Monday, December 31, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Male PC Artists

It's not quite Tuesday, yet, but since it's New Year's Eve (and there's no telling when I'll wake up tomorrow morning, or how long it would take me to remember that it was Tuesday), I thought I'd post this a bit early. :o) I hope everyone has a happy, safe New Year's Eve!

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Maybe it's because so many polymer clay artists make jewelry, which tends to interest more women than men. Or it could be that more women are "into" arts and crafts to begin with, so there are simply fewer men . Whatever the reason, the majority of polymer clay-obsessed people you meet online are women. However, there are men active in the world of polymer clay. This Tuesday, I thought it might be fun to focus the spotlight on the male component of the polymer clay art scene.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Male Polymer Clay Artists
(in no particular order)

1. Steven Ford and David Forlano. (Technically, that should count as two men, but since they work collaboratively, it makes sense to group them here, I think.) They're big names in the polymer clay world, so you've probably heard of them before. You'll find various articles by googling their names (or simply "Ford Forlano"), but for starters, you might try their own website.

2. Dan Cormier. He's half of a design and teaching duo. (The other half is his partner, Tracy Holmes.) Check out their bio and a few photos on the NCPG website, then head over to this press release to learn more about their latest class, Beyond the Blend, coming in February. You can find more photos here and there throughout the web, such as this one on Grant Diffendaffer's blog.

3. Dinko Tilov. He sculpts amusing characters with lots of personality. He has a book, if you're interested in his style of sculpture, or you can try out one of his free tutorials. Chess enthusiasts will love his chess sets, too. (He writes that he and his brother Boris both make the "critters" for sale at, by the way. So there's yet another male pc artist for you. (g)) Dinko writes about the process of making the chess sets on this blog.

4. Alan Vernall. This English polymer clay creator works works with canework and sculpture-- often combining the two. You can find photos of some of his work here. There are several tutorials and articles by Alan here and there on the web and in print. Here's one. Here's another. And another. (You can find more by googling his name.)

5. Jeffrey Dever. He creates jewelry and vessels, often combining organic, podlike shapes with fanciful colors. Check out some of his work here. (There's also a link to a little biography, near the bottom of that page.)

6. James Lehman. Visit his website, Painting in Space, to see a gallery of his vividly colored, glasslike bowls and other decorative objects. You can also read Deirdre Woodward's 2001 interview with Lehman over on the Polyzine archives.

7. Garie Sim. We go to Singapore to find our next "polymer clay man". Garie teaches children to sculpt with polymer clay. He also seems to have a scientific mind, which is good news for the rest of us, as he's always experimenting with new ways to use polymer clay. Browse the "Clay Creations" portion of his website for samples of his work. Visit this page (or the pages linked at the bottom) for some of his polymer clay experiments. He's also published a book of twelve projects for children (or the young at heart).

8. Bob Wiley. (A.K.A. "FimoBob".) Take a look at his clay gallery, then pop on over to HGTV for a closer look at how he does his faux wood inlay. (Or see his faux wood inlay tutorial on the Polyzine.)

9. Wes Warren. He's a master of millefiore canework. There's a blog, a flickr account, and his website. (He also has a new tool coming out around April 2008. I'm still not 100% sure what the tool is or how it'll work-- either it's a bit of a secret or I'm just out of the loop (g)-- but it's supposed to help with the caning process.)

10. Grant Diffendaffer. He describes himself as a "contemporary jewelry artist, author, and teacher". You'll find his portfolio here. In addition to a 2005 DVD on mica shift (aka "ghost imaging"), he has a new book coming out just about now-- January 2008. (That link takes you to the listing on Amazon. You can also order it through his blog.)

Of course, this is just a list of ten. There are many more, I'm sure. If you'd like to give a little recognition to another "pc man" (particularly one with an online presence, so we can admire some photos of his work), please feel free to mention him in a comment. You can also find a list of male pc artists on this page of Glass Attic.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Faux Barbed Wire

Have you seen Camille Young's latest entry on how to make faux barbed wire using craft wire, jewelry wire and Lumina clay?

It really does look like barbed wire!

I don't know much about Lumina. From what I've read online, I gather that it's no-bake (air dry), remains flexible after drying, and is waterproof-- or is it just "water resistant"? In any case, I'm not sure how well polymer could perform in the place of Lumina, for this type of technique. . . I know that the bendable polymer clay, even when cured, is still flexible enough to be woven into baskets-- but it wouldn't hold the shape of the "barbs" on its own, would it? How would it work if cured over wire? Would it bend without breaking, if you tried to bend it after curing, or would you have better luck getting it into the barb shapes before curing?

Just some thoughts. . . :o)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Tattletale Santas" -- polymer clay project

Well, it turns out I am blogging again before Christmas-- and just a few minutes after my last post. ;o)

I completely forgot to mention that my husband has put a new tutorial (or "project", if you prefer) on Polymer Clay Web. I still need to proof it (and give him credit), but it's up in time for Christmas (for those of you who don't already have a hundred projects in the works).

"Tattletale Santas" are something my husband (who grew up in Sweden) remembers from his childhood. Little elf-/gnome-like figures were placed around the house to keep an eye on the children of the home. They'd report to Santa (or the Swedish equivalent) on the behavior they witnessed-- hence the "tattletale" part. Wherever they sit and "watch", they're a little incentive to the kids to mind their Ps and Qs in those crucial last weeks before the Big Day. ;o)

Of course, these cute little Santa figurines can be used in any other way you like-- peeking out of holiday floral arrangements, on wreaths, in a miniature "Christmas village" (if you scale him down a bit more), and so on.

So, whether you're looking for a fun holiday project for this year-- or getting a head start for next December-- you can find Donald's Tattletale Santa tutorial here. :o)

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Use Alcohol Ink

Continuing on last week's theme of alcohol ink . . .

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Use Alcohol Ink

1. Faux Stones
Many faux stones (jade, agate, opal, etc.) look best if they're somewhat translucent, but most require some source of color. You can use small pinches of colored clay, but another option is alcohol ink. Because the inks are transparent and vividly colored, they're a natural choice for faux stone recipes. Of course, you can use ink-tinted clay for any other technique you like, as well.

2. Mokume Gane
As I mentioned in (I think) the first of these "lists of ten", you can use alcohol ink in mokume gane with lovely results. Put the ink on sheets of translucent clay in any way you like-- drop different colors and let them bleed together, brush or dab it over the whole surface for a more uniform look, and so on. Let the inks dry before layering the sheets of clay, then proceed through your favorite mokume gane technique. (For a different look, try layering metal leaf between layers of alcohol ink-tinted translucent clay.)

3. Multi-colored Metal Leaf
Composition gold or silver metal leaf are beautiful on their own, but if you'd like to spice things up a bit, you can tint them with alcohol ink. (Alcohol ink will add brilliant color but its translucency will allow the metallic look of the leaf to shine through.) Because the leaf it so delicate, I suggest first adhering the leaf to a clay base. Once it's been smoothed down to your satisfaction, apply the ink in any way you prefer. Let the ink dry thoroughly before proceeding. Metal leaf, whether inked or not, needs to be sealed lest it rub off the cured clay. You can seal it with any clay-friendly finish (Future, Varathane, etc.), or you can protect it with a layer of liquid clay or a very thin layer of regular translucent clay. (There's at least one project that uses alcohol ink on metal leaf in Donna Kato's new book. One great technique among many in that book.) You can also use your tinted metal leaf in mokume gane or crackle it.

