name was Maurice Saxon Snell by the way for those who are interested. I really do like these pictures.

page 1page 2page threepage fourpage fivepage sixpage sevenpage eightpage ninepage tenpage elevenpage twelve

I think the neat clear handwriting is something to be savoured as well and puts me in mind of Beatrix Potter and her botanical illustrations.

July 13, 2008

The Solar System in Coloured Card

Filed under: Kids Projects,Paper Craft,Science and Art — sarah @ 2:36 pm

the solar system not to scale

I have been doing the Astronomy and Astronuatics badges with my scout group and as part of it felt that they needed to understand what was in the solar system and where so I made a solar system out of card which they had to put in order.


the solar system improoved by the kids

I then got them to add the things that were missing such as the asteroid belt and comets! Some of them made their own version of it to take home.

blue and green

For the planets Neptune and Uranus I cut out one green circle and one blue circle, and one blue and one green oval that were about twice as wide as the discs. I then drew a smaller ellipse in the ovals – these touched the top line so when I cut them out it left two ‘broken rings’. Uranus and Neptune are the two smaller gaseous planets and have rings, they tend to both be sort of icy colours so I decided to reverse the colours. They also have rings but this is a relatively recent discovery.

ringed planets

Using pritt stick glue I stuck the rings on with the ‘broken’ bit of the ring behind the planet. This gave them a sense of perspective and helps you to visualise that the ring goes around the planets.

For Saturn I drew a larger yellow circle and cut out an orange ring. Saturn and Jupiter are the larger gaseous planets and tend to be the more warm colours, Saturn is also famous for its rings!

bits of saturn


I glued the ring in place on Jupiter.


I then wanted to add in the stripey type banding that you see on these planets – this is their atmosphere and how it moves about. I chose brown for this and drew a circle the same size as the yellow circle I had initially used for the planet. I then cut it out. Once I had the brown circle I cut sections and bands from it and stuck them on the planet. I should have done this before I stuck the ring on but never mind!

For Jupiter I took a sheet of orange paper that had a pattern of smudgy red lines on it; these represent the storm belts on the planet. I then simply cut out a yellow oval for the ‘red spot’ a storm that has been raging for a stupid length of time and which is very big. I know it’s called the red spot but it doesn’t look that red to me and a red oval didn’t actually look right on the orange and red card.


For Earth, which is one of the small inner rocky or terrestrial planets, I drew a small circle on some pale blue card. I then cut out some green card in roughly continent shapes and put white card on the two poles – to represent the ice sheets – though if warming continues I may have to revise the planet.


I cut small circles out of red card for Mars, orange with red smudges for Venus and brown for Mercury. I then covered Mars and Mercury in glitter from glitter pens and 3D paint. Red for Mars, silver and gold for Mercury.


For the Sun which is the star at the centre of our solar system I drew the largest circle on yellow card with orange smudgy lines on it.  I then cut triangles around the circle to represent the heat rays and light coming off instead of just cutting around the circle (the foot belongs to my little girl who was ‘helping’).

the sun

I then used gold and bronze glitter pens and yellow and red 3D paint pens to decorate the sun.

glittered sun

The scouts added in moons and asteroids which was fun, oh and Pluto which is still being argued about but is considered a plutonian object now rather than a planet or asteroid. Or was last time I checked!


If you made the planets double sided I think you could make a lovely planetary mobile out of them!

March 9, 2008

Green Swirl Vase

Filed under: Art and Drawings,Polymer Clay,Science and Art — sarah @ 4:58 pm

green swirl

This vase was partially designed from leftovers and partially based on mineral textures you find in rocks. It was made using a Sainsbury’s Basic’s glass; orange, egg yoke yellow, mint green and forest green fimo soft. I also used another glass with straight sides as a rolling pin, a chopping board, a plastic sculpting tool with an angled flat blade, and a penknife – plus our oven and baking tray.

