Thursday, February 24, 2011

Copper Etching Tutorial

I blogged about this tutorial before Christmas & I'm sorry that's it's taken me so long to get this posted.  I don't have any excuses, really, I just kept putting it off.  Well, here it is & I hope I'm clear in my directions.  There are several different ways of etching copper & brass, but this is how I do it.  If you have any questions, please ask & I'll do my best to answer them.

Pictured above are the supplies that I used for this project.

Ferric Chloride solution (I ordered from Dick Blick)
packing tape
acrylic paint (used as a resist)
Sharpie (also used as a resist....seriously, what would be do without Sharpies?)
baking soda (to neutralized the solution) 
plastic take out container
I also used a small paint brush to apply to resist to the copper

The first thing I did was to saw the copper the size & shape that I wanted.  You can etch the design into the copper first, then cut out different shapes, but because I was going to have a central figure, I went ahead & shaped the base.

The copper needs to be clean & pretty & free of residual oils to get the best results.  I sanded & steel wooled the copper to a nice buttery sheen.

Next I added the design to the copper.  It was a combination of graphite rubbing & sketching in the parts that didn't transfer well.  You know, outline the design in graphite, then flip it over & rub the edges so that the graphite transfers onto the copper.  In this case, I had to do a mirror image because I didn't want both puppies facing the same way.  If you're etching words, don't forget that the image will have to be reversed or your words will be backwards. 

After I had the design transfer onto the copper I painted the area that I didn't want etched.  This is the part that will not be eaten by the solution.  I also used my Sharpie, but noticed that the Sharpie had the tendency to pull off some of the paint.  This took a bit of time because there were some small areas where it was hard to get my paint brush in.  If I messed up, I took a cotton swab & removed as much of the paint as possible.  If it was Sharpie, I had to use a little steel wool to remove the lines I didn't want, sometimes accidentally taking off  some that I wanted to keep.  I just painted them back.  I also tried to keep my fingers from the touching the nice clean copper as much as possible.

After I let the paint dry, I used the Sharpie again to go around the edge of the copper.  This needs to be protected or the solution will start eating away at the edges, which could be a nice effect, but I didn't want the relic look for this piece.

I put clear packing tape on the back of each piece, burnishing well.  I didn't want the solution to get behind the copper so I burnished, then burnished some more.  I just snipped off the extra tape that hung past the edge.

I had some little pieces of styrofoam that I used as floats.  I just doubled over another piece of tape so that both sides were sticky & stuck the copper to their little boats, pressing firmly.

I poured the ferric chloride solution into a little plastic take out container.  You can use most anything plastic or glass but no metal.  Your container needs to be large enough to hold your little boats & I wanted one with a lid so I could save the solution for the next time.  Be sure to label the container & keep it in a safe place away from little hands & little paws.

Drop the little babies into the bath, face down, & try to take notice of the time. Notice I said "try".

After about 15 minutes, I carefully removed each piece & rinsed it off with remove the tiny copper bits that had already started to fall away.  The reason the piece has to be hung upside down is to allow the copper particles to go to the bottom.  If the copper was design side up, the copper "etchings" would stay on top of the copper & interfere with the etching process.  It may be tempting but DO NOT use anything to try to wipe the copper while you're rinsing it off.  I did it & a wiped off a little of the paint.  I used another little container of water to dip the pieces in to rinse off the particles.  This is also when you should check to see if it's etched enough for you.

I rinsed & checked the etching process about every 10 minutes, & sooner as it got closer to what I wanted.  I think I let this etch about an hour, but I'm terrible at clock watching.  After it was etched to my liking, I rinsed & neutralized the etching solution with baking soda.  I used an old toothbrush which also served to remove most of the paint & Sharpie marks.  (Ferric chloride can also be neutralized by a 50/50 solution of ammonia & water.  Just let the pieces soak in the solution for about 15 minutes.)  I also dropped a little baking soda into the rinse water to neutralize the minute amount of the solution that may have come off of the copper pieces. 