4. Ink as Paint
Use alcohol inks to paint on raw clay. They work similarly to watercolors, but because they are alcohol-based, they'll dry very quickly. Thin the inks (and extend your working time) with either extender or plain rubbing alcohol. You can either cover the whole surface or leave some untouched, depending on the look you want. If you paint on a sheet of translucent clay, you can apply the dried sheet (painted side down) to another sheet of clay, encasing the inks. Viewed through the translucent clay, your painting will be softened, but still visible. (See Donna Kato's new book for more on this technique.) You can also seal in the painting with a thin layer of liquid clay or a clay-friendly varnish. (Actually, I'm not sure if it's absolutely necessary to seal alcohol inks at all, but my instinct says it's probably best to do so, especially for something that will be handled or worn. If the piece ever comes in contact with rubbing alcohol, for instance, the color might come off.)

5. Ink as Stain
Stain is thinner than paint. Generally, you can still see some of the original color of a piece after it's been stained. Create interesting effects by using alcohol inks as a stain for cured clay. Apply the ink straight from the bottle for darker color or soften the effect with rubbing alcohol or alcohol ink "extender" or "blending solution" (a product manufactured by the same company that makes the inks). You can also make stains by mixing alcohol ink with Varathane or Future (for a shinier finish). These thin washes of color can be applied in as many layers as you like to gradually build up color on a cured piece. (Be sure to store any leftover "stain" in a tightly lidded container.)

6. Faux Ceramics
I've written about this before. ;o) There are several tutorials online for a variety of faux ceramic finishes. Since the last time I wrote about this subject, I've found yet another version in Ellen Marshall's Polymer Clay Surface Design Recipes (pg. 94-97). The essentials of most faux ceramics are as follows: 1) Make a patterned or textured shape in polymer clay (usually white); 2) Apply a glaze of liquid clay that's been tinted with alcohol ink; and 3) Cure. Here are the tutorials I've found so far: Parole de Pâte version, Christy Sherman's version, and my version.

7. Tinted Transfers
Transform plain black toner transfers with the addition of alcohol ink. (Use them as watercolors, as described in number six.) You can blend them-- or layer them, allowing time for each color to dry between applications. It's best to seal the painted transfer. Use a thin sheet of translucent clay, a coat of liquid clay, or your favorite finish. (Or use the encased toner transfer method I mentioned in the previous item-- the one from Donna Kato's new book. You can also learn about similar methods at Glass Attic.)

8. Faux Stained Glass
With a few products, you can have the beauty of stained glass with much less fuss than real stained glass requires. There are different ways to do it, but essentially, you make your "leading" from regular polymer clay (usually black), pre-cure it, then fill in the "cells" with tinted liquid clay and re-cure. In this tutorial, Barbara Poland-Waters teaches you to make tile beads with a stained glass theme. And in this project by Ann and Karen Mitchell, the faux stained glass is applied to a real glass vase. (Note that in that project, the Mitchells use oil paint to tint the liquid clay. However, there's no reason why you can't use alcohol ink instead. Alcohol inks will increase the translucency of your clay, giving you the look of translucently colored glass.) Faux stained glass would make beautiful sun catchers.

9. Miniature Food
I've mentioned before that alcohol inks are a great product for getting translucent color in liquid clay. Consider alcohol ink for anything that requires color but a certain degree of translucency-- such as maple syrup, soup, and some sugary glazes.

10. Faux Cloisonné / Enamel
Yet another technique combining alcohol ink with liquid clay! Tint the liquid clay and use it to fill in "cells" in a variety of surfaces. Try it with deeply textured clay (raw or cured). For a metallic shine that takes full advantage of the clarity of the liquid clay, line the clay base with metal leaf-- or go over it with a leafing pen. If you prefer, you can combine it with the thicker embossing foil that's available in most craft stores.

And there are other polymer clay techniques that use alcohol ink, too. (You may find some on this page of Glass Attic.) Overall, these inks are a great "extra" to have on your clay table.

Since next Tuesday is Christmas, I'll be taking a week off from Ten on Tuesday. (And with any luck, soon afterwards things will calm down enough that I'll be posting here more than once a week. (g))

In case I don't "see" you all before then, let me wish you Christmas that's merry and bright! :o)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Things to Know about Alcohol Inks

Alcohol-based ink is one of those "extras" that go so well with polymer clay. Alcohol ink has many uses-- some of which I'll describe next week. In the meantime, let's go over some of the basics about this product.

Ink can be confusing. There are so many types out there, and they're not just different brands, but for different uses, with different chemical "bases": solvent-based and alcohol-based-- dye inks, pigment inks, chalk inks! It's a bit overwhelming. (I'm still learning, too!) If you've been afraid to try inks with polymer clay, I hope this information will help you understand how at least the alcohol-based inks work and what you can do with them. (Maybe I'll tackle other inks later on. (g))

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Things to Know about Alcohol Inks:

1. What "alcohol ink" is.
Just as the name implies, alcohol ink is an ink with an alcohol base. They are dye inks that, according to Glass Attic, are "soluble resin in alcohol" (if that means anything to you (g)). Basically, the alcohol "carries" the color. It evaporates away-- quite quickly-- and only the dye is left behind. One of the appeals of alcohol ink is that it can be stamped (or painted, or whatever) practically anywhere-- not just on paper, but on even slick surfaces like metal and glass. Another major appeal is that it combines vivid color with transparency. (You can see through it to whatever's underneath.)

Though you can also find pens that write in alcohol ink, you usually buy alcohol inks in small (1/2-ounce) plastic bottles-- either individually or in sets, depending on the brand and the shop. Speaking of brands-- the only two brands I know of are Ranger's Adirondack line and Jacquard's Piñata (formerly "Fiesta") line. The two brands work in the same way and can be used interchangeably. Which brand you purchase will likely be based on availability and your personal color preferences. The 24 Adirondack colors are more muted and earthy than the 17 brilliant Piñata colors.

If you are lucky, you may find alcohol inks locally. (Both Michaels and Hobby Lobby carry some of the Adirondack line, in my area, but no-one has the Piñata line. In both stores, alcohol inks are stocked near the ink pads in the rubberstamping aisle.) If you can't find them locally, you can order them from numerous sources online.

2. A little goes a long way.
Seriously, these colors are intense, and you don't need much for most applications. That's important to know, if you're on a budget and want to spend your recreation dollars wisely. Those little 1/2-ounce (that's 0.5-ounce, in case my fraction looks weird) bottles may not look like much, but you can do quite a bit of crafting before you'll run out.

If you're fortunate enough to find them in a local Michaels or Hobby Lobby, you can use a coupon and save some cash. If you use a 40%-off coupon on a $10 set of three Adirondacks, you get them for around $2 a bottle. Even at the regular price, you'll get your money's worth from this product.

3. You can mix the colors.
If you can't find the exact color you want, you can mix the existing colors (even between brands) until you you get it right. Start slowly, though. As I wrote earlier, these are powerful inks, so you can easily overshoot the mark if you aren't careful. To combine colors, just apply drops from different bottles of ink onto the medium of your choice-- in our case, usually polymer clay-- then mix as usual. (Continue reading to learn about how to mix the inks into polymer clay.)

4. You can mix the inks into polymer clay.
In addition to using them on the clay (cured or raw), you can also mix alcohol inks into the clay. Of course you can mix them into any color clay you like, but mixing with translucent clay gives you the most bang for your buck. The bold but transparent inks create especially lovely tints of translucent clay. This is probably the best way to get translucent color in polymer clay. (Don't forget to quench the cured clay in ice water to further enhance that gorgeous translucence!)