To make the green swirls I actually used the off-cuts from around a Christmas tree cookie cutter. I was using the tree shapes primarily, and then when I saw the off-cuts I thought they would look perfect as the sort of ‘veining’ you get in mineral formations – though I must say here I was thinking more about how rocks look in thin slices under the microscope with various filters on them. I was also working with meteorites specifically at the time and so had unusual patterns lodged in my head that begged to be used artistically.

To get the texture I simply cut up the dark green fimo and then squidged it all back together to get it in a nice manageable consistency; I then did the same with the light green. I rolled the colours into two different sausages which I then put next to each other and rolled together. Then I folded the two tone sausage in half and half again. I rolled it into a smooth shape, pinching the ends where I had folded it off, in order to make beads and shells. I then cut the sausage into discs about 1.5mm thick which I arranged into a sort of wonky square. Obviously there were gaps between each of the discs but I used my fingers to try and squidge the discs a bit without distorting the colours too much. This sort of fuses the edges of the discs together.

Once this was done I took a high-sided glass and used it as a rolling pin, making sure that I moved the now sheet of patterned fimo around, otherwise it sticks to the glass rolling pin or the surface that you are working on. The rolling action helps fuse the discs into a sheet nicely – some people use a pasta machine to roll sheets of fimo but I have never tried this personally, so have no idea how well it works.

As I said earlier I then cut out Christmas trees from this and used the off-cuts for this vase. I had lots of bumpy stripes which I wrapped around a glass as a series of rings – I wanted it to be quite natural-looking so the rings were quite irregular. A bit of gentle pressure with a finger pad meant I could blend the fimo into nice continous rings rather than having an abrupt and obvious join, but you have to be careful not to blur the colours in doing this.

Once I had done this I made an orange and yellow fimo sausage which I again cut into discs, but this time I put the discs straight onto the glass and squidged them, smoothing over the bits where they touched each other and the green rings. I covered the entire glass at the rim, overlapping the edge of the glass so that the fimo disc went inside. Once it was entirely covered I took the sculpture tool and ran it around the inside of the glass to get rid of the excess fimo – this left a nice neat rim around the top with a clean interior. I then signed the bottom of the vase and using another high-sided straight glass, I rolled around the vase to help remove fingerprints. Then I placed the finished vase onto the baking tray.

I then baked it for 30 minutes at 130 degrees C.

February 3, 2008

Medieval Loom

Filed under: Events,Science and Art,Sewing — sarah @ 10:04 am

At the moment the Museum and Art Gallery in Cheltenham has an exhibite called Medieval Machines which I took my two year old to. Whilst there I became intreged by this loom.

medieval loom

The long threads attatched to the frame are called the wrap – these are the ones running along the leanth of the loom that you weave the wool in and out of. The way this loom is set up there is a treddle which appears to be the treadle bar at the bottom though I wouldn’t swear to that and a heddle which I think was the flate panel of wood in the middle that had the string running though it, alternatively in slots or wholes. When the peadle was pressed down it raised this panel so that the strings going through the wholes where raised whilst those in the slots stayed in the same place. This ment that instead of weaving in and out, over and under each alternate thread you could just pushed the thread though the middle and then either put your foot on or off of the pedle and repeat the process.

peddle down

The presance of the heddle is too allow both hands to be free for moving the thread backwards and forwards.

the resultsThe resulting weave though some ones obviously not followed the instructions here!

There was also a piece of wood with rounded ‘teeth’ cut out of it along one side – this was the comb. This was used to push the threads down into place so that they sat flush against the previous row. The would make the fabric far neater I think.

The wool its self was wrapped around a wooden plank with two longer slightly curved pieces of wood either side that looked like runners on a sled. This is called the shuttle and makes moving the thread through alot easier. The wall that was rapped around the shuttle I think is called the weft.

There was also some information about the general history of weaving and looms. He is what I learned:

Apparently weaving begain with farming in the Neolithic which was about 10, 000 years ago. Origonally looms where upright with the long threads known as the wrap hanging down weighted by stones to keep them tuaght.

