After struggling for a long time to make this business work, I realized that I needed a business partner. It’s just too much work for one person to do alone.
I and a friend of mine were set to team up and combine our talents to breathe new life into my studio. Unfortunately, when he arrived in Finland and we spent a few days together, it became clear that we were not compatible as business partners.
I had already closed my business, Inkblade Studios, in preparation to start a new business so now I am without a company.
I could start again with all the same problems as before, or I could just … not. I’ve decided not to. I’m very tired now. I hope you’ll understand. Thanks for all your support and encouragement.
Hi everyone! Yes I’m still not dead. I have moved, again, this time into a house. While I’m setting up my new and improved workshop, I would like to introduce you to this video by Kamui Cosplay. She is one of my heroes of the profession and today she’s talking to us about prices.
If you are commissioning a custom blade from me, please expect at least 800-1000 euros. That’s practically giving the item to you because I don’t get to keep anything but a tiny faction of that.
I’m able to do these prices because my wife works a good full-time job and I should probably respect myself properly and ask for more … but it’s heartbreaking when a customer simply stops responding to me when I tell them the price even though I’m offering it as cheaply as I can without actually losing money. 😦
How can we overcome this together my friends? I want to give you the pretty artworks but the materials are so expensive and I really can’t spend every day all day working for free. This is a fun job but it’s still a job you know?
I’m not going to stop doing commissions and I’m working all the time on new methods of crafting to make things more affordable. But the reality of the situation means that I’m going to have to offer you all some standard merchandise that nobody requested from me personally, but which a larger variety of people could use to complete their costume.
I’m talking about more “plain” styles that you could use for either a Seraph Blade or an elf mage in your LARP. Maybe a selection like this, for example. Things like custom runes or different shapes of blade would be more expensive, of course, because I would have to make the prototype for you individually instead of making a bunch of the same item over and over again. This way, more people will be able to have something cool and not have to pay the price of the sculpture work or the making of the mould. (Remember, silicone is ghastly expensive!)
Why? Well if 20 people say “Hey Ethan you should make the Herondale blades next!” then I have a good idea of what people want. I might get five or ten of those 20 people buy those swords right away and that would allow me to get back the cost of the prototypes I made. That way I don’t get stuck with a bunch of swords nobody wants to buy and you don’t have to pay for the mould and the sculpting work. Everybody wins!
You might think that your voice has no importance but that isn’t true. If I put up a poll asking people which sword model to make next and you’re the only one who responds … guess who gets to pick my next project? You do! So don’t hesitate to tell me your suggestions, even if you’re shy. 🙂
Alright, now I have to go unpack some more boxes. Wish me luck!
Yep. I’m still hacking away at this project. I’m frustrated, but also very, very stubborn. I managed to mess up my first casting of the year and ended up having to clean uncured, sticky resin goo out of my mould. Hopefully that was just a derp in measuring the quantities of part A and B.
Yesterday, I had a bit of excitement while re-doing that casting. When I started pouring in the resin, it began leaking out of the mould. I realised I had not tied the cord around it tightly enough. Now, because the resin had already been mixed and I had only about 10 minutes left before it gelled, I couldn’t go pull the box of ties down from the shelf, fish out the ball of string, wind it around tight and cut it before the whole operation was ruined.
I stood there, holding onto both sides of the mould, pressing them together, trying to problem solve on the fly. Aha! If I could run into my dust tent, grab a clamp, and get back before too much resin leaked out, I could save the casting! So I did. I dashed into my dust-containment tent, grabbed the first clamp I could get my hands on and ran back to the mould.
Yes, the first clamp I could get my hands on … was about 3 times bigger than the mould itself. LOL! You gotta do what you gotta do eh?
Well, it stopped the leakage sure enough! Today, we will see if the resin cured and, if it did, if the casting will line up correctly with the other half of the witchlight. If it does, I can install the magnets and get to work on the electronics!
If it doesn’t … uh … well I learned something from the experience? Yeah, it will be back to the drawing board for the witchlight project. Well, if it was easy, it would already be available on the market. It isn’t. I know because I want one and I’ve hunted everywhere. I think my company motto is going to be: “Screw it; I’ll do it myself.” Hahaha!