To mix alcohol ink into polymer clay, roll out the clay or just "smoosh" it down flat (so the ink won't run off). Drop a few drops of ink onto the clay. Remember-- a little goes a long way. You can always add more later, if you want it darker. If you want to combine colors, go ahead and drop different colors at the same time-- either on the same piece of clay (if you're confident about the proportions) or on separate pieces that can later be combined a bit at a time.

It is generally suggested that you allow the ink to dry before mixing it into the clay. This could possibly prevent plaquing (though it's not certain whether wet alcohol ink leads to plaquing in the first place), and it definitely decreases the likelihood of staining your hands with the ink.

When the alcohol has evaporated, condition the clay thoroughly to evenly distribute the ink. If you prefer, you can also pre-condition the clay before adding the ink. Then you can mix in the inks just to the point of marbling.

5. You can mix the inks into liquid polymer clay, too!
Yep, that's right. Alcohol ink works great for tinting liquid clay.

Follow the same basic principles as when mixing it with regular clay. Put a little liquid clay into a clay-compatible container. Put a drop or two (or more, depending on the amount of clay you're using and the intensity you want) on the surface of the clay. Combine colors of ink as desired. (Again, you can always add more later, so go slowly. Of course, if you accidentally add too much, you can balance it out by adding more liquid clay.)

It's a matter of debate, but some people think that it's best to allow the alcohol to evaporate before mixing the ink into the liquid clay. (They worry that mixing it right away could lead to bubbles, I think.) If you have the time and patience, I say it's best to err on the side of caution. (Either that or run your own experiments.) Once you've mixed the ink into the clay, you can add more until you're happy with the color.

Note: Until you pull it out of the oven, it can be difficult to tell exactly how liquid clay will look when it's cured-- especially where translucency is concerned. It's always a good idea to test a tiny dot of your mix before committing to it for a big project.

Liquid clay tinted with only alcohol ink tends to have very translucent color. This can be a great feature for some projects-- not so great for others. Keep this in mind. If you're mixing enough that you'll have some left over, consider labeling your mixtures. I like to know what brand the clay is (because they each have their own characteristics and best uses) and what I used to tint it with (if not the specific color and "recipe", then at least the basic product-- alcohol ink, oil paint, mica powder, etc.). Otherwise, you may find that you forget in two or three months, and then you'll have to either guess or cure more "test dots".

6. Some colors behave differently from the others.
Yes, I know I said that you can mix colors from different brands, etc., and that's true. However, there are a couple of things to know about certain colors. For instance, I've noticed that some colors never seem to mix completely with polymer clay. The clay does take on some color, overall, but there are also tiny dark particles that stay suspended in the clay-- kind of like embossing powder or another inclusion. This could make some interesting faux stone, but it may be annoying if you were going for a completely smooth color. I'd suggest testing each new ink for this tendency before mixing it into a lot of clay. Based on my experience (and what I've read at Glass Attic), this may been more of a problem with a few of the darker Piñata inks-- "Rainforest green, Sapphire blue and the brown colors", according to Glass Attic. So far, I don't think I've come across this trait with the Adirondacks I own, but again, if you're concerned, test the inks first.

A second potential problem is that there can be some color shift with the red alcohol inks. I'm not sure which colors are more prone to this problem. I tried to search for information, but I can't find anything right now, even though I know I've read about this before. I've also seen it, myself, but I have very limited experience with it and don't know which specific colors shifted. Just be aware that the reds might tend to shift during curing-- meaning that they come out of the oven a different color than when they went in. In my experience, I think the red-tinted translucent clay looked pink before going in the oven, but came out more orange/gold. If it's important to you, it's simple to test a small bit of ink-tinted clay and see how it behaves.

7. You can apply the inks in layers.
Sometimes you might want layers of colors on a piece. You can achieve this by applying one color to the surface of a piece, allowing it to dry, then applying the next color. Repeat as desired, but be sure to let each coat dry before adding the next. This prevents the colors from mixing and possibly muddying. With this technique, you'll probably want to apply each layer of ink in a "splotchy" way, so that some of the previous layer(s) still show. When you're done applying ink, let the piece dry again. Anytime your project has alcohol ink right on the surface (not mixed into the clay), you'll probably want to protect the ink somehow. (Otherwise, it can potentially be marred if it ever comes in contact with alcohol.) You can seal the inks with a very thin layer of translucent clay or a little liquid clay (before curing) or a polymer-friendly finish like Future or Varathane (after curing).

8. You can thin alcohol ink.
If you want a softer color for a watercolor effect-- or want to get a few drops of to stretch a bit further-- you can dilute alcohol ink. Here's a little information about some of the products you can use (based on manufacturer's website, Glass Attic, and a little personal experience):
  • Piñata "Claro Extender": Extends drying and working time. According to the manufacturer, this product doesn't change ink colors, but Glass Attic info says it makes them more translucent. Ink mixed with it dries shiny.
  • Adirondack "Alcohol Blending Solution": Dilutes and lightens ink. Useful for blending. Removes ink from slick surfaces, hands, and tools.
  • regular rubbing alcohol: Dilutes and lightens ink. Ink mixed with it dries to a more matte finish. Useful for cleaning hands, tools, work surfaces.
  • Piñata "Clean Up Solution": Behaves similarly to rubbing alcohol. Is pure alcohol with brush conditioners (for the health of your paint brushes).
9. You can clean up alcohol ink (sometimes).
Both manufacturers of alcohol ink make a product specifically for this purpose: Adirondack's Alcohol Blending Solution" and Piñata's Clean Up Solution. These products and good old rubbing alcohol work well at removing ink from most tools and work surfaces. Avoid getting it on your clothes or other fabrics, though. As with many arts and crafts, it might be best to not wear anything nice when working with something like alcohol inks. Even when just applying drops from the bottles, I sometimes end up with spatters over my work surface. These are easily wiped off a ceramic tile, but I don't think they'd come out of fabric as well. (If it were to happen, I'd try alcohol first.)

If you get ink on your hands (and you probably will), you can first try "conditioning" it off. Knead some clay. Use scrap clay or, if you're tinting some clay anyway, use the clay you're tinting with the ink. Some of the ink may come off as you condition the clay. You can try removing what's left with one of the cleaning products mentioned above. Depending on how much ink there is and if it's found a place to hide in the nooks and crannies of your fingernails, you may not be able to get it all off at once. Don't worry; it'll come off in a day or so of normal washing. Wear your "artist's hands" with pride! ;o) After cleaning your hands with alcohol, they may be more prone to drying and cracking, so don't forget to follow up with a little soothing lotion.

10. Raw alcohol ink-tinted clay may behave oddly.
It seems that any time you mix a non-clay product into polymer clay, your best bet is to use it (i.e. cure it) as quickly as possible. The longer it sits around, the more likely it is to start doing odd things. According to Glass Attic, Alan Vernall reports that ink-tinted clay may tend to crack after a few weeks of sitting around (in the raw state-- not after curing). This isn't much of a problem most of the time. You can just recondition it-- maybe add a little diluent or mineral oil to soften it, if necessary. However, if you've made up a whole batch of canes with ink-tinted clay, it might be frustrating. Another problem Alan had was that the darker, "more vivid" colors of ink-tinted clay bled into surrounding areas of the cane. Keep these things in mind. It may be best to make small canes that you can use up quickly. Either that, or don't use alcohol ink to tint clay for your canes.

So, there are ten things to know about alcohol ink. Next week, ten more specific ways to incorporate alcohol ink into your polymer clay projects. :o)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Busy busy

Lately, it seems I just poke my head around the corner on Tuesdays, then disappear for the rest of the week! I've been working on some clay-related things, but I can't show any photos, yet, because they're all gifts. (I doubt that some of the recipients-- my father-in-law, for instance-- look at this blog, but it's best to be on the safe side.)

