Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I've been trying to work out a way to translate some of the things I've learned from making lights into a "home craft"; you know, a set of instructions, a "how to" make something amazing with led lights.
The resin casting techniques aren't something that many people will (or should) take up in a home environment. Not if you want to keep your clothes, carpets and work surfaces looking perfect.
So, if we can't cast our forms, we're going to have to construct them.
 One thing I have played around with a lot is the "infinity mirror" concept, where light sources are placed between a mirror (back) and a two way mirror (front). The reflections become "serial", so if the light sources are arranged around the edge, it creates a tunnel effect.
Two / one way mirror is expensive, so I have used acetate sheet laminated with mirror film, to try out the effect in various projects. It's great for cutting and folding geometric forms and it could be substituted with mirror card, if necessary.
What about the lights? Of course, we could do a tutorial about how to arrange and solder an led array but that would be pointless. That information is already widely available and let's face it, "soldering iron" on the equipment list would be a bit off putting.
LED fairy lights are one answer, as far as a light source is concerned. There are also the battery operated, LED "tea lights" that we can use as a safe, stand alone light source.
The tutorials I have planned are for fabulous kaleidoscope shades that you can add to the above that will actually increase the amount of light you get from your leds.

One thing I'm worried about (believe me, there are loads) is that currently, I'm using industrial strength superglue to fix them together. I tell you, it's all fun & games 'till someone gets stuck to the table.
I've had some terrible incidents with superglue, not least, spilling a large amount on a wool jumper. I'm not noted for my sartorial elegance but I started to gently smoke. Wool apparently accelerates the exothermic reaction if applied in large enough amounts. Spontaneous combustion is not a good look.
John had an even more extreme incident.( It all goes wrong when the top blocks and you have to pull the "dropper" bit out of the main bottle. If you use it, be thorough about cleaning the top of the dropper before you put the lid back on). John managed to glue his jumper to his belt and jeans, his jeans to his boot, his bootlace to his boot & himself to the superglue bottle. By the way, carpets smoke if you spill large amounts of superglue on them, too.
His take on the incident is "And they say men can't multitask".
I'm guessing that I will be able to make a "light" version, forgive the pun, with mirror card & double sided tape, for people who prefer to keep their fingers separate. I've got the mirror card on order, so as soon as I can, I'll try it out & take the tutorial photos using that.
Here's a couple of photos to give you an idea of the first project I'm planning - hexagon shaped reflectors. They're pretty versatile - you could fit them together to make a panel or even a ball and I'm going to work out how to do that just as soon as I can find the time.

Just a quick reference to the post about awards, below. We spent some time thinking about it and frankly, we are too small a business to launch something like this at the moment. It would be crossing the fine line between "thinking big & being ambitious" and "biting off more than you can chew". Perhaps we will get some help offered with this sometime in the future; it would need publicity and proper management to be worthwhile and meaningful.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Read All About It - Names In Lights!

I'm making a quick happy Sunday blog post - we have a photo in the "Get This" feature of the Sunday Express magazine. Credit for this has to go entirely to Tracey ( @wowthankyou ) for all of her hard work helping British hand makers promote their work on   wowthankyou
Here's a quick snapshot

Monday, 15 October 2012

Keep calm and what?

I've been playing with using our lit letters to make a font, as it's quite useful not to have to make entire words just for images I want.
"Keep Calm & Carry On" is a bit of a defeatist message. Grit your teeth and hang on for dear life. Get your head down & hope nobody notices you.
Here's my alternative.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

HUGE Image Gallery

I've been reviewing the Names In Lights website, looking for where to make changes and improvements, starting with images and working my way through the "about" pages.
It's difficult to know where to begin and end with giving information; how technical should you get?
I suppose the key thing is that you have answered all of the potential questions. A couple of weeks ago, someone asked " do you get the stand with the letters?" and someone else "are there any wires showing?", so I'm feeling an information gap.
The first way I'm tackling this is a more detailed "about the lights" page, with a better explanation of how they're made and what sort of lifespan to expect from them.
We're also re-writing the "About Us" page, because someone else wrote it, and it's not, us.
Image wise, the images displayed in the slideshows on the product / order pages are only 700px wide, so I'm working on putting the full, hi-res catalogue out there for all to see, starting with "cutout" images (background removed).
They're HUGE - over 4000px wide, some of them, so they will be really larger than life!

