Saturday, 31 March 2012

Time consuming Technical Hitch..

Shame I'm guilty of Blog neglect so soon, but there you go - nobody's perfect.
The truth is, things went wrong. Many and all at one time. We won't go into much of it here but the most time consuming problem is that one of our projects went wrong.
It's always the creative side that goes wrong; Johns electrical work is solid, known, planned. My work on the other hand, is experimental and can be haphazard and unpredictable.
The particular development I've been working on is a "message light", uplit letters behind an acrylic face. The actual format is fine, it's the presentation that has been problematic. When you have many words, what you get is length. To cut a long story short, the oak I was working with would not tolerate the technique I was using. The top of the unit was a long, thin strip, and it warped.
The chosen solution has been to use resin cast ends and a backed perspex strip as the top. So, making the original pieces to cast the ends has been the mammoth task.

Original - Original bonded for molding - Casting in mold - First finished piece, unpolished.

Here's a  photo, of the originals, mold and the first attempt at a cast piece. You may be able to see that the original that I've taken the mold from broke in de-moulding, so I not only have to take a second mold, I'll need to repair the first original if that needs another taken from it.
I'm not going to go into any mega detail here about technique, if anybody really is interested in how to develop crazy little projects at home, drop us a line in the comments and we will point you to some good resources and perhaps even do some tutorials of our own.

I was cheered up massively by the fact that we have been featured on by the lovely design writer Jo Gifford. You can read the feature here.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Competition Time

Ever since we got the website up and running, we have had a "monthly prize draw" going, just for the UK, as this is the only area we trade in. On some levels, it's been a success, having drawn 18500 entries.  Confusingly, Google analytics says we have had only 500 visitors. I'm a novice at that, too.
The numbers are not all that important, the point is, the bulk of these just enter the competition and leave. They want anything, as long as it's free.


As our following (& the amount of fun I have) is growing nicely on Twitter, we have decided that we will open the competition to Twitter followers only and entry will be "by Tweet". I'm pleased that we are followed on Twitter by some AMAZING British craftspeople (I hope to introduce some of them to you soon) and putting the competition on Twitter increases the chances that the winner of the comp will appreciate it, rather than flog it on Ebay. It will get us Tweets & mentions, too, so it's win win.
The current comp is running HERE on our website & you can enter up to 31st MARCH.

You can make an early bid on Twitter, if you wish, for the April competition. All you do is
1. Have a UK address for us to send your prize.
2. Follow us on Twitter
3. Tweet this >> I'm in the @NamesInLights free draw to win one of these beautiful light sculpture names #PutMyNameInLights.

We will work out a way to enter via Pinterest, too.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Great Aunt Florries Raspberry Vinegar.

This recipe was handed down from my Great Aunt Florrie to my Great Aunt Alice. From there it was passed to my Mum, who passed it down to me and now finally to you, dear readers.

It originates from the Lower Cumberworth area of West Yorkshire and is the one true way of serving Yorkshire Puddings. None of that filling them with gravy lark in those days, they did things properly back then.

I can vaguely remember being taken to the Great Aunts as a very small child so how old the recipe actually is I wouldn’t like to guess. Anyway, enough of the preamble lets get it made.

Using cheap malt vinegar (no need for any fancy stuff) prepare a bowl large enough to take one pint of raspberries for every one pint of vinegar you use.

Place the raspberries in the bowl and pour over the vinegar. Let it stand for 8 days stirring only once awiddershins (anti clockwise) each day. Frozen raspberries can be used but may result in a more syrupy end product, if you pick your own you get some fresh air into the bargain.

After your eight days have expired, squeeze the raspberries out of the vinegar (Mum uses a tea towel but I use a fine mesh bag) and discard the solids.

Add one pound of sugar for every pint of vinegar used and bring to the boil in a heavy bottomed pan. Allow the boiled liquid to simmer for 20 minutes and cool.

Once cooled, bottle the vinegar and enjoy.

To serve with Yorkshire Puddings.
Very finely slice some mild onion and soak in the vinegar for a few hours before pouring over the pudding and serve as a starter.

It is a superb cure for a tickly cough too when mixed with warm water and sipped. It also makes for a stimulating morning cordial and even mixes nicely with rum, or so I am told.

They say vinegar is a powerful anti oxidant so it is one of the few things that do you good without tasting atrocious in my opinion.

If you do have a go at making some I am sure the Great Aunts will be on your side and so will I.

Regards John

Monday, 19 March 2012

More Photo Montage Fun & Frolics.

Today I've done a little bit more messing about with the idea of saying stuff in lights. Here's a couple!

I think there's some fun to be had with these if only I can come up with funny enough subjects.

