Last time was actually craft-related. I saved some random girls in a large shop from buying crappy wood boxes (ones that will get their lids stuck on if you paint them, because the paint glues it together) and convinced to get ones with hinged lids.
Which led me to some thinking on the quality of materials available in the shops. Even ones that specialise in crafts. Actually, I buy most of my supplies in one chain of shops in Poland, which is Empik (deals with books, newspapers, school supplies, office supplies, CDs, DVDs, games and what not, also “arts&paper”). In Warsaw most of their outlets (pretty large shops, each one of them) have a craft section, offering large choice of paints, papers, glues, polymer clay, wires, beads, tools, jewelry findings, brushes and, what I checked recently, wood objects for decoupage.
Now, these wood objects may be trays, boxes, bowls, frames – whatever you wish. The problem is, unfortunately, the quality of the offer. In case of all wooden objects for further decoration, the cut and seasoning of the wood is most important for its’ future processing. As all items I saw are “made in China” (I’m wondering if ones made locally would be so much more expensive), I can’t even begin to guess how and of what wood they are made.
I have tried several models and there are some of them which are absolutely terrible (and one that is quite ok):
* boxes (mostly rounded) made of wood ribbon, with lids that fit over them “like a hat”, so that part of the side of the box has direct contact with the internal surface of the lid; awfully tight fit and very poorly made, very bad for decoration; actually only useful if the upper surface of the lid is the only part decorated
* square boxes with hinged lids and a lock – at first glance very nice, but after first one or two coats of paint the lid warps UP so the lock doesn’t fit anymore; quite awful in effect
* square boxes with bow lids – trunk shaped – non-stackable (unlike the above two models), but the only ones which don’t get damaged when painted
Also, shops keep bad and already damaged (warped, locks broken) boxes on display, even when staff is notified about the damage. Of course, these get bought by people who are in a hurry or don’t notice such details and then discover the problem at home (usually after discarding the receipt).
Now, the question is, what is really the situation:
* customers buy bad boxes but don’t complain because they don’t really care that much to complain about a box that cost $2
* customers buy, but don’t care about the quality
* customers complain, but too quietly to be really noticed
* customers complain, but nobody cares anyway, because even if these customers go away, new ones will come
* nobody cares at all, all boxes are categorised in one place so noone is able to draw conclusions ie. which boxes should not be ordered anymore
This, in a way, reflects the state of affairs in various craft shops. One will sell us warped boxes, another will send broken bugle beads, and yet another – items which their carrier agency can’t properly process in Europe, as they don’t have the permission (and, after three years, shop still doesn’t have a warning that you shouldn’t import pearls or nickel-plated items to EU, yes, Fire Mountain Gems, I’m writing about YOU).
Do we, as crafters, not create a market big enough? Is our demand for fine-quality (or at least tolerably good and usable) items not high enough? I would gladly pay a buck more for my wooden boxes if I had a guarantee they are well-sanded and well-seasoned and not going to warp after first painting. But I can’t – there are NO OTHER boxes to be obtained around here.
Why don’t the suppliers get something more appropriate? Offer more than one (crappy) level of quality? Maybe it’s specific to Poland, but I’m afraid that crafts and handmade items are still treated in very unserious matter, so I have this feeling that if I went and complained about the boxes quality, the staff would laugh their heads off…
As lately I’m having a bit of a block as far as jewelry is concerned, I focused on decoupage. Having obtained some pretty nice papers, I have already covered a tray, several boxes, two money boxes and a mirror frame. At this moment it’s a bit like looking for new items to cover as I have so many pretty pictures to stick on stuff.
In these few days, I have learned (sometimes in the hard way) several simple truths about this way of decorating items:
1. Sand wood before painting. If it’s too rough, no amount of paint is going to make this thing look smooth.
2. Don’t paint both sides of an item at the same time, or you will be left with absolutely no way of putting it aside to dry. May sound funny, but try laughing when you have painted whole hairbrush very carefully and now the only part that you can hold is the ‘brush’ part (and there is almost no way to make a hairbrush lay straight supported only in one point)
3. If an object is varnished and you want to paint it, sand the varnish off. Or you paint will come off in flakes. A friend suggested that using a primer is the way to do this. It is, I agree. Just read the description to see if you’re buying the right kind of primer. But if you have any repressed stress to get rid of, sanding the thing off with a bit of sandpaper or rotary tool may be a good outlet :)
4. A “fan” brush is a verrrrry good friend of anyone who needs nice, flat surface of quickly-thickening varnish.
5. Water. LOTS OF IT. A huge bowl, big enough to immerse the brushes whole. Changed often. Otherwise you will have wooden sticks with lacquered/acrilic-dried blobs on the end.
6. Fabric softener does wonders for partly-stiff-dried brushes. Sometimes you may have to, unfortunately, shave a few hairs from a paticularily unlucky specimen.
7. Vacuum cleaner is your second best friend, just after the breathing mask. Or pneumoconiosis may be the first thing you hear next time you visit your doctor. Or, at least, a severe case of bronchitis. Lots of small wood and paint particles will fly around when you get to sanding your items and you really don’t want a layer of acrylic dust to cover your respiratory system.
8. Unfortunately (as concerns the above), sometimes sanding a painted surface is just a must. Some types of wood and ways of cutting make it well-nigh impossible to sand them properly when they are raw and clean. So it takes a first, very thin layer of paint, to make these before-invisible small splinters to stand up and be ready to be sanded off. But, of course, with the paint that covers them.
9. Also, when decorating a picture or mirror frame, don’t forget to check whether it is already prepared to hung in one direction or another. If it already has a nail-hole predrilled you may find yourself with roses that grow downwards. I did.
10. As per rule, whenever you want paper to get translucent from the napkin glue, it wont. If you wish it to stay opaque, it will get nicely transparent. Really.
So, without further ado, the effect and sources of above meditations.
I promptly made my first attempt at dragon-making. This one here is the second one I made.
All FIMO plus glass pearls.
As 14th is coming, I have wrapped two pale-pink glass hearts in suitably noir, black wire.