Box modifications?

Today has been rather uneventful, other than dim sum in the morning and heading out to pick up more “gift card tins” at Michael’s.  They have rather corny sayings on their lids — only two of which (out of four total designs), I would support — but they fit certain art supplies pretty well.  I recall seeing a post some time back which was talking about adding an acrylic ground to the lid of a tin so it could be painted over…but I can’t remember on which blog I saw it.

I was at Michael’s yesterday and saw some little tins by the cashier that were meant to hold gift cards (!? why one needs a tin for a card, I don’t know).  But I picked up two of them, thinking that they were the perfect size for full sticks of soft pastels. I believe they were $1.39 each.

After getting home from dim sum today, I actually was able to fit my entire collection of Neocolor II crayons into two tins.  Each tin holds about 17 crayons.  (nine on the bottom, eight nestled on top.)  The only drawback is that they slide up and down a bit without added cushioning — I’m still thinking up ideas to solve that.  The most obvious one is to go to the plastics store and see if they sell small bits of foam which I can place in there.  The other one I can think of is to just wrap everything up in a paper towel:  the Altoids tin that is holding my charcoals is like this (though the paper needs to be changed out).

It’s kind of hard to find carriers for Neocolors, because they’re an odd size — about 1 cm longer than Crayola crayons, when new (though just as slippery…be warned [I almost broke a display trying to catch some that jumped out of my grip])…and to get a tin for them, I’d have to buy a set.  On top of that, most of the tins in the larger sets seem like they’re trying to take up as much space as possible.

It is possible to get discarded cardboard boxes for pastels from art stores…but in reality, I don’t know how many stores do this.  Utrecht used to do it, my other nearby art store other than Blick does it, and Blick will do it, though you might have to ask.  Even then, though, you get mystery pastel dust from whatever had been in there before:  and with pastels…it may not be anything you want to touch.

Prior to this, I had been using one of those “Very Useful Boxes” (it’s the brand name) to hold my Neocolors, but this is kind of bulky:  the one I had was deep, in addition to being long enough for the crayons…which kind of discourages use.

The lack of a hinge on these tins is not something that bothers me, because I always carry tins and lidded boxes of pastels and charcoal with a thick rubber band around them (except for the white pastel tin, which I really need to switch out — they rub against each other in travel, and produce an excess amount of pastel dust).

After I fit all the Neocolors into the tins, I took the smaller number (the earth tones) out, put in a tissue liner (who wants to clean pastel dust out of a new tin…), and tested whether they really would fit my soft pastels.  What I have in open stock soft pastels is not very exciting:  it’s a grayscale set that I used on that “Rain” composition I showed a while back.  But pastels come in a bunch of really nice colors, aside from just white, black, and mixes of the two (though why one would use a black pastel if one had charcoal, I’m not sure — unless there is a texture issue going on, one needed to use the Gum Arabic binder to try and seal something down, or something similar).

I have about seven full sticks of greyscale soft pastels (mostly Rembrandt brand:  they are known to be produced without lead, cobalt, or cadmium pigments…these are heavy metals which I suspect can be transdermally absorbed if they are in soluble form)* which I haven’t broken in half yet…set in widthwise, they fit in there perfectly.  I haven’t been able to see just how many could fit, because I haven’t broken out my Blick half-stick set yet to try and see.  (The Blick soft pastel set that I have came in a foam-padded box…it’s kind of cumbersome and way bigger than necessary.  On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about friction making nuisance pastel dust, or any color contamination from being stored next to a different color.)

What I can say is that the gift-card tin will fit at least nine full sticks; possibly ten.  I’m not sure, because of the curvature of the edges of the tin — and because I haven’t hardcore tried to shove as many in there as I could.  🙂  If I think about my half-stick habit (it enables drawing with the broad side of the pastel as well as the edges), one tin might fit 20 half-sticks (if I set in the smaller of the halves…theoretically).

I think that’s pretty awesome.

The drawback to this is that I use these unwrapped, so the colors are probably going to rub up against each other and contaminate each other.  In reality, when I have to carry, say, any white pastel, I usually wrap it up in a facial tissue and put it inside a small plastic bag of the type that is used to hold jewelry parts (this contains any dust or spontaneous unwrapping).  (These are also available at Michael’s — and no, they aren’t paying me.  You might also be able to find them at bead stores, though I wouldn’t expect those to be something people-in-general know about.)

The issue comes when I might need to access multiple different colors of pastel, and they need to be separated.  I’m fairly certain I can tool out a solution utilizing folded cardstock, an X-acto knife, a ruler, a butter knife (for creasing), a pencil, and some scissors…and maybe some rubber cement.  It shouldn’t be too hard.  The major difficulty I’ve found is that I have seen no inexpensive way to carry soft pastels, other than the “discarded box” solution at the art stores — or buying a set primarily for the box, which is just…too much.

Right now I’m thinking of a storage setup…glassine paper or paper towels on the bottom and folded over the top, and a bunch of individual cardstock compartments for half-sticks of soft pastel.

I should also get on reworking my charcoal storage, though, too…or at least wipe off the white pastel that contaminated my set…because I really want to use all of this stuff again.

I’m just not certain whether I should use large paper…and if so, do I want to try and find that hemp stuff again…

*I should mention that Blick’s website has a lot of Prop 65 warnings about Rembrandt pastels.  I am thinking that a lot of these may be due to the presence of nano-scale Titanium Dioxide pigments (which, through dust inhalation or skin contact, can be an issue at occupational exposure levels).  The Caution Label notifications may be there because the pigments used may contain Lamp Black, which can be toxic — at the least, if it’s contaminated — but the website says it should be considered slightly toxic by skin contact and inhalation.

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paintedstone

Haru ("Codey") is a second-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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