I'm also going to do something I really don't want to do and that is, I'm going to open the spamgates and put direct "mailto" links on the site. If nothing else, I will win a load of lotteries I never entered, have bank accounts locked that I don't own & meet lots of Nigerian princes.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Fantastic Product Review

We have had another wonderful review, which focuses on the sensory properties of our lights, for the light sculpture in the photograph below.

You can read the blog post HERE and many thanks to @Clairelouise and Little Man for inspiring us to develop a way of putting extra personalisation on the front of our lights.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Feeling really pleased today, as we have had several great reviews.  One is for this three character light, given as a housewarming gift.

I'm happy to say, it went down really well; you can read the full review HERE

On the subject of reviews, we have some lovely ones at HERE  at RatedNames.co.uk, too.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Much Larger Board Of Many Ping Pong Balls

Some folk have more patience than is average.

If I gave you 512 ping pong balls would you think “I could drill 5 millimetre holes in those and illuminate them”?

Once you have got all 512 balls lit you need a means of controlling them as a dot matrix and the microcontrollers coding to make things move in a pretty way. Oh, and you would need to make the printed circuit boards too as such things aren’t readily available and a host of other things we won’t go into here such as the wiring.
Luckily some folk are made of sterner stuff than I. I give you The Much Larger Board Of Many Ping Pong Balls

The thing that stands out for me is when you read his blog post about the making of this, he is 15 years old. When I was 15 I couldn’t have spelled microcontroller never mind programmed one, I still can’t as it happens.

If you feel adventurous he even sells kits http://www.dashroom66.com/catalog

Posted by John

Monday, 1 October 2012

The monthly draw has moved to Competwition.

We are up and running with our brand new competition on the excellent platform Competwition.com , you can find ours right HERE . The prize is an oval light of up to six letters
I did an ad poster for this month (I usually make some sort of image or video to go with the Tweet) but as it's surplus to requirements, I'm going to post it here.
October competition.
So far, Competwition.com is proving to be a great, hassle-free way of running the draw. It's a nice, easy to use platform and I would highly recommend it to anyone running a competition on Twitter.
It's frr, too!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Competition Changes

I'm going to get straight to the point, I'm changing how we run the monthly competition. It's not only that it's becoming difficult to manage keeping track of the entries on Twitter and Pinterest. I've had a couple of "it's not fair" DMs on Twitter and for the sake of my own sanity it's time to run the competition in a different way.

At the moment, I'm planning to set it up on the Competwition.com platform, not least because they generate the winners and that puts a stop to any questions about how winners are selected.

I'm not yet clear if you're able to enter more than once but when I do find out, all of the updated information will be on our competition page. HERE

The prize is also going to be changing, to the largest of the oval based lights, so a maximum of six letters, or seven if there's a double "T" or an"I", if you know what I mean.

Six letters on an oval podium - this is the prize, a word of your choice.

We're hoping that this will help free up some "giving" time, because I really want to start a skill-based monthly competition on Twitter; something more fun than just retweeting a message.
Just for fun, I'll leave you with this......

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Getting Personal(ised)

Personalisation is a key feature of what we do at Names In Lights and although we offer something that is unique, I sometimes wonder "is it enough?".
The new redesigned light bases, so far, will only accommodate six, or at the most seven characters, so, not long enough for EVERY name (although we can do up to 12 on oak plinths).
So, here's my latest development in personalisation ........