I unstuck it from the styrofoam boats, also popping them into the neutralized rinse water.  Not so pretty, huh?

I polished with a bit of steel wool.

Ok, a little better.  After a little more wooling, I applied a little LOS with a paint brush around the edges of the designs.  
More polishing, a gentle dapping & a few hours in the tumbler netted me these pretties 
for my Mom.

It's not a perfect etch, but I like it's organic nature.  

If you don't remember, this design was the first collaboration of Mom & me for a pendant that I donated to a silent auction for Independent Animal Rescue.  That pendant will always be special to me for so many reasons, but mostly because Mom was part of it's design.

This is a chemical so be sure to wear your safety goggles & gloves.  No little feet or paws should be around while you're working with this.  

I've used the same solution in the same container 3 times & it still seems to be etching just fine.  Once the solution is spent, do not pour it down the drain .  Proper disposal is a MUST.  You need to check with your local Hazardous Waste Company on to how to dispose of the copper sludge that you will eventually get from etching as well as the old solution.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  Really, it's not scary at all.  It is a chemical & should be treated with respect, but I accidentally got some on my skin & it didn't burn or sting, I just washed it off with soap & water.

I'll definitely  be doing more etching..maybe I'll even do a little today.  I'm working on a little something for a giveaway.  Details coming soon.  Really.  I promise it won't be another 2 months.  

Have a wonderful day!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mortar Monday, Butter Chicken

It's Monday again so I decided to do another Mortar Monday.  This week features my favorite mortar & pestle.  This is my little workhorse, but she only has one job......bashing garlic.  Oh yeah, baby!!  I searched & searched for the perfect garlic pounder & finally came across this little beauty.  It's made of some type of unfinished wood so the first thing I had to do was "season" it.  See a pattern here?

 Every day for a week I lovingly rubbed mineral oil into the mortar & onto the pestle. Even though it was ready to use after a few "oilings" I continued to oil it once a week for a month.  I still oil it as needed, but after it's conditioned, with proper care, it doesn't need it that often.  

This little thing just perfect.  The pestle fits my hand & the mortar is small enough that I can easily hold it while I pound the heck out of garlic.  I use this mortar almost every time I cook something that needs garlic, which is a lot.  

In this recipe I used it to make a paste of the ginger & garlic.  I just add a little salt & start pounding & within about a minute I have a lovely, creamy paste.

This is not really a recipe for a quick dinner because of the marinade time, but perhaps it could be started in the morning & marinaded in the yogurt mixture in the fridge until dinner time that night.  I've never tried it so I don't know if the acidity would effect the texture of the chicken if it was left that long.

I marinaded the chicken with a little salt, ground red chile pepper & the lemon juice.

After about 30 mintutes I added a yogurt mixture comprised of turmeric, cumin & garam masala & let it languish for about 4 hours.

I popped the garlic & grated ginger into my garlic pounder with a little kosher salt to help with the paste making.

About 60 seconds later....voila!!!  A lovely garlic/ginger paste:

After some cooking & stewing & more chopping & stirring my meal was ready.  I served it with basmati rice, dal & naan.  I garnished quite liberally with cilantro because I like it.  Even though this is a huge plate of food, (yes, I cleaned my plate) I still had 3 more servings that were packed away & popped into the freezer.

I did include the recipe this time for myself & for any of y'all who may want to give this a try.  I used about 3 different recipes to come up with this one & realized that I really do need to write this down before I forgot what parts I used from which recipe.

This seems like a long recipe with a long list of ingredients, but most, if not all of the ingredients can be found in your local market & you probably already have a lot of the ingredients on hand.  It isn't a complicated dish & could easily be accomplished by adding everything to the pot at the same time, but I tend to cook in "layers".

I don't know that this is an authentically Indian recipe, but this is how I do it.