I suppose I ought to try restocking my Etsy shop, considering that this is probably the busiest shopping season of the year, but I think I may be too late, anyway, and at this point, I have my hands full working on the handmade gifts on my list. We'll see. . .

My husband and I each have an idea for a holiday-themed tutorial/project for Polymer Clay Web, but honestly, I'm not sure if we'll get around to them in time. There's just so much else to do!

In the meantime, there are a few Christmasy links I'd like to share. :o)

One of my Christmas projects that I probably won't get around to this year is to make some "candy" from polymer clay to use on picks in a floral arrangement I'd like to make for my table. One type of candy I'm planning to try is ribbon candy. It has such a fun shape-- and great colors-- and it seems like it'd be very easy, too. PCC hosts one ribbon candy tutorial written by Arlene Schiek. There are a variety of candies (including ribbon candy) in this HGTV-hosted tutorial by Maureen Carlson. Elsewhere on HGTV's site, you can view a short video clip of Maureen demonstrating how to make the ribbon candy. To find it, go to HGTV's "Video Guide", type "polymer" into the search box, and browse the list that pops up.

While looking for ribbon candy tutorials, I came across a couple of cute gingerbread house projects. The tutorial at Polymer Clay Express is for two-dimensional (flat) gingerbread houses-- perfect for ornaments or magnets. A tutorial for a three-dimensional gingerbread house-- great for a tabletop decoration that will last year after year-- is available at

One last link-- something that I found this morning while reading a few blogs: Elaine Robitaille's latest blog entry describes her process for making poinsettia ornaments with raised detail. There are photos to illustrate the steps, too. :o)

Well, off to get started on something else!
Have a great weekend, everyone! :o)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Winter-Inspired Color Schemes

I'm taking it a little easy this week. (I've got things to do around the house and at the clay table! (g)) Just for a little fun, I revisited ColourLovers came up with this week's list. . .

Ten on Tuesday: Winter-Inspired Color Schemes:

1. Norwegian Lake
When I think of winter, one of the first things to come to mind is snow. That reminded me of the snow we saw this summer in Norway, so I decided to play around with that idea.
Norwegian Lake
My first try didn't quite capture the feeling I was going for, so I gave it another try:
Norwegian Lake II

2. Ice Cave
While looking for inspiration photos, I came across one of an ice cave. The beautiful aquas in the ice surprised me. I had forgotten that ice can be aqua, because I generally associate that color with warmer climates. I guess it can "do" for both!
Ice Cave
Ice Cave II

3. Snowy Birches
Thinking about Norway reminded me of Sweden and a couple of macros I took of birch bark. Those birches weren't snowy when I saw them, but I imagined they'd be lovely in snow-- the cream and grey (with just a bit of brown) against the white. . .
Snowy Birches

4. Snowless Winter
Despite all this talk of snow, I really haven't seen that much of it, myself. Where I live, near the Gulf of Mexico, we don't get snow very often. So that made me think of a "snowless winter" as a theme. . .
Snowless Winter

5. Winter Sunset / Winter Twilight
I know I'm not alone in feeling that sunset (and the twilight that follows) is a magical hour. It's the end of a winter's day. The still, silent air is cold-- maybe even a bit damp. You know you probably shouldn't stay out much longer, but those colors in the sky!
Winter Sunset
Winter Twilight

6. Glowing Embers
After being out on a cold evening, it's nice to warm up again. While nothing's so merry as a blazing, crackling fire, the hypnotic glow of embers is also inviting.
Glowing Embers
Embers II

7. Christmas
I can't think of winter without thinking also of Christmas. I made a few different Christmas-themed palettes-- and then I found one I'd already made that could also pass (with a shove) as "Christmasy":
Retro Christmas
Herbal Christmas
Victorian Christmas
Refined, Restrained
And then Christmas made me think of toys, so. . .
Vintage Toys

8. Winter's Night
Just a couple of palettes inspired by the idea of a wintery night. . .
Winter's Night
Winter's Night II

9. Tartan
Thinking of cold makes me think of scarves, which makes me think of plaid/tartan. . .
Basic Tartan
Iowa Tartan
Louisiana Tartan
N. Carolina Tartan

10. Happy New Year!

Festive color schemes based on celebrations of the new year:
Chinese New Year
Fizzy Bubbles
Little Black Dress

Have a great Tuesday! :o)

Other Polymer Clay Blogs

Coming back to this blog after months away, I noticed that my blogroll (via Google Reader) had disappeared. Don't ask me how. I'm only too thankful that I figured out again how to add it back. However, upon putting it back, I saw that it is huge-- too long, really, for my sidebar. So, for the time being, I'm going to try putting it here in a single "entry", then link to this in the sidebar.

So, if you're looking for some more polymer clay blogs to read, here are the ones I've found:

P.S. I'm fibbing on the date so that this won't appear on the front page of my blog. It's actually December 4th, 2008, but I'm going back to 2007. (g)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Faux Effects in Polymer Clay

Polymer clay is an excellent mimic-- and it's lots of fun to make something so realistic than people think it's the real thing-- so it's no surprise that faux effects are a popular group of polymer clay techniques. Here are ten different faux effects you can achieve with polymer clay. Wherever possible, I've included links to multiple lessons or tutorials.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Faux Effects in Polymer Clay

1. Opal
This one's a classic, as far as I'm concerned. (It was one of the techniques, if not the technique, that made me interested in trying out polymer clay in the first place.) Different "recipes" call for slightly different products, but most of them start with lightly tinted translucent clay and glitter. There are several different faux opal tutorials available online: my version, Linda Geer's "opalgeers", Barbara Reider's version, Kathy Weinberg's version, Susan Fadl's faux Australian opals, and Donna Kato's version. There are others, too, but this will get you started.

2. Jade
Another classic. You'll need translucent clay (again-- as you will for most faux stones) and something to tint it (usually green), whether you use clay, alcohol ink, powdered pigments, mica powder, embossing powder, or something else. Here are a few ways to make faux jade: Parole de Pâte version (in French), Lynn Krucke's version, Adria Filion's glow-in-the-dark jade, and Vyxxan's version.

3. Lava Rock
This is something I made a tutorial for fairly recently. It's a simple technique that doesn't require much more than black clay and a few texturing tools. Here's my version: Faux Lava Rock. And here's Ponsawan's version, which uses rock salt and earthy colors of clay: Faux Lava Rock Beads.

4. Turquoise
Yet another popular faux stone. Most tutorials require turquoise clay. Many also call for translucent, black, and/or white clay-- sometimes other blues, greens, or yellows. Acrylic paint is another common "ingredient", and sometimes even mica powders make an appearance. Try these tutorials for starters: Jeanne A. E. DeVoto's version, Kathy Halverson's verison, Mary Lyon's version (with a faux coral tutorial further down the page), The Clay Store's version, and the eHow version.

5. Sparkling Moss Agate
Not all faux stones have to stick strictly to the parameters set up by nature. Don't be afraid to put your own spin on a faux technique. Don't have the "right" color of something? Why not experiment with the colors you do have? Desiree McCrorey's sparkling moss agate tutorial turns translucent clay, black clay, and "sparkling copper" Pearl Ex into beautiful faux stones.

6. Agate
Sliced agate comes in a gorgeous range of colors. It's used not only in jewelry, but also in home decor. Read Jenny Cox's faux agate tutorial to learn how to make your own. There are other versions of agate slices in at least two books. (See more on that below.)

7. Fossilized Agatized Coral
I hadn't heard of this stone until I saw Tinidril's tutorial. It's quite pretty, and if you weren't concerned with absolute accuracy, I imagine you could create great effects using different colors, too.

