The pieces at Scribbled Squirrel are made using photosensitive resins - a substance which turns from liquid to solid when exposed to UV light. Thicker pieces are pretty strong but working with the fine detail typical in handwriting and drawings presents more of a challenge for durability, especially for jewellery which can be put under significant strain. Luckily I've got a good stress-tester to carry out quality control, in the form of my 9-month old daughter who can put up a surprisingly strong effort when attempting to wrench a necklace from your neck.
Using the latest 'baby grip' research I've found that the weak point of a piece is pretty easy to predict - for example, it'll be the tail of a 'y' or the connecting line between two words. Under normal wear they stand up fine but if you apply pressure to the weakest area it is possible to bend and eventually snap the resin. I had been trying to overcome this through the design of the pieces by adding small linking elements between weak points to stabilise the design and increasing the thickness of the pieces. This wasn't really a satisfactory solution in many cases as it could detract from the source image. In the case of my eldest's stick figure drawings there just wasn't a practical way to strengthen their skinny limbs.
So this week I've been experimenting with additives to adjust the flex of the resin. I've been using MonoCure 3D Rapid Flex100. If used straight from the bottle it gives a flexible, compressible rubber-type finish which would be too malleable. I've set about finding the right proportions which balances durability against cost (the Flex100 is double the cost of my typical resin).
Using the 'love you' print above I started with a ratio of roughly 9:1 standard resin to Flex 100. I say roughly as I discovered I need to invest in some more precise scales! The weak point on here is the join between the 'e' and 'y'. Being in the middle of the print it is easy to compress and bend. At the 9:1 ratio I was able to bend the piece in half without it fracturing, however a curve was apparent for a few minutes before it returned to the original form. I'd like it to return to shape more quickly so, as soon as I've got some scales that weigh with decent precision, I will repeat with an 8:1 ratio. In the meantime, these are off to my sister-in-law for some real-life testing - we'll see how they get on.
In February last year I was almost 3 months pregnant, and off work with a chest infection when I got a call from my boss - he needed to see me urgently. He confirmed what we'd known was coming for a while, restructuring and redundancies. I got a lot of sympathy at the time for what people perceived as the unfortunate timing of the announcement given my pregnancy. I must admit, the thought of finding myself out of a job at 5 months pregnant was disconcerting at first, but in truth I had known for some time that it wasn't the job for me.
It was convenient - 10 minutes from home and sharing a site with my daughter's nursery, it was generally low stress and well-paid, but I'd never had any passion for the work. Since I'd started 3 years ago I'd had a slightly hollow feeling and struggled to see the value in what I was doing (not that there wasn't any of course, it just didn't give me the feel-goods that I'd had in my previous jobs). I knew that when I returned from maternity leave I should cut ties and look for something new. I didn't want to risk spending a lifetime in a job that was comfortable but unfulfilling. The announcement was an opportunity to act a little earlier than I had planned.
I was fortunate that my employer agreed to maintain my employment throughout my maternity leave and grant me voluntary severance afterwards. In May, despite not working there for 9 months, I formally left the company. And so here we are. We have enough money to live (frugally!) for the best part of a year and an opportunity, which may not come around again, to try something different.
Like many people, I have always been interested in working for myself. Being responsible for your own decisions and setting your own path is pretty appealing. Scribbled Squirrel is a chance to try it out; to see how long we can make that money last before I have to return to paid employment - and who knows, maybe with a bit of luck I won't need to!
I intend to keep this blog to document my experiences starting up a new business, managing childcare and work, developing new products, testing new materials, and anything else that crops up. In my next post I'll write about my experiments with 3d printing since that was really the start of Scribbled Squirrel.
My name is Sarah. I live in Warrington, UK, with my husband, two daughters and dog.