Butter Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1" chunks (I used breasts but prefer boneless skinless thighs)
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground red chili pepper

1/2 C plain yogurt, divided
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala

2 T butter
1 large onion sliced into thin wedges
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, smashed into paste
2 tsp fresh ginger, smashed into paste
1 T ground coriander powder
1/4 C ground almonds (I bought unsalted, raw almonds & ground them in my coffee grinder)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 T tomato paste

Toss chicken with lemon juice, ground red chili pepper & salt.  Let this sit for about 30 minutes.
Mix 1/4 C of the yogurt with turmeric, cumin & garam masala.  Stir this into the chicken & let this marinade for about 3-4 hours.

Over medium heat, heat butter in large sauce pan or pot until frothy then toss in the onions, stirring to coat the onions.  If using unsalted butter, I add a little salt to help sweat the onions.

When the onions are tender, add garlic & ginger paste, stirring to keep the garlic from browning too quickly & becoming bitter.

After about a minute, stir in cinnamon & coriander powder followed by the tomato paste.  Stir well to incorporate the paste into the onions & keep it from sticking to the pan.

Once that is simmering add the chicken, including the marinade. Let this simmer gently on medium-low heat until chicken has cooked through.  Don't let this boil or the yogurt will break & look curdled.  I don't think it effects the taste, but it doesn't look so pretty.

When the chicken is cooked, add the almonds & diced tomatoes.  Cover & let this gently simmer for about 30 minutes.  I think I let it simmer about an hour, but 30 minutes is fine.

Adjust the seasonings as needed, then stir in the remaining 1/4 C yogurt & heat through, being careful not to let it simmer too hard.  I actually forgot to add the final 1/4 C yogurt & it was still great.

Serve this with balsamic rice.

This is not a crazy hot dish, to me, but if you're not sure, you can reduce the amount of chili powder in the first step to 1/2 tsp.

I hope you try this & I hope you like it.  I'm kinda new to Indian food, but have had fun experimenting with different recipes.  This one is a keeper for me & even my Southern bred Grandma loved it.  I did reduce the chili powder when I made it for her.

Hope you have/had a great day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Find Your Ace

Art work by KJ Grigoriadis

I think as artists, or just people, we sometimes suffer from feeling like things are passing by us so quickly that we can't breathe.  We wanted to be further & have done more than we have.  Many goals are made & lost & we feel so frustrated by letting another year go by without realizing our dreams & hopes. We wallow in our misery & disappointment while we watch others seemingly achieve their goals & find their place with little to no effort.  These "others" may be friends or family that we love & are so happy for them, but sometimes it's hard not to say "why not me"?  "I've worked just as hard, but I'm still treading water, but to what end?" 

This topic came up on a message board  on one of the art websites that I've joined.  I have so much respect for the original poster in her candor to express her true feeling for her friend's "success".  I think a lot of us may have felt that way before.  Wanting to be sooo happy for a friend, but disappointment in our own situation descends like a dark cloud.  We find ourselves being almost catty when their success was mentioned, until we took a step back, took a breathe & remembered that, if we really cared, we had to let our friend shine in the light.  Smiling through the darkness & hugging through the disappointment.

Another artist on the site, KJ, offered up this demo that she saw at a convention.  I think the scenario is so brilliant on so many levels that I had to share it with you.