8. Amber
Because polymer clay doesn't cure to complete clarity, it's not as good as resin at mimicking the type of amber that's so clear you can see bugs trapped in it. However, the more opaque amber has its own beauty. Recipes vary, but usually they start with translucent clay tinted in various shades of yellow and honey. Tutorials often call for ink or acrylic paint to give the "stones" an aged appearance. Here are a couple of sites to visit for more information: Faux Amber at Polymer Clay Express and Faux Bone and Ivory by Michelle Ross.

9. Bone/Ivory
Although bone and ivory aren't the same thing, they are often grouped together in tutorials, because they look much alike. Most faux bone and ivory "recipes" require translucent, white, and ecru or beige clay and use a layering or caning technique to imitate the striations in natural bone or ivory. Antiquing with acrylic paint gives the illusion of age. Visit these tutorials for more specific advice: Desiree McCrorey's faux bone/ivory, another tutorial by Desiree, Emi Fukushima's version, and Kim Cavender's version.

10. Abalone
The beautiful colors of this seashell makes it a popular candidate for "fauxing". Here are a few ways to imitate abalone: Polymer Clay Express version, Jenny Cox's version, and Marie Segal's version (three pages long, so don't forget to hit the "next page" button!).

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

There are many more faux techniques out there-- in other tutorials, in videos, in books-- and goodness knows how many more still waiting to be created! Several books include lessons on a few faux effects, but as far as I know, there are only two that are solely dedicated to the subject: Irene Semanchuk Dean's Faux Surfaces in Polymer Clay, and Victoria Hughes' Polymer: The Chameleon Clay. For the bead-maker with a penchant for faux, I can also recommend Carol Blackburn's Making Polymer Clay Beads. The second section of the book focuses on faux techniques-- sixteen of them.

Here are a few related websites you might also want to check out:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Clay in Comfort

Oops! I forgot to post a "Ten on Tuesday" yesterday! (I've been sidetracked by a sick dog. I hope she's on the mend, though, so maybe I'll be able to focus on regular things again soon.)

Like any other craft or task that requires repetitive motions and long periods of sitting, claying can lead to stiffness and soreness. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help keep claying fun.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Clay in Comfort
(in no particular order)

1. Don't get burnt.
It may seem obvious, but it's important to keep in mind how easy it is to burn yourself when working around an oven. Be sure to use an oven mitt or pot holder when removing hot cookie sheets, ceramic tiles, etc. from the oven. Also, resist the temptation to touch clay that's fresh from the oven. If you need to move hot clay, do so carefully.

2. Handle blades with care.
Again, it seems obvious, but you can't let your guard down where sharp tissue blades and craft knives are involved. It's especially easy to cut yourself with a tissue blade, because the sharp and blunt edges look so much alike. Some clayers bake an edging of clay along the blunt side or apply a little paint or fingernail polish to make it simple to tell quickly which side is safe to handle. Always store blades and knives out of reach of children and pets.

3. Use a pasta machine.
Pasta machines make conditioning clay easier on the muscles and joints in your hands and fingers. A pasta machine motor saves your hands even more work. For many, this is a wonderful convenience. For some, it's the difference between being able to clay and having to let go of a favorite hobby.

4. Use the "right" clay.
Of course, the "right" clay depends on your personal preferences and the requirements of your projects. These days, it's not as much of an issue as it used to be, as most brands of clay are relatively soft. However, if your muscles or joints give you trouble, you may find it helpful to experiment with different brands of clay. See if one of the softer brands might suit your needs. You can also soften clay by gently warming it right before opening the package. Sit on it or put it in a pocket. Your body heat will warm and soften it. On the other hand, if you have very warm hands or prefer stiff clay for some other reason, you may find that you can lower your blood pressure by sticking with a firmer brand of clay. ;o)

5. Sit up straight.
Your mother always told you not to slouch, didn't she? ;o) Poor posture can lead to back pain.
Try to notice every so often whether you're sitting up straight. If you pay attention to this, it will eventually become a habit to sit properly. (Personally, I've fallen into a pattern of slouching, but as a pre-teen, I was much better about sitting up straight-- after being told to do so to avoid any tendency toward scoliosis-- so I know it can be done. (g)) Paying attention to posture not only makes you feel better, but it can also make you look thinner. Maybe that's just the motivation you need. ;o)

6. Buy ergonomic furniture.
I haven't done this myself, but if you already struggle with back pain or if you're going to be sitting for long periods of time, it's something to consider. Most people sit while they work with polymer clay. This can add up to a lot of extra time in one chair. With this in mind, it's worth investing in a chair (and possibly a table or desk, too) that's designed to improve posture and ease muscle tension. Do some research or ask advice of someone you trust before making a purchase. Just because something is labeled "ergonomic" doesn't necessarily mean it suits your personal needs.

7. Put the clay up on a pedestal.
No, literally put the clay on a pedestal-- or a box-- or anything else that brings it closer to eye level. If you're working on small details and need to see something up close, you can either stoop over the table (very bad posture, which can result in serious pain) or bring the clay closer to your face. I've been guilty before of stooping over my clay (trying to place tiny pepperonis on miniature pizzas, for instance), only to pay for it later in the evening with back aches. Trust me-- it's worth taking a minute to find something to put the clay on top of. If you prefer, you can also use a magnifying glass to make it easier to see fine details without bending over the clay. There are devices made specifically for this type of thing, with magnifying glasses mounted to support arms, or you can rig something up for yourself.

8. Let there be (adequate) light.
A well-lit work area may also prevent you from a tendency to stoop over the clay. Good lighting can help you avoid eye strain, as well. A room with just a ceiling fixture can appear to be well-lit, but a little task lighting (closer to the area where you work) makes a world of difference. Even an inexpensive lamp is better than nothing. Place it so that it shines down on your work surface. For daytime claying, windows are a wonderful source of free, natural light, but you'll want a way to control the amount of light that comes in (such as mini blinds, curtains, or shutters)-- especially for south-facing windows.

9. Hand off the sanding.
If you suffer from arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, or any other condition that causes pain in the hands or wrists, you are probably limited in the amount of sanding you can comfortably do. ("Comfortably" being a relative term!) There are a few possible solutions for this problem. First, you can learn to love the clay's "natural" matte finish and cut out the sanding altogether. If you insist upon sanded clay, you might try tumble sanding. If you can handle some hand work-- or aren't ready to invest in a tumbler-- you might try sanding with sanding sticks or sanding sponges, which some find easier on the fingers than regular sandpaper. There are also electric and battery-operated tools (such as toothbrushes) that can be modified to help with the work of sanding. (See this page at Glass Attic for more info on sanding sticks, sanding sponges, and other sanding-related tools.)

10. Take a break.
As much as we love the clay, it's important to take a break every so often. Get up, stretch gently-- maybe even take a short walk around the house-- the yard-- the block. Even if you don't have time for a walk, standing and stretching for a minute can make a difference. Use these moments to stand back and look at what you've done. You may find new inspiration by looking at things from another angle.

If you have another tip for claying in comfort, please feel free to share it. :o)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tumble Sanding-- with river rocks?

I was just doing a little advance work on a "Ten on Tuesday" topic when I came across something interesting-- and relatively new, too, I think.

For those of you who tumble sand (or are looking into the possibility), you might want to check out Desiree McCrorey's latest "article" on the subject. She writes that she's switched from sand paper to river rocks!