Posted by Jill

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Bright Communication - Saying it the right way.

Since getting the website up and running, we've been trying to draw the attention of the masses with little effect.
I've read a lot of marketing stuff; you may know some of the currently suggested ways small businesses can get some free publicity. I've been struggling to write a press release for days. Worse still, because we don't have the massive marketing budget you need to make press releases via  or , the chances are nobody will ever see them. If they do, they will see a few dry lines of text that will not really do justice to our stuff.
The whole publicity & marketing thing has been getting me down; have I really got to write endless grovelling emails to editors, that don't even get a reply?
Yesterday was my birthday and I got what I consider to be inspiration. Sod the emails and press releases, WE communicate IN LIGHTS. Like this...

 And THIS.

These are the first two experimental images. Some of the advice we have read tells you to be "different" and a pitch in lights is pretty different.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Tracey Emin challenge - 1.

While we were developing our lights, we noticed THIS news story (source chosen for comic effect) about Tracey Emin presenting her piece "More Passion" to David Cameron. Obviously, this aroused our curiosity; £250,000 is a generous valuation for a light.

"More Passion" by Tracey Emin.

 By way of indulging our curiosity, we're going to make a light like "More Passion" and wind up with a tutorial so that you can make one, too.
Perhaps you've got better ideas for the text? Can you think of an end use for it; to raise money or awareness for a charity, perhaps?

The starting point of a good knackle is to know what you are making. "more Passion" is listed for sale (still) at -  in the description it says...

h: 15.4 x w: 44.4 in / h: 39.1 x w: 112.8 cm

Clear red neon

For our purposes, we are going to use E.L. wire, (electro-luminescent) because full-on neon is beyond "home crafts".
The photos available of this piece are all pretty poor, which is no surprise as lights are difficult to photograph without glare. Difficult to see what the background is really like but I'm thinking a sort of beige fabric? We'll sort out the rest of the materials once we have the EL wire and the driver. I expect we'll make the backing from softwood or MDF and stretch the canvas over it.
I've had a quick root on Ebay and ordered a USB driver and 3 metres of red EL wire 5mm thick.
Part 2 coming soon....

The EL wire arrived the day after and I have to say, it's really not that bright. We are going to shelve this for the time being; once we can find a charity who may benefit from it, we will carry on & do the tutorial.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Micheline Robinson, a Canadian Artist living on the Wirral

I love Twitter as a place to discover interesting people first hand. Only last week I "met" one such.
From Canada and now living on the Wirral, Micheline Robinson has exhibited far and wide. Although she varies styles and mediums her work has a signature sharpness and use of a bold colour palettes. She creates wonderful light and shade; I love the space and depth in "Shellshocked", below.


 Now active in promoting art and artists on the Wirral, Micheline  founded and organised  the inaugural Hoylake & Meols Open Studio Tour in 2009, which has since been extended across the peninsula. You can read about the Open Studio Tour  here

Alone on the beach

You can see Michelines work at the Lark Lane Atelier, Liverpool
There's more of her terrific work on her website

Monday, 12 March 2012

Is it really POP art or just led light sculpture?

If you've looked at our website you may have noticed that we describe the 3D Names In Lights as "Pop Art". To be frank this is partly about SEO; nobody else makes anything quite like our light sculptures (at the time of writing, unless you know different), so optimising pages for our friend Google presents us with some problems.
So, back to Pop art, the name given to British and American versions of an art movement that drew inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture. In particular the use of advertising imagery; the taking of corporate branding and making it art.
Fast forward to 2012 and it turns out that Andy Warhol was quite right about us having 15 minutes of fame although he could never have anticipated the full extent of self-promotion becoming the norm.
The term pop art may not even be relevant any more when so much great art is generated by advertising.
So, are Names In Lights really pop art? That's not for me to say, though they do present the opportunity for interior branding, if that's a desired effect. Nor do I really mind; it's a creative experiment in SEO.
While I was writing this I remembered that I did once venture into a sort of "pop art cum Sgt Peppers psychedelica" style for a cause poster, so I rummaged and found a copy. Now that I've found it I'm kind of reluctant to put it up, (for various reasons) but I will.

Quiggins Liverpool

Perhaps you know the story, my memory of the details is sketchy, to say the least.
Leave a comment if the fancy takes you.
Posted by Jill

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Design Part2

We wanted the letters to be chunky because a great part of their joy is the way that the edge lighting defines the form of the letter. Of course, there's more to them than what you see above the surface, rather like an iceberg.
It took about three weeks to make the first alphabet from plaster. What a nightmare.