"At a sales demo this man gets on stage and ask for 2 ladies to come up to the stage.  He sat each one down in a chair about 15 feet apart facing the audience.  He then ask for 6 more people to come up from the audience and he had 3 stand behind each one of the ladies sitting in the chairs.  He then gives each lady a deck of cards and instructs them to open the deck and when he tells them to flip through the cards and find the ACE.  He tells each of the 2 groups of 3 standing behind the ladies to make alot of noise.  One of the 3 was saying things like; that's not it, you can't find it, it's not in the deck....another one was to be saying encouraging things, another was to say hurry, hurry, find it, etc....  They were to be kinda loud creating distraction over the  shoulders of the sitting ladies.  He then says and when you find the ACE stand up and shout "I found it" and then I'm going to give you $10.  And then he says go!  They start flipping through the deck in a hurry the ones standing behind them were making lots of noise with their comments.  Then the lady on the left all of the sudden stands up and shouts "I found it!"  And the lady on the right stops flipping through the deck and watches as everybody is happy for the lady on the left.  The speaker hands the $10 to the lady on the left.  And he turns to the audience  and says "it happens every time".  I told these 2 ladies to flip through the deck and find the ACE.  When you find it I'll give you $10 and did you see what happened when the lady on the left found her ACE?  The lady on the right stopped looking for hers.  She let the success of someone else get in her way.  I didn't tell them "who ever finds it first I will give them $10.  I said when you find the ACE stand up and shout "I found it" 

So, just because your friend found her ACE don't stop looking for yours!  Success is about staying focused and not letting the distractions of others get in your way.  The success of others is a huge distraction but stay focused on your own endeavors.   Your ACE is in the deck...."

How awesome is this & how true is it as well?  So often we may get caught up in how successful this person is with their jewelry or body products or art work or.........or...anything really, that we forget to keep working & trying & striving to be the best that we can be at the time.  

I'm just really starting on my art journey even though I've been doing artsy things for most of my life.  I want my first faces to be perfect & moody & dark like this artist..I want my jewelry to be more dimensional like that artist & I want it now!!!  Yeah, yeah, I know they've been practicing & growing into their art for years, but I want it magic.  I'm trying to relax & accept that most things in life are a journey, but I'm not known for my patience.  I want to do it all & I want to do it well....right now.

I also wanted to share some of KJ's art work with you.  Her pieces are so ethereal & calming to me.  I love Poppy Bay & feel like the ocean is just beyond their papery blossoms.

                                                      "Kayla"  ACEO (ATC) display pillow

I also love her idea of this ATC display pillow.  I've just started making ATCs to swap & still not sure what to do with them, but how nice would it be to have one (or more) of these to display those mini pieces of art.  Maybe switch them out every month or every week, depending on the season or your mood.

I hope y'all have a great day & I hope you find your Ace.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mortar Monday- Tacos

I've posted earlier about my mortar & pestle collection.  I really do love them & love using them.  They each have their own purpose, well, accept for the wooden one on the left.  I can't find much use for that one other than just looking pretty.  The pestle (the little stick) is too rounded on the end so it doesn't really make good contact with whatever is in the mortar.  The rest of them have their own jobs so I thought I'd start showcasing each of them every once in a while.  I'm not saying that I don't have, and use, my food processor, coffee grinder, etc, but I do occasionally enjoy primitively crushing stuff with stone or wood.

This week will feature my molcajete as I make chicken tacos.  I don't have the exact recipe because I usually don't measure anything, but this will give you a general idea.  

I start off charring some jalapenos & dried quajillo peppers in my little cast iron skillet.  I just popped them on the stove in the hot skillet & kept turning them until they were nicely charred all the way around.

I know..they look very charred, but it's OK.  The dried guajillo was almost too black, but it wasn't bitter.  The jalapenos went into plastic wrap to steam & the quajillo went into a heat safe container with a little garlic & boiling water.

After about 30 minutes soaking in the hot water, I moved the chiles to a small container & used my new immersion blender (thanks Mom).  I just added a little of the soaking water to make a nice puree.  No, I wasn't going to tackle the chile with my mortar.  I'm a fair weather mortarer.

Meanwhile, I was boiling a couple of chicken thighs with a a few pieces of celery & carrot.  When the chicken was cooked, I removed the chicken to cool & reserved the stock to use for the rice.  I shredded the chicken when it was cool enough.

I removed the skin from the jalapenos & popped them into the molcajete along with the garlic & a bit of salt & started smashing.  It doesn't look like a lot of peppers, but these jalapenos were hotter than usual.  I added some coriander seed to the  mortar to crush them up as well.

