Wine Stopper process howto – epoxy or glue?

I was asked after a facebook post “Wondering what type of glue you use? I’m always afraid things won’t adhere to the pottery. And does it work as well ceramic on ceramic?”

It made me realize I’d never discussed my process for attaching ceramic to the metal stoppers. So – here ya go: I hope this will help someone else down the road!

I went through several different epoxies and glues and finally settled on Loctite Hysol E-00CL. (McMaster-Carr has it and the dispenser here: http://www.mcmaster.com/#loctite-e-00cl/=ule32q). I make the ceramic end of my stoppers with a hole up through the bottom that matches a hole in the metal piece. (By the way, this hole also makes glazing easier, and means I can put the stoppers on stilts when firing to keep them from sticking to the shelf or falling over. Win/win/win. :) No glaze on the bottom of the piece, a threaded rod cut to length that’s small enough to slide freely between the two + epoxy = a very strong bond. Its really tricky to get it to all be clean, ventilation is really important, but its worth it – super strong bond, crystal clear. The ceramic will break long before the epoxy does.

Stoppers curing after being epoxied

Stoppers curing after being epoxied

Keeping the join clean… that’s almost another post. I use a mixer nozzle with a fine tip to squeeze epoxy into the hole in the metal end. Just the right amount that when I push the threaded rod in there will be a bit of epoxy squeezed out of the hole. I then do the same on the ceramic end’s hole. The set time for the epoxy is 5 minutes, which gives me just enough time to work on about 4 stoppers in parallel:

  • Hold the metal end upright, add epoxy, insert threaded rod.
  • Add epoxy to a ceramic end, place it hole up.
  • Repeat a few more times, then go back to the first and:
  • Flip ceramic over and slide down onto rod.
  • Immediately clean off any epoxy that’s out of place – I do this with qtips snapped in half and small pieces of index card.
    The desire is to have the epoxy just to the edge of the metal and the ceramic so metal to ceramic is a smooth transition with no seams or edges.
  • Prop up stopper however necessary so there’s no movement while it finally sets. Once the bond is sturdy, it can complete curing over the next 24 hours without any concerns.

I initially tried several glues (including E6000), but found that they didn’t harden inside the piece, or shrank (the epoxy doesn’t shrink at all), or didn’t form a strong enough bond. Epoxy fills voids, dries absolutely solid, and looks just like glass – when done right, if its visible it can actually add something to the piece!

Don’t forget to protect yourself when working with epoxy – there are concerns with both fumes and skin contact. (And obviously you shouldn’t lick the stuff. 😉 I always wear gloves, and work in the bathroom – I can close the door, and have installed an overly-eager fan which sucks air out fast enough that there’s no inhalation issues. (I actually had to enlarge the gap under the door to allow enough airflow. This fan really sucks.)

Have fun! If you have any questions or success, let me know here or on my Facebook Page: Curly Creatures. Enjoy!

Thoughts on branding

Ok – had a great discussion today with my neighbor who happens to spend a lot of time on marketing and ideas. Her thought: there are actually two types of stoppers, and they really should be separated:

Why? Well, the tall curls or spires are unadorned, simple, artistic. The creatures are more whimsical, fun. The creatures make you laugh, the spires make you say “ooh”. They definitely have different feels to them – it would be much easier to give a spiral to someone and know that they would like it, where the creatures have much more personality, which means they can appeal more to an individual, but also makes them more of an individual’s choice, rather than a gift.

So – thinking of names. For the creatures: Wineosaurs. Party Animals. Like them both, for different reasons. Wineosaurs is a fun thing, but totally skips the fact that they’re actually at least as well suited (if not moreso) to sitting on a bottle of scotch than a bottle of wine. (Scotch you open once and drink for a long time. Wine lasts a day or two usually.)

For the others… having a hard time with that so far, but would love thoughts. Something like “wisp”, except they’re more solid than that…

Busy season!

Stoppers are on the march, y’all.  Shelburne Vineyard has them for sale, home on Shelburne Rd will be selling them when they reopen (sounds like a cool place: wine tastings, local foods, local crafts, furniture – I’m curious to see how it works out.)  Block gallery in Winooski will be carrying them during their big yearly show in November.  There are a few other local spots I’m looking to get into as well.
Shelburne Vineyard display

All of which means: get making!  There are nine in the bisque kiln now, and I’m hoping to keep up at least half a dozen a week for the next month.
Waiting for firing

Its tough being in this stage – I believe in the product, retailers believe in the product, but I’m needing to make ahead something whose rate of sale is totally unknown.  One a day?  One a week?  A month?  Here’s hoping I don’t end up with too many in stock or too few to keep stores full!  Anyone have any tips on predicting this kind of thing?

Roadshow: pro

It occurred to me this week that I need a better way to keep a selection of stoppers with me. While travelling I spoke with someone who would have sold them in his shop, but since I didn’t have any I may have missed the opportunity.

This fits the bill really nicely. Its a “pistol case” that I picked up for under $30 from a local sports store. Two layers of convoluted foam and one of “pick and pluck”. The pick and pluck means you can pull out chunks of the foam based on a grid to make room for things.

So now I can carry a ton of single and double displays, two of the longer point-of-sale displays, a box of Moo cards, and a dozen or so stoppers. It shows very well (much better than unwrapping a dozen stoppers from bubble-wrap), and better yet it makes great protection. Even after a drop of a few feet down onto the floor, the stoppers didn’t move at all. I think now I’ll just plan to keep this filled with a full dozen and keep it with me any time I travel from now on.

The last thing it needs is a price sheet (or just price tags?) of some kind that’s generic enough for a shop owner to be able to choose the stoppers they want and me to keep track of that. (I think if I want to step up production, I’m going to need to stopping naming each stopper. Or I’ll go nuts.) (More so than normal. 😉

Stopper donated to BidForTheBarn!