The molds

The first models were made in softwood and tested on various friends, family acquaintances and other ne'er do wells who all seemed to really like them.
The original letters were refinished, to make them crisper and I removed the high gloss finish from the front elevations because it provided an undesirable glare.
We were aware that there is a huge argument going on in this product; a battle of the mass produced versus the hand crafted. Even though each of the letters is hand cast from a hand made original and has a unique diffusion pattern, the fact remains that they are made of resin.

Letters & leds

This meant that the plinths needed to be authoritatively hand made, as well as heavy and solid. In looking for a suitable hardwood we came across various blocks made of laminated hardwood. Despite it being harder to work with, not to mention more expensive than creating the plinths form one solid piece, the allure of all of those strips of end grain proved far too much and we chose it as our signature setting for our pieces.

The design for the plinths of the Name lights is, I think, rooted in the 20's or 30's. When I was about six, my maternal grandmother (who I don't ever remember meeting) died, and some of her things came to live with us. An onyx box full of old, interesting keys, boxed sets of dominoes, counters and playing cards, a hand bell from a cruise liner, leather driving gauntlets with fur backs, a big wooden sewing box.
For some reason these things fascinated me; even then I recognised that they were not like the things you could buy at that present time. The way those boxes and trinkets were made has fed into the way I design plinths and surrounds and they have an undeniably old-fashioned feel, right down to the green baize bottom.
From some points of view, it shouldn't work to combine the modern with the traditional but it does bind the piece and gives it presence. The popularity of Steampunk and its' many inferior derivatives has shown that there is an audience willing to accept the juxtaposition of the old-fashioned with the modern.

A final piece.
Although the "Name In Lights" is our signature thing, we have loads of ideas on the drawing board. One, near completion, is the message light, which is going to be fabulous and will enable our customers to order a lit message of up to 120 characters.
We have plans for a weekly contest on Twitter to "win your tweet"; you can read the details about that here.

Further down the line is a mini juke box, a self-contained lit planter for dark spaces and a sunbed for cats. Perhaps these will never get further than the drawing board but we suggest you bookmark us just in case.

Posted by Jill

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Design Part 1

Somebody I've known a long time asked me the other day, "How did you come to be making these lights?". Without thinking, I answered, "it just sort of happened".
Since then, I've been trying to find a better answer and I'm hoping that by writing it down, I may find out how it did happen.
John and I have always made things together. Often one will come up with the idea and the other will do most of the execution. The results have been various and many of our hairbrained schemes have ended up shelved or in the bin. Amongst what we count as our successes are a cow chess set, complete with marquetry board inlaid with abalone, various amplifiers and speakers and cast mirror frames featuring dragons, dolphins and celtic knots.

Our affection for colour change leds was mutual, though perhaps from different points of view. Myself, I have always loved stained glass and the related crafts by which you can get that " light through coloured glass" effect. I saw changing leds as a potential way to make a "moving" stained glass effect but they bring some problems with them.
Leds are mass produced and apart from a very few specialist products you may have seen, most things with leds in them are too. They provide a characteristic, harsh pinpoint of light when not diffused. I was convinced that there is a subtlety to be found in leds if they are suitably diffused and I set out to make a few little things to see if I could find a way to work with them.
My first maquets were of acetate sheet; polygons cut and folded as I was taught in primary school. (If there's one area where my education was adequate, it's geometry and I am grateful to them for that). I used various pale, translucent sheet materials, bonded into the insides with clear polyester resin.

It was around this time that we had the "filling a balloon with plaster" debacle but this is neither the time nor the place.
It became clear that the leds have to be out of the eyeline, so I made bases to set the pieces in from driftwood slices, and John wired them up, positioning the leds individually to get the best and most even light mixes.
The first name was one of these; cut from acetate and with the spaces and letter shapes blocked out in black, it being far too complex a shape to make fully. Of all the shapes I had made up to now the most pleasing (to me) had been a set of three "teeth" mounted together but  you can see from the image that the leds need to be further out of the eyeline. The names worked so beautifully that we decided to make a massive leap of faith. To find out if this actually was a good idea, we would need to cast each letter as a solid, clear piece with diffusion and that would mean moulds. Moulds that you can't buy.

Part 2 coming soon.

Posted by Jill

Having set it up, I feel I'd better make an opening post.
Welcome to "The Incomplete Guide To Knackling". If you're wondering what knackling is, it's an old Yorkshire verb which describes "pottering" or mending. Perhaps it comes from the word "knack"?
knack (n k). n. 1. A clever, expedient way of doing something. 2. A specific talent for something, especially one difficult to explain or teach.
Really, we're just hoping to bring you some interesting snippets, about our work and that of other creatives in whatever fields take our fancy.

posted by Jill