I added a can of strained tomatoes (reserving the liquid for the rice) to the mortar & got them nice & saucy.

I used salt, arbol molido powder, oregano, cumin & chile ancho powder this for these tacos.  The round things in the middle are the coriander seeds which were exiled to the mortar.

I chopped up an onion & started browning it in a pot with a little oil.  When the onions softened I added the chicken, gave it a stir & added the spices.

I know, blurry picture.  My kitchen is really dark so when I try to take a photo without the flash it all goes awry. 
 I stirred the spices to keep them from burning while I let them "blossom" in the oil.  I don't let them go for long before I add the mortared tomato mixture or they'll go bitter.

While the chicken simmered....

I rinsed the rice & got that started then I broke out the masa to make the tortillas.

I mixed up the dough & let it rest for a bit before I started pressing & cooking them.

The finished product. 

 I didn't mention the refried beans, but maybe in another post.  I accessorized the tacos with queso cojita, radishes & fresh cilantro along with a squirt of lemon.  Lime would have been better, but there were no limes in sight.

This made enough for me to freeze for later.  I did finish off the tortillas the next morning by way of bean tacos.

Prepping & seasoning your molcajete

Molcajetes are really great for crushing things, but they take a bit of elbow grease to get them ready to use.

I recommend buying one from a Latin grocery or somewhere similar.  I know they're sometimes available at home furnishing stores, but a lot of them are for decorative purposes & man made.  A true molcajete is made from volcanic rock & just like a cast iron skillet, gets better with age.  The ideal thing is to get a used one, but I've never, ever seen one that's already been broken in.

So, you bring home your new molcajete, remembering to get the tejolote (pestle) which is sometimes behind the counter at the market.

Soak it in water over night.  Meanwhile, look up your safety goggles & some raw rice.
The next day, hopefully a nice day so you can sit outside, grab your new molcajete, safety goggles & raw rice.  

Get comfortable.  

Take a hand full or two of raw rice & start grinding.  

You'll soon see why I recommend that you be outside, donning safety goggles.  
Rice flies out of this thing faster than you could imagine!!!  

When you've finished crushing the rice, pour it out & do it again.  
Do this about 5 or 10 or 20 more times until the rice is no longer a putrid shade of gray.  

You may have to rinse the molcajete while crushing the rice to get rid of the rice dust & the grit.

Failure to complete the aforementioned steps could net you a mouth full of grit when you use this.

Once you've finished "ricing" the molcajete, rinse it out (no soap) using a vegetable brush or some sort of stiff brush.  

Grab some garlic & cumin seeds, salt, coriander seeds & smash the heck out of them in your new molcajete.  

You're almost there.

Let the paste sit over night, rise it out really well & you're ready to roll.  

These are made of volcanic rock so they are heavy.  I have to use both hands to pick up the molcajete I used for this recipe.  I have a smaller one that I use more often but it can still be a struggle.

I hope you've enjoyed my first installment of mortar Monday.  

Sorry for the really bad photos & the even worse directions, but this is how I cook.  A little bit of this & a little bit of, but I'll try to do better the next time & actually include measurements.

Whew!!!  This was an obnoxiously long post, huh?

Thanks for hanging in!!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Little Snow Bunny

Just thought I'd drop in a couple of pictures of Dakota in the snow over Christmas.  I know she's not so little, but she thinks she when she tried to crawl onto my lap.  She's just a 44 pound puppy.  I don't think she's ever been able to play in this much snow & she had a blast.  I tried, but couldn't keep up with her.  Luckily her 2 best friends, Sadie & Banjo romped over to play.  They were too speedy for me to get a good shot of them, but here's my girl.


The little white speck in the sky is part of a flock of snow geese.

These little fellows love Mom as she keeps the feeders full.

I hope this finds you all safe & warm.