March 7, 2012

flower mugs:a tutorial

Round about Christmas a tutorial for personalized initial mugs went flying around the crafty blogs. I remember reading it and liking the idea, especially as a teacher gift, but at the time I didn't have time to hunt down the special pens and try it out. And then when I finally stopped long enough to search them out, they were sold out just about everywhere. Oh well, mugs with letters on them weren't really my style anyway, I figured. But just for kicks, I put in a order for one pen to come whenever they did get them back in stock. And then I sort of forgot all about it.
Imagine my surprise when a package arrive a week or so ago with one box of porcelain pens in it. Six pens, not one. I'm still not sure who made the mistake, the quantity was a little ambiguous so one could very well have meant one box. But I'm getting off topic here.

If you've been reading this here little ol' blog for a while, you may remember my Keep Calm and Carry On Mugs that Will made for me a few winters ago, before Keep Calm was everywhere. (You can see them here, hanging in my pretty kitchen, sob, sob) I have loved those mug, the sentiment on them is perfect for my life, but I don't love that it's so common now and I really don't love that the paint is chipping away from them in droves every time I wash them. They are starting to have a bit of a battle distressed look. I'd like to replace my mugs with a collection of handmade ones but that's going to take time, and in the meantime I picked up a set of plain white mugs at Homegoods last time we had visitors. Can't have people fighting over their coffee cups now, could I. So when the pens came, it seemed like a good opportunity to try them out.
Before I start, however, I should tell you that I can not draw. I'm terrible at it. But I can, if pressed, sort of look at a drawing and copy it in a very very basic way. I probably should have had Will do the drawings but as he is mired down in mid-term projects at the moment, it didn't seem quite the time for it. The dandelions are both inspired by some clip art I used in my planner last year and the other flowers (mums maybe? dahlias?) I saw somewhere and saved on my desktop.

It's a little hard to call this a tutorial, since mostly what you are doing is drawing on a mug, but here are a few things I figured out in the process that I didn't really get from the original tutorials.

1. Clean your mug really, really well. Because you are going to bake these things, and you don't want to end up baking on a coffee stain.

2. If you make a mistake wipe it off pronto. The ink dried quickly and is hard to get off once it does so wipe away right away and if you need to scrap any residue with your fingernail.
3. The pens goop up. I stopped in the middle of my first mug to attend to some kind of kid crisis and when I came back to it the pen wouldn't work. At first I thought it was out and spent some time grumbling about crappy pens and also thanking the gods of misordering for sending me some back ups, but then when the second pen stopped working when I paused to decide how many dandelions I wanted on the second mug, I realized that it was just clogged. So have a piece of paper handy that you can use to wipe the tips. Just drag the nib sideways along the paper, twirling a little as you go, to pull off the dried up ink and you are good to go.

4. The directions say to bake at 150 once you are done to set the ink. I don't know about your stove, but my crappy apartment, ten degrees hotter in the back than the front oven does not go down to 150. 200 is the lowest temperature, but that worked fine too. And don't forget that you have to wait 24 hours after drawing before you bake to let the ink dry. I'm not actually sure why on that one, but that's what the directions say, so best to do it.
And that's really it. I like these pens, the end result looks pretty darn good and it's really a fun little project. I'm on the hunt for some plain egg cups right now to decorate for the kids, or maybe with the kids and I have some ideas about a cake stand with a doily drawn right on the top, but that one will probably have to wait till I have, you know, room for a cake stand. And an oven that doesn't hate me so I can start baking cakes again.