Very, very interesting stuff!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten food-inspired color schemes

After finding COLOURlovers while researching for a previous Ten on Tuesday, I went back, registered, and starting playing around. Making and naming color palettes is addictive! If you "have a thing" for colors, you might enjoy it, too. Even if you aren't interested in making your own color schemes on the website, you can enjoy browsing those posted by others. Here are ten of my own creation:

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Food-Inspired Color Schemes

1. Neapolitan
Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Not only are they a classic flavor combination, but they also make a pretty sweet feast for the eyes.
2. Banana Split
Continuing with the ice cream theme. ;o) From the banana itself to the cherry on top. Just add in some vanilla/cream and you're good to go!
Banana Split
3. Spring Salad
After all that ice cream, it's time for something healthier. How about a nice salad? I like the contrast between leafy greens and tomatoes or radishes.
Spring Salad
4. Peas & Carrots
Peas, carrots. . . and maybe a little corn, too, if you like.
Peas & Carrots
5. Hot Dog
Start with a bun (toasty on the outside, lighter inside) and a wiener, the top with mustard and pickle relish (optional (g)).
Hot Dog
6. Girl's Birthday Cake
Back to the desserts! ;o) Of course birthday cakes come in as many colors as you can imagine. This is just one take on a girl's birthday cake. "My" girl is unicorn-obsessed, spends hours happily choosing just the right clothes for her dolls, and knows that pink and purple are the best colors in the whole wide world. Oh, and she loves chocolate cake. (Duh! (g))
Girl's Birthday Cake
7. Bacon & Eggs
Crispy bacon. . . Eggs made sunny-side-up. . . Breakfasty goodness!
Bacon & Eggs
8. Watermelon
Juicy, sweet-- summertime on the vine. Add a sprinkle of black seeds for variety.
9. Cantaloupe
Fresh from the garden and tasting of ripened sunshine and long summer twilights.
10. M&Ms
These colors are a flashback to the good old days (i.e. when I was a kid), back before the blue M&M had come along. Of course, back then, there was a tan M&M, too, but I was only allowed to pick five colors, so. . .

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Faux Marble

I finally gave myself permission to try the faux marble technique from Carol Blackburn's book (Making Polymer Clay Beads). I'd been admiring it ever since I got the book. Of course, I didn't follow the directions precisely, but that's what makes it fun. ;o)

This technique even made sanding fun-- for a while. Now that's worn off, though, and I'm back to hating sanding, like a normal person. (g)

I have many more that have yet to be sanded, buffed, and photographed. Some are destined to be earrings, some pendants. . . and some were going to be earrings, but turned out to not match closely enough in size. (Grr!) So they'll be. . . I'm not sure what, yet.

Here are a handful that I did manage to photograph, this afternoon:

I like this first batch-- especially the heart on the bottom. I think the colors are nicer than the photo suggests. I probably should've stuck with the heart shape instead of making that odd one, though. It looks like a pair of legs in curly-toed elf shoes. Or something. (g)

These are less translucent than the others. That was partly planned, but I didn't think they'd be quite so opaque. I still like them, though-- again, they look better outside the photo. (Next time, I'll have to be a bit more careful to get decent shots.)

Best parts of this technique:
  • The element of surprise. They go from such ugly ducklings, all covered in paint, to very presentable beads and pendants-- right before your very eyes.
  • How well they buff up. (The buffing really makes all the difference in the world.)
  • Being able to make "stone" in any shape you want, without the trouble of chiseling, etc. ;o)
Worst parts of this technique:
  • Can be rather time consuming, what with all the sanding and buffing.
  • All the sanding and buffing. (g)

Liquid Clay Info

In case some of you aren't familiar with this particular blog, I'd like to recommend today's post by Chris -- wonderful reading for anyone interested in a comparison of the qualities of different liquid clays-- particularly Kato and Fimo (both of which are much better than TLS, in terms of clarity). I haven't worked with the Fimo gel before, so there was plenty of useful information in there that was new to me.

Those liquid clays certainly are exciting! All the possibilities!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten gift ideas for clay fanatics

Christmas music's been playing in certain stores for weeks already, and though some of us might think there's still plenty of time, it's never too early to get started on your holiday shopping.

If you're like me, you have a hard time coming up with gift ideas for most of the people on your list. Here are a few-- well, ten-- suggestions for gifts, if you know someone who can barely leave the polymer clay long enough to scarf down supper.

(Well, if you're reading this, chances are that you are that person glued in front of the clay table, so you might "accidentally" leave this page open for someone else to find. ;o) Or see if it helps you make up your personalized clay-related wish list.)

Ten Gift Ideas (in no particular order) for Clay Fanatics:

Disclaimer: What your clay-loving friend needs will depend on whether s/he is just getting started with polymer clay or is already a confirmed clayaholic. If at all possible, sneak a peek into the recipient's studio/clay closet/etc. to make sure s/he doesn't already have these items before making a purchase. Otherwise, it's always safest to save receipts.

10. Pasta machine
If they don't already have one, they'll probably be thrilled to get one. Possibly of less interest to a sculptor, but it can still be useful for conditioning clay (softening it up/mixing it properly before using it).
Similar items, different price range: Acrylic rods and brayers are cheaper than pasta machines, but they serve a similar purpose. Most people eventually want a pasta machine and a rod or brayer. The pasta machine is the easiest and most precise to use, most of the time, but occasionally, a rod or brayer comes in handy.

9. More clay!
We can always use more clay! Most of us who've been doing this a while prefer a certain brand, and we use more of some colors than others; however, most of us will eventually use it, no matter what color it is. Peek into the clay stash, if possible, so you can see if s/he uses only one brand. Generally speaking, Premo, Kato, and Fimo Classic are more durable than Sculpey III or Fimo Soft, so they're probably safer bets, but everyone has her own personal preference. (Of course, you can always give a gift certificate or cash, if you think s/he'd prefer to choose the brand and colors.) If you're buying the clay in person, give each block a little squeeze to make sure it isn't rock hard. (That might indicate that it's been on the shelf too long and will be difficult to work with.) Be sure to store it in a cool, dry place. Leaving it in a hot car is a definite no-no.

8. A "big ticket item"
Maybe you've heard your clayer talking about things she'd like to have "someday". A few more expensive gifts would be a new oven (a toaster oven or possibly a full-sized oven, if you have the extra room), a rock tumbler, or a buffing wheel. If there's room for a clay studio, maybe she'd like a good quality lamp, a new table, ergonomic chair, or a special storage solution. You may even decide that it's time to buy a new camera (especially useful for people who sell their creations online). For these bigger ticket items, you might want to consider asking for in-put from the clayer herself. It may not be quite the same as surprising her on Christmas morning, but I'm sure she'll be thrilled no matter when she finds out about your generous gift!

7. Guild membership
If your friend is the type who'd enjoy some social interaction with other clayers, you might consider buying him/her a guild membership for a year. I actually haven't checked this out, but I imagine that you can buy a polymer clay guild membership in someone else's name. If not, you could at least see if there's a guild in the area and put the money or check in a pretty card with a homemade "gift certificate".
Similar ideas: Enroll him in a class (if there's a class you know he'd love to take)-- or give him cash for the class/retreat/etc. of his choice. (These can vary widely in price-- anything from $20 for a basic class at a local shop to hundreds of dollars for a multi-day workshop.) Buy her an account at flickr or one of the other online photo-hosting communities. Not only do they provide a place for her to show off all those polymer clay creations she makes, but they're also a fun way to make new friends. (You can use many of these sites for free, too, but there's a limit on how many photos you can put up and how you're allowed to arrange them.)