Hey guys! I’ve been out of commission for 6 weeks with this stupid surgery thing and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in the workshop! As soon as the doc cleared me for active duty I hopped on the train, headed directly to the shop, and cast a brand new Clariel.
I was worried about getting back into the swing of things. Would I need some time to get back in the game?
The resin behaved. The vacuum pump behaved (even though I really should probably change that oil …)
This is probably the fewest bubbles I’ve ever had in a casting and they were all pinhole surface bubbles, easily buffed away with a little sanding. To say that I’m pleased with the results is a huge understatement.
Here it is all trimmed and with its first couple rounds of sanding. I’m starting to leave the handles rough so the adhesive and epoxy putty has a better surface to grip to. I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out!
Thanks for stopping by my page. Hopefully updates will be regular again.
So! My vacuum pump has finally bit the dust. Poor thing. 😦 I am going to try to get the filter cleaned and looked at and maybe something replaced but I wasn’t willing to take the thing apart until I knew I had a nice new pump on the way that I could be sure would work. Cause let’s face it, it’s better to have a pump that sort of works for a short period of time than a pump that doesn’t work at all.
I have ordered that new pump and I am awaiting its arrival. Hopefully it will come soon! What am I doing in the meantime? Some design work. Some experiments with clay. Annnd slowly progressing on that neato raven sculpture I’ve been working on.
I’ve been reinforcing the raven statuette with DAS paperclay. You might remember me mentioning that most of the sculpture was made with Sculpy. I got to the point with it that it was too wiggly to safely work on the details without smushing the back of the wings or vice versa so I just decided to bake it and finish the detailing in an air dry clay.
I’m quite pleased with how it’s going.
Behold! A rock!
It’s a lovely rock. I know what you’re thinking. Ethan’s finally snapped. Now he’s showing us his rock collection on his work blog. But before you stage an intervention, let me reveal to you that this rock has a secret!
It’s hollow! Remember that DIY paperclay recipe I said I was going to try out? Well, I did and it is fantastic for creating stone-like textures. It’s quite hard but I found I was able to hollow it out quite easily with a small carving tool. This is to be the beginning of my new witchlight model.
Betcha thought I forgot eh? Nope! I’ve just been struggling with the execution of the project. It’s a rather demanding thing to accomplish and I really want to get it right and make it look cool.
Here’s the video of the paperclay recipe I used. I followed it precisely. It turned out great! After five-ish days or so it got stiff and lumpy so I had to add some more water to it and beat it up a little to get it going again. It was still chunkier than it was when it was fresh so I’d very much recommend only making as much as you need and using it within a day or two. I’ll let you know how the rehydrated clay works, versus the fresh stuff.
So I mentioned design work! I’ve had a request for the tiniest little Seraph Blade I’ve ever made. 15.22cm (6″) total. I was stumped as to how I was supposed to make something that wouldn’t look ridiculous and end up with the handle being longer than the blade. But then my wife mentioned skinning knives to me. Those are short but wide and have a really nice curve to them.
I took some inspiration from various models I looked at and came up with this design. The middle, ring, and pinkie finger rest on the handle proper while the index finger goes through the hole in the blade. I added a thumb guard to keep the hand safe from sliding onto the edge of the blade when it’s all slippery with demon ichor. 😉
Demons thinking they’ve caught a lucky break and found a Shadowhunter unarmed will be in for a nasty little surprise. It might be intimidating to get that close and personal with the infernal, but a hunter’s gotta do what a hunter’s gotta do. I know some of you will have the moxie to pull it off.
I’ll have some more progress pictures for you soon. Everybody cross your fingers for a quick shipping of my new vacuum pump so I can get that pretty Arabian sword cast in resin! Can’t wait to show you the completion of that project!
No that wasn’t a typo. Goo! Sticky slorpy blue goo! It is time to pour silicone all over this beauty!
When you see something halfway buried in clay, you know the wacky wizardry is about to begin.
So right now I have Zaapiel sitting in its mould box (which I didn’t take a picture of because I was dead tired at the end of the day on Friday) awaiting my arrival this morning.