The clever teddle/heddle thing appeared to be a middle ages thing and allowed better efficiency with both hands being used to move the shuttle (wooden block with the thread, wool etc… rapped around it). Later on several heddle rods – the middle panel thing with the slots and wholes in (I think) where used to make complecated patterns.

This next bit is sort of about textile history in general but I thought it was quiet interesting in a handicraft sort of way!

Textiles it turns out were the most important industry apart from agriculture in medieval times. This was especially the case in places like Northern History and Flanders (which I think might have been part of Spain).

England origonally was just a wool merchant but then we got interested and started making our own stuff. I personally wonder about the rest of the UK did they develope their own textile industries around this time too?

To my suprise the spinning wheel did not reach Europe until about 1300 years ago. It migrated from the Middle East and helped the textile industries emmensly by increasing thread production.

Obviously I have parraphrased alot of this from stuff I read at the museum and from other things I have read since going to the exhibition.

Unfortunatly it is only there until the 8th of MArch 2008 but if you can catch the exhibite then it is lots of fun 🙂 I have also made some scetches that I hope to add to this post at some future date.

Wiki links that are interesting reguarding this:

August 12, 2007

Swirly Striped Vase

Filed under: Polymer Clay,Science and Art — sarah @ 1:32 pm

Fimo Vase Horizontal swerl vase inside inside with flash

This is one of my geo-vases that were inspired by my undergraduate petrology classes (looking at rock forming minerals under a microscope).

I made this vase by covering a hi-ball glass in fimo (polymer clay) and then baking it so the fimo went hard.

I created the swirly texture by squidging my selected colours of fimo to make them soft. The colours I used were:

*Red *Orange *Glittery gold/yellow *Green *Blue *White

I then rolled each colour into a sausage, except for the white, which I rolled into a number of sausages as it was to be mixed with all the other colours!

I then took the blue sausage and mixed it with a white sausage, the half and half sausage was then folded in half and in half again, and rolled back into a thin sausage. I then sliced the sausage up into mm thick discs. I did the same for the other colours, mixing each with white to give some sort of continuity to the vase.

I then started at the top of the glass and squidged two layers of the blue and white discs around the glass. I made sure that the fimo was squidged over the rim. I then did two layers of green and white, followed by two layers of gold and white. Then the orange and white – again orange and white. With the red and white, however, I just covered the rest of the glass in it, as it was mostly the base of the glass.

I made sure the fimo on the base was slightly thicker than the rest of the vase as this is where I sign them by slashing my signature into the fimo with a sculpting tool. I then rolled another glass around the vase to smooth the fimo as there are always lots of fingerprints present in the surface.

I then scraped around the rim of the vase to remove the excess fimo whilst leaving the rim covered neatly.

I then baked it in the oven for half an hour (30 minutes) at 130 degrees C.

August 5, 2007

Sawdust Grass Hair Head

Filed under: General,Kids Projects,Science and Art — sarah @ 12:05 pm

saw dust head

I made this when I was about fourteen at Guides.

We were given stockings or the legs chopped off old laddered tights and we put a handful of grass seed into where the toes would go. Then we poured in sawdust on top of the seeds.

When we thought we had enough to make a decent head we pulled out a piece of the stocking, making sure it contained some sawdust, and pinched it so it became a little bud, we then twisted it so that the ‘neck’ of stocking material was closed, and tied it with cotton so it would keep its shape – this was the nose!

We then made sure there was enough sawdust in the head and that the nose would end up in the right sort of position. We tied a knot in the leg of the stocking, trying to make sure there was no excess space or the head would be all floppy!

We then sat them in mugs with the knot at the bottom and drew faces on them with felt tip pens!

The idea is that you stand them in water, which soaks up through the sawdust, and the grass grows into hair. I felt that the felt pen would run if I did this so never got around to growing the hair – but I will probably give that a go when my daughter’s a bit older.

This was a fun project and I am thinking it would be a nice one to try with my Scouts in the winter.

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