The gold lettering is set in a deep layer of clear resin (the lower case letters are 7mm high, to give scale).
This personalisation can be almost as wide as the base itself, allowing room for a sneaky "I love you" as well as all manner of other possible messages.
As it's a brand new development, I'm thinking of offering it as a freebie (the extra personalisation for free, with the purchase of a light) on Twitter, to a couple of customers, before I decide to make it an option on any of our sales platforms,

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

C is for Colour Change

Here's the chameleon, perched on a "C", for crazy colour change chameleon.

More Photoshop Fun & Frolics

 It was less than a month ago that the importance of cutout images was brought to my attention. Fortunately, I have Photoshop, so after a few tutorials and clumsy attempts I feel I'm more or less competent. It has coincided with the chance to get images on Pressloft thanks to Tracey at Wowthankyou.com
You can see them here along with some other great stuff from the Wow catalogue.
I'm mulling where to go with this, so for learning's sake (and because it's really difficult to find good, royalty free images) I'm going to play around with some of my old vector T shirt designs - for example ..

Ooh - in funky different colourways, too!!

I cut myself an alphabet from letters photographed "head-on" - here's a "water splash & reflection" from a tutorial I did. A bit rough, dodgy reflection, needs improvement but has potential.

So the brief I'm setting is to make an image with the chameleon, incorporating my new Photoshop letters and to not take an eternity about it.

The little stick men in the post below are not doing so well. Making such fine little structures is proving a bit more than these hands can manage. Daily use of vibrating tools is what I'm blaming it on but some of the finer control that I need is no longer there. )Perhaps if I can find some tiny hinge / pin style arrangement I can make them poseable?)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Compliance and Conformity

Yesterday, I crossed something off my dread list. I guess we all have something like it, the tasks that make your heart sink just to think of them, so you put them to one side for a time when you feel "stronger".
One half of my list is the physically difficult stuff. I suffer chronic pain as a result of a degenerative spinal condition, so I have to plan these carefully with an eye on what I will be able to do in the following days.
Strangely, though the other part of the list, the petty admin trifles that I whinge about on Twitter, is more of a trouble to me.
Top of the list for a while has been PCI DSS compliance, required for merchants taking credit card payments. I've known I needed to deal with it for ages but put it off, knowing that there would be loads to read and understand; references, documents and passwords to recover. Predictably, it turned out to be not all that difficult. We are compliant.
In setting up the new lights on new sales platforms I've been asked for cutout images. The shame - I had to ask "what are those?" Simply, it's "whatever it is" with the background completely removed and it's the press / industry standard, apparently. White backgrounds, square images.
I'm not a massive fan of conforming but it hasn't taken too long to learn enough Photoshop to make a decent attempt.

That's cut from a photo taken on black. I'm working with photos taken on a on a white background, too but I think they lack impact.

We've complied and we are trying to conform. The only good thing about it is I'm learning more Photoshop than I would otherwise - the bad thing about it is the temptation to get up to some proper cut and paste mischief. I can think of a number of words that would be hilarious to "shop" into the often outstretched arms of certain politicians. But for now - this.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A New Model Army?

Back in April, among the themes for photos I tried were some using small architectural figures. Flowers and twinkles are not for everyone and we don't want to "over feminise" the lights, if that makes sense.
Here's one of the images; it's pretty ropey but you get the general idea.

Poor though it is, there are some things I like about it, in that there's a human connection - the sense that there is a shared experience. The figures themselves are wrong on many levels, so I'm setting out to make "the right people".
 Physically, they need to be bigger. I'm planning that they will be androgynous, stick people. I want figures that I can make quickly and put into interesting positions.
I'm choosing to make them from Fimo polymer clay because it will be quite opaque at the thickness I'm using it. 
I've started out with a couple of little material trials, to try to decide how they'll go together before I start sketching. The first, flesh coloured one - too chubby (no offence) to go into the positions I want, as well as a bit Telleytubby. The white one is more of the proportions I want; the length of the limbs will help me make them look more animated in poses.