What else is afoot at the workshop? Well, I found a few DIY recipes for air-dry paper clay that I’m dying to try out. If it goes well, I’ll have a supply of much cheaper self-hardening clay I can use to sculpt my prototypes instead of using foam insulation. Foam insulation is not very good for the environment and is also annoyingly porous so it has to be sealed over and over again with layers of glue and paint before I can actually take a prototype mould of it. It’d be great if I didn’t have to do that! Let’s see if I can find those recipes for you and maybe we can try it together.
Hello everyone! I’m so happy to be back from the holidays! I never know what to do with myself when I have time off. I’m kind of bad at relaxing, haha!
So what was I doing just before I ran away to sleep and eat sweets for a couple of weeks? I’m very pleased to present to you the new sleek shape of Zaapiel, my Arabian-inspired scimitar! Let’s take a look at how the sanding and refining process went.
Now careful with the belt sander, or the sword might …
Well then! Time for some good ol’ Milliput to save the day. No worries. Good as new.
Now let’s … are you serious?
The other strap on my face mask broke so I was forced to stop and fix it again. Well, now that that’s taken care of, let’s go back to the belt sander and …
Really? Okay Chewie is way too aggressive for shaping plaster apparently. Milliput to the rescue! Again!
I went out and got myself a set of metal files and used them in combination with my wood rasps to get the sword all shaped as I wanted it.
Then smeared Milliput all over any pin-holes, indents, or just anywhere I didn’t like the texture. Look at this thing! It looks like a troll sneezed on it. Ew.
Here we are all sanded nicely (by hand of course) and looking decidedly less sneezed-upon.
Now it’s time to get it all painted and sealed for the final moulding. The paint I happened to have on hand at the time was black. So we get a nice svelte-looking sword to feast our eyes upon.
Hurrah! Now it’s time to order some silicone and do the final layers of sealing. While I await the arrival of my goo, I will polish this beauty up to the best shine I can manage and work on a secret sculpting project that I haven’t yet revealed. What could it be? This mystery item is not related to Shadowhunters nor is it a doll! Stay tuned for future reveals!
I have two crystal-clear, LED-equipped Seraph Blades in my Etsy shop for only 370 Euros each! Is one of them for you? Regular price is 415 Euros so if you want reaaaally want one, this is your best chance.
No really, I’m quite pleased with myself. It is a gigantic mess and I have a lot of cleaning up to do in the workshop today, but this mess has resulted in a major breakthrough. This post marks the sum of months of trial and error, experimentation, swearing, epic messes, and more money than I’d like to admit. I’ve finally gotten something worthwhile out of it all. Let me share my joy with you!
Remember I was making the mould for the prototype of Zaapiel, that fancy Arabian Nights sword? Yesss, I got both halves of that mould completed. I made the mould out of alginate (a moulding compound that is essentially … well … algae), with a coating of wax in between to make 100% sure the sides wouldn’t stick to each other.
Which just might make it the grossest sandwich ever. It smells like washed-up seaweed.
Now, the thing you have to know about alginate is that it’s only good as long as it’s moist. Once it starts drying out, it gets crumbly and it’s not much use for casting anymore. So you have to work quickly and if you’ve got to do the mould in multiple stages or something happens and you have to use it later than you intended, you have to protect it from evaporating off its moisture. Most people put it in a sealed container in the fridge. This … this is way too big for a conventional fridge or normal food container. I improvised with a combination of wax and wet plastic wrap. It was an ugly hack job, but it worked.
Snazzy! Algnate is nice and soft, kinda like tofu in texture. So it’s easy to cut the sprue and the air traps in it. The downside is you have to be gentle when handling it or it will crack or rip easily!
So! I cleaned off all the wax as best I could, put both halves together and strapped it between two wooden boards. Then I mixed up a batch of Artestone (a special gypsum plaster with hydrophobic properties) and poured it into the mould. And that’s when the mess happened.
A puddle of white began expanding from beneath the mould and I realised that there was a leak. I had a problem. I couldn’t just stop the whole thing and open up the mould at this point because then all the plaster would pour out onto the floor and I’d have wasted the whole thing. So all I could do was grab the closest thing at hand–a large stirring spoon–and frantically scoop the goo back into the mould until it hardened enough to stop pouring out.