6. Books (or instructional DVDs)
If you know there's a book or DVD s/he'd like, they make great gifts. There are new books coming out every few months, these days, so if you know your clayer's area of interest (jewelry, sculpture, everything), you can be fairly certain of pleasing with a freshly-published book. If you're not sure which books s/he already has, you might consider a gift certificate to a favorite bookshop (or cash with a "choose a new book for yourself" note).

5. Magazine subscription
There's currently only one magazine devoted entirely to polymer clay (and the occasional air-dry clay project), and that's Polymer Cafe. This is a nice gift, if you know that s/he isn't already a subscriber. A few other magazines also feature polymer clay-related projects on a regular basis. Look here for more information:

4. "Clay Coupons"
Remember making this type of coupon for your mom on Mother's Day? "This coupon is good for one breakfast in bed"-- that kind of thing? Well, why not do something similar for your clay-obsessed loved one? This is a great idea-- not just for children, but for anyone whose wallet is going through a lean period. The coupons will of course vary based on your circumstances. Tailor them specifically to your loved one's needs. If the recipient is a busy mom who barely has time to clay these days, give her a few coupons that entitle her to a carefree hour (or two-- or whatever) to spend with the clay while you keep the kids occupied elsewhere. Maybe one coupon could entitle her to a clay-friend (i.e. you) for an hour (unless, of course, the clay is her escape from the rest of you crazy people (g)). Or-- and this one would be worth gold to many of us!-- make a couple of coupons that volunteer your services as a bead-sander. Consider one that reads, "This coupon is good for one full meal prepared while you play with clay". . . and so on! Have fun with it-- but remember, if you make the coupon, you should be prepared to ante up-- cheerfully, or it's no good. ;o)

3. "Crossover" tools or supplies
If you know that your friend doesn't have a particular tool (say, a wavy blade or some shape cutters), by all means, go for it! (You can read about many polymer clay-related tools here: Better yet, there are some tools and supplies that serve double duty. That is, they can be used for polymer clay, but also with another hobby or medium. For instance, stamps are great for polymer clay, but you can use them for scrapbooking, card-making, and other hobbies, as well. Linoleum-carving tools will carve through polymer clay in addition to linoleum and other stamp-making materials. If you know that the recipient of your gift loves paper crafts and polymer clay, some nice stamps might be just the thing that she can use in both hobbies, while the linoleum cutters would be ideal for someone who'd like to try making her own stamps. Someone who makes polymer clay jewelry might like some jewelry-making tools or a selection of lovely beads or findings, which can also be used to create non-polymer jewelry. Keeping all of your friend's crafty interests in mind might help you narrow down your list of gift possibilities.

2. "Stocking stuffer" goodies
You know your "target" better than I do, so you'll have to make a judgment call-- but many of us who make jewelry with polymer clay are absolutely addicted to all the "extras" that we can work into our polymer clay designs. Paints, glitter, mica powder... Embossing powder, metal leaf, metallic foil... Leafing pens, ink (both in ink pads and in re-inker bottles)-- and the list goes on. If you think your friend's a magpie (someone who loves sparkly, glittery things), you can find some wonderful "stocking stuffer" size gifts in the glitter and embossing powder section of the craft store. (Look in the stamp section for embossing powder. Sometimes there will be glitter there, too. Otherwise, check out the fabric-decorating aisle for the high-quality glitter that is sure to work well with polymer clay. Cheap metal glitter isn't a good idea; polyester's better.) For more information on these types of things (and specific brands that are proven to work with polymer clay), look here:

1. Cash! (Or, if you insist, a gift certificate...)
I've mentioned this one a few times already, but it's worth saying again. After all, who wouldn't like to go on a little shopping spree?! Cash is really best, since your friend can use it absolutely anywhere, from an Internet-based shop that specializes in clay-- to the local bookshop-- or even a hardware store, if it's time to finally get that clay-related power tool she's been dreaming of. However, if you're convinced that cash is too impersonal, a gift certificate to her favorite craft/art-supply store will be more than welcome. We crafters can always find something we'd love to have from those places! (g)

So, that's my list of suggestions. I hope it's given you a few ideas or helped you come up with some of your own. If you're still feeling terribly confused or uncertain, maybe you could ask for a wish list. Many of us have such extensive ones that we'll still be surprised, even if someone shops from the list! ;o)

Oh, and when you're out shopping, don't forget to check out sales and coupons. Get the most for your money! Happy shopping! :o)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

And I thought I was falling behind *before*. . .

I just added several more polymer clay blogs to my list (both here at this blog and at my Google Reader account). A couple of them I hadn't seen before this afternoon, a couple more I'd had jotted down until I was in the mood to update things, and there were even a couple I thought I already had added. I've been missing out on months of posts, thinking all along that the blog owners were just being quiet!

So that's even more blog reading I need to catch up on. (g)

One of these days I'll catch up. Probably. . . ;o)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten places to find color inspiration

Most of us have certain color combinations that we're particularly drawn to. For whatever reason, we find ourselves repeating them again and again. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but every now and then, it's nice to expand our horizons and try something new. If you've found yourself in a bit of a rut, color-wise, today's list of ten is for you.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Places to Find Color Inspiration

1. Nature
It's the original source. Take a quick stroll-- or a long hike!-- and stop every so often to just look. So often, we're too busy getting where we need to be that we don't take the time to see the world around us. Absorb some of the colors. Take notes of what you like, or better yet, snap a photo. If you live in a city and can't make it to a park, you can still find new color ideas by focusing on the hues of the city around you. Buildings-- window displays-- the unusual fashion choices of that girl who just walked past you: all are opportunities to be inspired.

2. Your closet
Say the weather's miserable (like it's been here for the past day or so). You don't really want to be wandering the countryside in search of color today. Well, take a peak into your closet, instead. This is a trick interior designers suggest for finding colors in your comfort zone. The colors you wear are probably the colors you're most at ease around, so they're natural choices for wall colors, etc. Of course, this may mean that you'll see the same color combinations you've been using over and over again in your polymer clay work-- the ones you're trying to take a break from. If so, then it's time to move on to the next suggestion. . .

3. Fashion magazines / catalogs
(Or any magazines, really.) Maybe you noticed, while peeking in the closet, that you need a few new items for your winter wardrobe. In that case, you can tackle two tasks at once. ;o) Any magazine or catalog that is more photos than text is a great place to browse for new color combinations. Those that feature fashionable "ensembles" or carefully decorated rooms are especially useful, since we know that color-savvy designers put them together. If you're not yet confident in your own color sense, you can rest assured that at least someone thought these colors went well together. (g) Bookmark the ones you like-- or tear out the page and put it into a "color/design inspiration" binder that you can refer to as needed. (You can also look at Internet-based catalogs with a similar goal in mind.)

4. Shopping
Internet-/catalog-shopping not your thing? (I like to look, but I'd really rather see things in person, myself.) The next time you take a shopping trip, keep colors in mind, too. This article on Crafty Places, while focusing on scrapbooking, has suggestions that can be useful for clayers, too. Silk floral arrangements and the bedding department provided two sources of inspiration for the author, and the possibilities don't end there. Browse a fabric shop for pretty prints or the interesting juxtaposition of bold solids. Look more closely at the colors used in the china, glassware, and pottery aisles. Even the packaging of products can spark a new idea. Take note of anything that grabs your eye. Shopping with a friend can also be helpful. Notice what s/he gravitates toward. You may tend to overlook things in favor of your tried-and-true colors, so let your friend be another pair of eyes for you.

5. Paper
Are you a paper addict? Scrapbookers, bookbinders, origami artists and others share a fascination for paper. Many of us have a nice stock built up. Take half an hour to page through your collection. Patterned paper can be an instant inspiration-- or spread out several solid colors, layering them in different ways and taking note of the combinations that catch your eye. (It's often easier to know that we like when we see it, rather than visualizing it beforehand.) If you have some scraps to spare, paste them into that inspiration binder I mentioned before.