(Excuse the grubby finger marks - I'd just swept the chimney.)

I'm undecided about faces, as I don't necessarily want to have them have a set expression, plus I think I would make them look "gawky" on this scale. Figure drawing and (human) portraits have never been my strong point, though I can sketch you a nifty dog.
The plan for now is just to leave them with a plain, round head and make tiny masks, if they need facial expressions. It's not possible to leave them in their "soft state" to work with them as models, they're too fragile and they pick up dirt too easily.
Of course, this has to fit  in alongside making lights, and doing all the admin that I moan about on Twitter. I doubt it will be a new model army, it's more likely to be just some polymer people having a groovy time in the bright lights.

Monday, 27 August 2012

We All Make Mistakes

There are a couple of cast letters put to one side in the workshop. They taunt and irritate me but I thought I would share them.
I've been wondering about casting names into letters and one of the things I've tried are these little alphabet beads.

As you look at them with the letter the right way up, it is upside down on the other side. You have to lay them up into the mold in reverse, so you work from the back.
Among my attempted samples were "TIGGER" and "GOD I'M GOOD" .
Which I laid up like so.

Which, from the front looks like this.
It's one of my funnier mistakes, in that nothing was broken or glued to anything important.  I did manage to make a couple of working examples in  the end.

Lisa in the letter L

Suzanne in the letter S

Olly in an O

We don't know if we will make them available as an option but making them has given us new ideas to try out as well as giving a couple of people a laugh.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Something completed ... Whee!

I'm feeling pretty pleased, as I've reached one of my goals and for once, it's happened sooner than I expected.
I'm pleased to say, that at long last, the new range of name lights is not only completed but photographed, catalogued and available now on Names In Lights.
 I have to say, that for me, the administration of cataloguing, editing and updating it all to the web was actually a bigger headache than designing the new lights and making the molds.
Now we can go right through from 1 letter or character, starting at £14.95...

...to the biggest of the new lights, the six letter or character, which costs £59.95

As well as our own site we are launching soon on three new, exciting platforms but I'm keeping my gob shut about the details for now; you never know what falls by the wayside.
In an attempt to co-ordinate my shambolic online presence, I have syndicated the blog to auto-update to Facebook & Twitter. I hope that it will at least make me blog a little bit more often. I was hoping to fill the blog with posts about other interesting creatives and Twitter is where I find them, because I find very little time for much other than a little Twit & Pin when I'm online.
I'm really starting to enjoy the photography, now that the standard is improving. I've got quite a few ideas for  "setups" and I'm wondering if I will be able to get it up to print quality.
New video is also on the list but for the time being I'm trying to catch up on a few outstanding promises and sort out some tedious admin trifles.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Competitions, casting & under-catalysation

Firstly, to competition updates.
The winner of this months twitter / Pinterest draw is @BE_DAZZLED1
The new draw run started on August 1st & I'm pleased to say that we have plenty of entries coming in.
Toby, winner of the competition in the last but 1 post, is still waiting for his prize - it all went horribly wrong but it will get re-made and sent to its' rightful owner, I promise you.

This month, we are holding an extra competition to win one of our spiffy new-style word lights, hosted by our friends at wowthankyou.co.uk

You can enter the competition HERE and special thanks to @TheToolBoxShop for featuring us in their .li paper.li/TheToolBoxShop

As we work our way up to ever longer bases, the process is becoming harder to manage; we are casting into flexible moulds but we need a good level of accuracy, so we are really having to up our game and think hard about how we structure our moulds and their casings.
The technical is featuring heavily at the moment, with each original model taking a fair while to make, spread over several days (having multiple pieces, original builds and mould pouring all on the go at the same time).
As an activity, mould making with silicone is special. The silicone comes in the form of a thick, white, rubber-like liquid, to which you add a catalyst for it to set.
Previous silicones that I have worked with come with a coloured catalyst, that you add at 10%. You can see when it's fully mixed. The new 5 litres, however, has clear catalyst to be added at "2-5%", which has made life harder and, if I'm honest, cost me some hours and frustration. A drip more than 2%, it will set before you can pour it. A drip less and it takes days to set.
I think that about covers the moaning. The new format lights are going to be great fun to make once we get into the mold set completed but the most satisfying thing for me is how very reasonably we are going to be able to price them.
If ever you come across any similar products we would be really interested to hear about them (or any brilliant hand-made goodies using leds). I spent a long time searching and I was surprised that no similar products appear to exist. I am not counting uplit acrylic sheet cut with a cnc machine.