There I was, on the floor, scuttling like a crab from the back of the mould to the front of the mould back and forth, scooping at the puddle expanding on either side of it with a spoon of all things. A stream of plaster coming out of the mould, a stream of profanity coming out of me, and by the time the goo hardened enough to form a seal and stop going everywhere, I was laughing my head off. Really what else can you do at that point?
Seriously, it looks like I got bombarded by a gigantic seagull who ate way too much curry. I had to mix up about 200mL more artestone to replace what was lost out the bottom, but I did manage to complete that pour with no further disasters. My neighbour probably thinks I’m insane now. … He’s probably right. LOL!
Now this looks blobby and weird right now but that is completely what I expected it to be. What I need this prototype sword to be is roughly the right shape and a little larger and chubbier than the finished product is going to be. This is so I can do all the final shaping, sanding, and polishing without it ending up too thin or shorter than I wanted. Basically: It’s way easier to sand things off than it is to add things on. So this baby gave me exactly what I wanted. Woohoo!
That was an adventure!
I am sad to report, though, that we had one casualty during this adventure. One of the straps on my protective face mask broke. That’s the third breakage I’ve had on this mask and there isn’t enough strap left to cobble it back together so I have to replace the strap entirely. That’s going to take a little time that I’d really rather be spending on crafting. But it needs to be in proper working order because there is NO way I am sanding any of the materials I work with without respiratory protection.
Safety gear is NOT optional!
So! If anybody needs me, I’ll be scraping uhhh … 300ish mL of extra-hard water resistant plaster off the floor! 😀 … Pray for me. LOL
Yep! I’m keeping my Clariel swords on sale for Cyber Monday. Was 415.00 Euros, now 390.00!
What else have we got going on for this week? Well I’ve got an open-house coming up on Friday. That means I have to tidy my workshop. Yey. Uh, wish me luck on that. LOL But I’ll be super happy to see people and show them my little corner of crazy!
If you’re interested and you happen to be in Finland this week, you can stop by at Sahaajankatu 22, Helsinki and ask for me. Liisa will show you where to go. The building is a bit of a maze.
What else is going on this week? Well here we have the newly re-carved Sariel. RE-carved because the experimental prototype moulding process failed and destroyed my original. I may have cried. Shush you! That was three weeks of work. *sulking*
But before Sariel can be moulded again, we haaaaave …
No, it’s not cake. Don’t eat it! Ew. Plasticine doesn’t taste good. Neither does foam insulation. Or glue. Don’t ask how I know these things. All I will tell you is wash the plate before you eat off of it.
Now what happened to the doll heads? Did the shipment get found? It did! Annnd it seems there were a few too many micro-bubbles and sanding mistakes to sell them. *gasp!* Ethan don’t tell them that! Your customers will lose faith in you and think you’re a crappy artist!
Listen guys, my business is small and new, but even so I want to start it off right. I want every part of Inkblade Studios to be ethical. I am constantly working to reduce waste and find environmentally friendly materials to use. I have to haul my plastic waste to the recycling facility myself every week but I do it because I have a responsibility as a manufacturer to clean up the mess I make.
I want my business to be based on a principle of honesty. When I screw up, I will tell you I screwed up, and I will tell you how I am going to fix it. I could cover my mistakes with paint and glue and hope you don’t notice but you know what? That’s not the kind of person I want to be. Lazy and sleazy business practices end up costing more in the long run. You can recover lost money, but you cannot recover a lost reputation.
Thankfully, Juliane at Lost Chronicles BJD has been amazingly understanding and kind. We knew from the beginning that this would be a learning experience and that learning experiences are often frustrating. I’m issuing a full refund for the project, and I have bought a brand new compressor and pressure pot.
Unlike a vacuum chamber which pulls air bubbles out of a liquid, a pressure chamber crushes the air bubbles down so small that they can’t be seen by the human eye. This makes a lovely smooth, clear cast. It also forces the resin into all the little small areas and undercuts so that air doesn’t get trapped and end up getting a giant bubble where the nose is supposed to be for example.
The Malechai project taught me that I need this kind of tool now in order to step up my game. I wanted to wait because I knew it would be expensive, but it turns out that not having it cost me more money in the long run. It was a costly lesson to learn but I’m grateful for it. This is not the end of my doll making career, but just the beginning. I’m looking forward to creating more beautiful things and sharing them with you all. ❤