Bid for the Barn - support Pete's Greens and local foods in Vermont!

Bid for the Barn - support Pete's Greens and local foods in Vermont!

Pete’s Greens, a major local food provider for Vermont, much beloved by localvores and foodies alike, suffered a huge setback when their barn burned down. (Along with equipment, food, and more.) This is an online auction to help them rebuild! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge foodie and love eating as locally as possible, so when I discovered I could donate to the online auction I jumped. (And as an artist, exposure is always a good thing, so this works out well for everyone.)

The lucky bidder will get to choose the stopper of their choice, and will help out the local food economy while doing it. How can you go wrong?!

Seriously though – check out the auction when it goes live on the 23rd – loads of good stuff in all kinds of price ranges, and all for a good cause.

Brought to you by your local stopper mob:

Stopper mob, comin' ta getcha!

Stopper mob, comin' ta getcha!

Stoppers in the wild, The Artist’s Bullhorn progress

Display Stand with stoppers and Moo cards

Display Stand with stoppers and Moo cards

Some great progress lately! My wine stoppers are finally in the wild. There are three gracing a favorite restaurant in downtown Burlington, VT (“Blue Cat Cafe“), a gaggle soon to be for sale in a local wine shop (“Dedalus Wines“), and plans for more! Along the way, I received a full batch of stands that look great, including a new design for point-of-sale displays. And a new batch of Moo cards.

I also pulled in all of my Curly Creatures to my Finished Work page. How? Just one click, actually. (Cool.) See below for more.

I’ve also made some huge strides with the website (“The Artist’s Bullhorn“) that’s helping me (and soon to be others too) tell the world about all of these creations. You’re seeing it embedded in my WordPress site when you click on the “Finished Work” tab – all of the product browsing is done real-time using Bullhorn. Behind the scenes though – that’s where most of the magic is happening.

I now have full support for both Etsy and Smugmug – once an item is in Bullhorn, I can post it to its own Smugmug album with just a few clicks. I can then create an Etsy listing (which will of course contain a link to that new album) with another few clicks.

I’ve got some great utilities for managing my Etsy items as well – I can mass renew, change listing states, and see tons of info on all of my items. I can also import items from Etsy straight into Bullhorn, including all of their photos, tags, materials, etc. (That’s how I imported nine items with one click. I still say that’s pretty damn cool…)

What’s next? More debugging, as well as support for Twitter (almost there) and Facebook.

Moo cards arrive, more Etsy postings, pricing thoughts

Fun fun fun!  The Moo mini cards I ordered arrived in fantastic time – less than a week turnaround.  (Man, if only they could teach Ponoko that trick…)

Moo Mini cards arrive!

I have to say too – the quality of these things is just fantastic.  Nice and thick cardstock with a protective laminate on each card.  I love that I could put multiple front photos in the pack – as soon as anyone looks at them they instantly want to browse and pick their favorites.  Plus the print quality is high, the carrying/shipping box they used is very solid, and the whole process was done with style.  I’ll definitely be ordering from them again soon!

Two more stoppers went up on Etsy today too: Prong and Bogart.

I’ve been working a fair amount on figuring out the best prices, and I think I’ve got things set about where they should be. I dropped prices on the Curly Creatures, and have the stopper prices spread from $35 to $55. I still have to do a full accounting of costs so far, but getting everything started has cost enough that I’ll need to move a fair number of pieces before I’m covered. I really do feel like there’s a good market for these buggers though (stoppers especially), and especially once people can touch and feel them… gonzo!

Check out the etsy shop and let me know what you think! I’d really enjoy the input. :)

Once the Ponoko stands finally show up, hopefully they’ll fit well enough to bring a set by a few different shops in town and see what people think. (I’ll want to order more too, but only after getting impressions of restaurant and store owners…)

Newsflash: Handmade Ceramic Wine Bottle Stoppers storm Etsy!

Booyah. After quite some time creating them, figuring out what stopper to use, what epoxy works best, taking photos, organizing the photos, picking just the best for each one, writing up descriptions… the first stoppers have made their way to the Etsy marketplace!

Check out the wine stopper category in my store: CurtinsCreations.etsy.com (or just click on one over in the right-hand Etsy sidebar of this page.)

I really had fun writing up the descriptions of each. Hopefully they’ll find some good homes! (But if not… they’re more than welcome to stay in mine!)

Picasso wine bottle stopper in hand

Picasso wine bottle stopper in hand

Moo mini cards and indecision…

Ok – bunch of stoppers made, stands on their way… next step – business cards!  I like the mini cards that Moo.com prints, and they let me pull images directly from smugmug.  (And yes, they are pretty mini – each is about 1″ x 2.75″.)  In a 100 card pack you get a mixture of the images you select on the fronts, and then you choose some basic text (or upload your own design) to go on the backs of all the cards.  I wasn’t happy with what I could set up just using Moo’s backs, so I’ve designed my own.  Of course, I came up with two options… and I’m having trouble deciding whether there should be an image on the back or not.  Using an image does take away from the size of the text I can show, and there’s already an image on the front.  On the other hand, it leaves a better impression, and there are a few cards with just a glaze closeup on the front, so this would show what was going on.

Thoughts?  Keep the image?  Just the text?  Say more with the text?  Leave a comment!

Stands – prototypes made, design sent to Ponoko for cutting

Hello hello!  I finished up my stand designs and sent them off to Ponoko to be made in black acrylic, white oak, and cork.  I printed out the design, pasted it down to some foamcore, and then cut it out by hand to make sure it all worked.  Whadaya think?