Jessica’s fused plastic pods and postcards
Well…it’s month one – right? So I got started late (I was busy getting the blog up and running – OK?) and then looked for a quick and easy project in the last week.
I tried making long strips in order to knit or crochet them. Discovered that I could get a continuous 25-foot strip from one standard plastic supermarket bag by zig-zagging back and forth as I cut (AMAZING!). But I couldn’t crochet anything that looked like anything other than a crocheted plastic bag…so I ditched that idea. But while I was delving through the wilds of the internet, I found a nice site that shows how to cut the bags into loops (about 6 2-inch-wide, 16-inch strips per bag, or more if the strips are thinner). You can hook the loops into each other and make an even more continuous strand to knit or crochet for as long as you want without pesky ends. Still couldn’t manage to get past the plastic baggy-ness of it all. Thinner strips? Twisting them as I go along? Hmmmm.
Then, I decided to do some research on how toxic plastic bags are if you fuse them. No one seems to want to admit that the plastic can hurt you unless you actually melt it, so I decided to be somewhat cautious and merely fuse layers in a well ventilated room. Two great sites for this process helped me past dangerous experimentation to avoid over melting. One blog on etsylabs had good simple instructions, and an entry on In the Wake had an astoundingly detailed trial and error description of a fusing project. In the Wake, by the way, is an interesting resource (mostly archived and linked) for more general resuse/and save-the-earth topics.
I sorted out a few colors of plastic bags to see how they changed when they fused. I tried weaving the loops (mentioned above) into a square plaid sheet that was technically satisfying, but aesthetically plastic-baggy.
The advantage of weaving the loops was that I got 4 scrunched layers – so approximately 8 layers automatically. A nice usable thickness and double-sided.
The putty-colored Safeway bags that I thought would be really boring (so I used them for early experiments so I wouldn’t “waste” the “good” colors) turned into a golden textured final product that resembles Gold Fimo with that cool mica shift effect. So I made a sheet just of that color and tried to make a 3D form. I cut curved eye shapes out of the fused flat material. Then, I fused the edges together (about 1/4″ edge of a 2″ x 3″ flat shape) to make a 3D shape.
This method has potential, but I ran out of time to experiment properly. I will figure out different shapes to try out and experiment more later. But here is the one pod shape I completed. Of course, it has a hole down the middle, so it could be a huge bead or other stringable form.
Finally, I made two fused 4″ x 6″ collages. They started out with 8-layer multi-color bases and after I added cut-out shapes and buffer layers, plus a final layer on top, they ended up about 15 layers thick. They are still a bit translucent, so they look pretty cool backlit, as well.
Other things I learned:
Use parchment paper (not waxed paper) as a buffer between the hot iron and the plastic to avoid ruining your iron. Also use a layer of parchment paper between the ironing board (or other heat resistant surface) and the bottom of the plastic. I folded one long piece to make a sandwich of parchment paper so that the two pieces wouldn’t slip apart and leave gaps.
It takes at least 8 layers to get a good stiff material. The rayon setting (#4 on my iron) is the best for fusing without melting. You need at least 5 seconds, but usually no more than 10 seconds to fuse even 12-layers-thick layers together. You must iron both sides to get an even surface and complete fuse. I alternated up to 10 seconds on each side about three times when I was making a 10+-layer piece.
Put a weight on top of the piece (still with the parchment paper!) as it cools or it may curl up or wrinkle. I used a large cook book.
Phew! That was fun. Now on to newspaper…