6. Works of Art
The masters of the art world have this color thing down pat, so why not look to them for inspiration? Of course we can look at the colors polymer clay artists use, but there's no reason to limit ourselves to just polymer clay art. Glass, pottery, paint, metal, quilts-- whatever medium you like can awaken you to new possibilities in color combinations. There are photographs to be viewed for free online, or if you prefer, you can buy or borrow books of photos of works of art. Remember that you needn't use all the colors in a work. You can narrow it down to the two, three, or four most dominant colors, to simplify things. (Here's an entry on COLOURlovers that offers several examples of color schemes drawn from paintings, if you need help.)

7. Color Blogs
The blog I linked to in item #6-- COLOURlovers-- is just one example of a "color blog". (Check out this entry on Hallowe'en colors!) There are lots of color fanatics out there, and many of these folks are quite generous with their color schemes (or "palettes"). Browse them until you find one you like. And don't forget that you can tweak them to suit your tastes. Drop, add, shift the colors as needed. There are a few other cool features on this page, too, in addition to the blog, including color trends, discussions, and a color/palette search function. What a neat, fun resource! I'm sure there are other similarly great blogs out there, too, just waiting to be found.

8. Color Scheme Websites
There are a variety of color scheme-generating websites out there, but I'm going to play favorites and focus on one in particular. (Hey, my husband designed it-- and is still working on it-- and I know which side my bread's buttered on. (g)) This site-- offers a few different ways to find color combos, in addition to info on color theory and terminology. See reader-submitted color schemes (and grade them or submit your own) in the "Color Schemes" section. Spin the Color Wheel to get random color combinations. (If you like one or two colors, but not all of them, you can keep the ones you like and keep spinning until you hit a combo that is thoroughly satisfying. You can also see how the colors work together in a sample bit of web design. You can even decide which color takes each position in the sample.) Finally, use the Color Wizard to submit your own color (enter a hex code, adjust the RGB sliders to find your perfect color, or randomize the whole thing) and instantly get colors that coordinate with it. Scroll down and select different types of color schemes (i.e. analogous, complimentary, split complimentary, etc.) to see several options. Click any of the hue, saturation, or tint/shade variations to instantly reset the base color. Play around with it and see what you come up with. If you'd like to see some other color tools online, you have only to make a quick search.

9. Color Scheme Books
If you prefer a book to a computer monitor, you can look in your local library or bookstore for books of color schemes. These fall into a variety of categories, so be sure to look around. You'll find books full of color combinations designed for use in crafts, graphic design, web design, house decorating, and so on. They're all fair game! (You can also find a more limited selection of color schemes in or near the pain chip section of home improvement stores. If you have a fascination for paint chips, you might find BEHR's website interesting. The "Explore Color" feature is pretty neat.)

10. Photos (Flickr, Photobucket, etc.)
In the past, I've linked to photos from Flickr to illustrate color combinations I like. Well, you can do the reverse, too. Browse the photos at Flickr (or your photo-hosting website of choice), looking for something that grabs you. There are many, many groups and pools of photos at Flickr-- in addition to the search function-- so it's fairly easy to start your search. When you find a photo with colors that speak to you, it's as simple as deciding which are the most "important" colors in the photo. If you need some help with this, there are some handy tools that take all the guesswork out of it. Copy the URL of the photo you'd like to "decode". (The URL must end in ".jpg", ".gif", etc. If you're trying to find the URL for a photo at Flickr, click on "All Sizes", above the photo, then scroll down to locate the URL near the bottom of the page.) Go to Color Palette Generator (or Color Hunter, which is very similar). Paste in the URL, hit the magic button, and up pops the photo and the coordinating color scheme (complete with hex codes, if you're into that kind of thing (g)). You can also use the Palette Generator at Big Huge Labs, which gives you more colors per photo than the other two programs do. This tool also provides a way to quickly and easily browse the photos in your Flickr or Photobucket without working in another tab or window.

Here's an example, the result of submitting one of my photos to the Palette Generator:

With so many color combinations to discover-- and work into polymer clay designs!-- and so little time, what are you doing here, still?! ;o)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Faux Ceramics Experiments

I wrote earlier about the toner transfers I've been playing around with. One other thing I've been trying is different variations on faux ceramics.

I think I mentioned that I tried the "put tinted liquid clay on beads covered in extruded clay" technique with less than stellar results. (It dripped a bit so that there was very uneven coverage, even though I thought I'd heat set the liquid clay.) I may give that another try sometime, but not for now.

I also tried the "use a black clay base with opaque liquid clay" variation. Again, not the results I'd hoped for-- partially because some of the liquid clay I thought would be opaque turned out not to be. I used oil paint to give it more opaque color, but for some reason it just didn't work that well. Probably not enough paint in the ratio-- or maybe I should have included some white paint. . . I guess that next time I ought to test-cure a little drop to check for opacity. Anyway, the ones I made that were opaque still didn't thrill me, so I decided to go back to the more translucent liquid mixes.

These two were the result of making a base bead (in plain white clay), adding some appliqué flowers (also in white), texturing, and glazing with alcohol-ink-tinted Kato. After curing, I used a heat gun to bring out the shine in the glaze.

I liked the way those turned out, but before I could give it another try, I came across that interesting idea in Tina Holden's blog (which I posted about before). She uses mica powders under the glaze. I'd thought of mixing the powders into the glaze-- haven't tried it yet, though-- but not of just touching them to the clay base. That uses less powder, lets you combine different colors of powder (and gives you more control over where they go), and probably adds more depth to the piece than if the entire glaze is full of mica particles.

First, I tried it on a couple of flat pendants. The leaves are just white clay stamped and touched lightly with a couple of metallic colors of Pearl-Ex. I then glazed the piece with Kato liquid tinted with Lettuce alcohol ink. (All the colors of alcohol ink I mention in this post are Ranger Adirondack brand. I like the muted earthiness of the Adirondack line-- plus, because I can get them at the local craft store, I can use a 40%-off coupon on them. Brings the price down nicely!) The butterfly was pearl clay stamped and touched with duo red-blue Pearl-Ex and topped with Eggplant-tinted Kato. You can't really see the mica that well in this photo, but it does show up in "real life"-- especially when the light hits it from certain angles. (This is one of those times when using a more translucent clay is probably a good idea. I'm not sure how well the mica would show through tinted TLS. . .)

I'd like to play around with this some more, too. Different "themes"/patterns-- different color combinations. Paying close attention to the compatibility of the colors (of the mica powder and the tinted liquid clay) seems pretty important with this technique, since you're seeing the powders through the filter of the colored liquid clay. I don't know if any of the combinations would ever be exactly ugly, but I imagine some are more pleasing than others.

I took the technique one step further and applied it to the flower-appliquéd pendants. (I want to improve my appliqué skill, now. I'd like to expand my repertoire of flower shapes beyond what I've done so far. (g) I have a flower catalog-- I just need to sit down and study it.)

All three (in the photo below) started with a base of pearl clay. The butterfly pendant is duo blue-green Pearl-Ex under Stream-tinted Kato. Because the powder had a blue color, it's more subtle under the similarly-colored liquid clay. I dusted the same powder over the rectangular pendant, but because I used a green liquid clay (Meadow, I think), you can detect more of the powder on it. The heart had interference gold powder (I think. . .) topped with Currant-tinted Kato. Again, the effect is subtle, but it's definitely there.

There are so many possibilities! What am I doing here at the computer when I could be experimenting?! ;o)