Thank you for reading, it's been an utter

For me, if not for you x

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

It Ends ...It Begins.

It's draw time again, so I'm taking the opportunity to post the new competition video :)

Monday, 16 July 2012

Aand the winner is...

I set myself up for a difficult dilemma. Fancy me, of all people, starting something without thinking it through properly.

So, picking a winner for the competition is a massive dilemma because all of the entries are lovely and I have decided that I am going to simply pick the one that I think will "work" best as a lit image and leave room for the name.
The image & name that best fit into the format that I have to work with is


As well as being cute, the photo has good contrast, clear features & his name will fit.

Thanks to everyone who entered, I've loved seeing your gorgeous pets. Judging it was hell, though.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Pets Competition - Win a Lighty Thing!!!

It's conventional to start a competition by letting people know what the prize is but this is a design stage, so the winner will get the first (and maybe last) one ever.
What I can tell you is that the base will be just like this ...

It will be about 6" long.
Instead of letters, there will be an uplit back ; clear, arch topped and it will include the name and picture of the winning pet.

To Enter

Tweet @NamesInLights - Tell us his or her name - Include a GOOD photo (this is the image that will be used to make the light)


This is not like our other competitions.
It will not go on for a month, like our monthly competition.
It will not go on forever, like our B2B competition.
We're going to pick a winner on Sunday night.

The winner will be the creature we consider to be the "best named character", the competition is open to any non-human creature (write your own punchline).
Good luck

Saturday, 30 June 2012

It's that time of the month.

That's right; time to pick a winner for the prize draw and start the whole darned thing over again; I love it. Seems to be more of an event each month, for me at least. I've prepared the video for June, you know what I do; I post it & Pin it!

The product development is going well. They're going to be easier to make and afford but just as beautiful as before. Here's a mockup one with the new style base.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Musings of a maker

Even before we launched Names In Lights we were aware that we have a very high price point.
It sure isn't greed that drives our pricing but the fact that making these lights is a very time consuming occupation.
It's a problem that my mind constantly works on, not because we want to mass produce or make big bucks but mainly to be able to put them into the hands of more people. It would be nice to cut out some of the more demanding parts of the process, too.
We are actually at a point where we think we have solved many of the problems. Designs are drawn and moulds are being made; the fun part of putting theory into practice begins now.
We're not stopping making the Oak based lights, we're really proud of them but it will be a real achievement if we can somehow make our work accessible to a lot more people. Not just that, either. It gives us a chance to get our hands on exciting new (to us) materials that we haven't used before.

Friday, 1 June 2012

We were featured on Heart Handmade blog...

We have had a couple of features, one on Heart Handmade blog and also on DesignBoom - it's lovely to get an article published so thanks to all concerned. 

This is the attachment for the June prize draw on Twitter & Pinterest, more details about the competition here.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Treasure Hunt Giveaway Day

It's been a long time since we made a blog post.  That's because we have been up to something.

On Saturday, Names in Lights are having a giveaway day. Nine lights will be offered to pairs of famous tweeters who know one another. The first to retweet wins their Name In Lights (and, of course, it's highly likely that some of the offers will not be taken up by either one.)
The offers will be made by tweet, with an accompanying lighthearted video for each pair.
(All of the videos are basically the same but for a short reference to the people concerned)

Also on Saturday, we will be giving away the same prize to one of our followers ( this is additional to our free monthly prize draw) on the day, in our "Twitter treasure hunt". To be in with a chance of winning, RETWEET all of the original tweets with videos attached (nine in all). The winner will be whoever RTs the most of the videos. If more than one person RTs them all, we will draw a winner from those who have.

If you are one of the many social media marketing people or companies, we would be really grateful if you could lend us your support.
 By support, what we mean is talk about our campaign. We haven't seen anything quite like this done on Twitter before (maybe that is just our ignorance). It should be interesting. We are not asking you to say you like it or support it; we would rather you expressed an honest opinion - if you hate it or think we were wrong to do it, say so!

We have anticipated several possible outcomes; not all of them positive but having had the idea, the temptation to go ahead was too great, they do say "who dares wins", don't they?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Here comes a B2B Competition for the UK

I've said it before, I LOVE running our competition and we have been wanting to start another for a while. The first thought was to do a charity raffle but that would be more complicated than you could reasonably expect. Besides, when I meet a wall of apathy, I usually head off in another direction.

So, to the new competition. Open to UK businesses only, it's designed to be as constructive as possible, so entries will be made on Pinterest, by posting an image relating to your business and using the comments box to "pitch" why you should get the light.

The Pinterest board for this competition is here.

 The thinking behind this is that
1.The board will become an interesting showcase for British business.
2. By encouraging your supporters to go and vote for you, you help spread the word about other small businesses.
3.The competition might encourage some small businesses who currently don't use Pinterest to take the plunge and begin exploring how best they can use this very simple, entertaining site.

If you don't know ANYTHING about Pinterest, here is the Wikipedia guide.

At the time of writing, you still need an invite to Pinterest. They are fairly easy to come by but please feel free to contact us to get one.

Deciding the winner is a bit of a worry. Anything where "you can get your friends to vote for you" is open to abuse, so I think we will try to recruit some judges and they could pick the winner from the top five?
 First thoughts are to ask the people who have started some of the British business hashtags if they will make up a judging panel.

Below are the images I'm using to set up the Pinterest board. If you just happen to be reading this and fancy entering, tweet @NamesInLights and we will notify you when the board is open for entries.



All of the current information, rules and conditions about the new competition will be on namesinlights.co.uk within a few days of this post.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

I LOVE running our competition

Here's our first "proper" video, having discovered that we had accidentally bought a video camera, too, when we purchased the Finepix 3200, we thought we would try it out. The results are much better than our previous attempts with a borrowed mini dv so I think there will be many more to come.

On Monday, 1st May I drew the winner of the Names In Lights First monthly Free Prize Draw on Twitter.
The winner is @mummaturner and work is already underway on her chosen name MACIE.

The draw was open straight away and the response is wonderful - so far we have had an average of 50 entries per day for the first two days of May. It has proved so popular that we have had to limit entries to one per day. The slight downside is that it is nigh on impossible to keep up with acknowledging each entry, which feels rude. I expect I am going to have to find some sort of software solution, soon.
I am keeping the competition entries dilligently listed in excel, though, ready to be randomised at the end of the month.

We are hoping to find a charity to partner with (it is proving harder than you would think), because we are willing to make another "free monthly prize" but it would be nice to see that raise some money for charity and help spread the word about our little workshop. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I've been a bum

When we started this blog, I promised myself that I wouldn't be one of those bloggers who abandons their blog after only a few posts. Hmm.
The photography goes on and hopefully, it's getting better. I'm going to post a couple and run. Support on Twitter continues to be amazing and we've had our first repeat customer online!

Special thanks to  the Cluny Bank Hotel for including us in this.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The shooting continues....

Things are getting a bit better with the photography project as we get used to the new camera. we are discovering what "works" as props & starting to have fun with it. We have an ever-growing wishlist for new trinkets to include, though.

We also have cause to thank several people, for including us in .li publications
so I am just giving them a little linky nod here.

Details of how that multi-part mold turned out coming soonish!!