Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Silver-tone mokume gane

I'd been wanting to make a silver-tone block of mokume gane for a while-- before I came down with the cold. I finally got around to starting it over the weekend, and yesterday I managed to buff up the first batch of beads I made from it. (There's still at least half of it left, unsliced.)

I'm sorry to say that I was a bit disappointed with the results. It's not that they were ugly, but they just didn't have much "pop" to them. Instead of being silver-tone, they're more grey-scale! (g)

Here are a couple of them:

There are a few more photos of this batch up at my Flickr page. (The link's in the column at the right of this page.)

I think part of the problem is that some of the silver (paints and things) turned out to be less silver than grey. Again, they aren't bad... I think part of the problem is that I'd been thinking so long about doing this particular color combination (if I may call such a monochromatic design a "color combo" (g)) that I expected it to "wow" me more than it did.

Well, I have a couple of ideas of different things to try with the rest of the MG block, now that I know I don't care to repeat those results. One thing I want to try is putting the MG over a very heavily glittered bead-- something with the big, chunky glitters I got at Dollar Tree a long time ago. (I tried one with the small holographic glitters in this batch, and while it was ok, I think the chunkier glitter will make a better effect.)

Lariat-style necklaces...

Back when I was sick with a cold, I had a succession of brainstorms about lariat-style necklaces. Seriously, I got up in the middle of the night and started making sketches! (g) When I got well enough to feel like claying again, I make a couple of prototypes of the style of necklace I had been sketching. Now I'm trying to decide whether or not this is just another instance of a fevered (or sleepy) brain thinking something is a great idea when it's really only so-so, at best. ;o)

I know I'm not the first one to make a lariat-style necklace-- even though I'd never personally worn one until I made one myself-- and I'm fairly sure that someone out there has probably made some even in the exact same style that I've been experimenting with. But anyway... It's still sort of "my" idea. I'm just trying to decide if it's one I even want to claim ownership of. ;o)

Here are a couple of photos of the first tries I've made:

I don't know how much you can tell from the photos, but the first one has a polymer clay focal button-bead with four piercings (like a button), and the second has a polymer clay focal button-bead with two elongated piercings (like a different style of button). Oh, and there are a pair of matching earrings in the first picture, too. All the other beads are store-bought glass or acrylic beads.

These lariats can both be worn in at least a couple of different ways:

#1-- The first is just the traditional way (or what I think of as traditional)-- like a bolo, or what I call a "Western" lariat. Put your head through the loop, with one strand of cord around your neck, and pull the focal bead up as tightly as you like against your neck, with the two beaded dangles hanging down in front. Or you can wear it the same way, just with the focal turned around to the back of your neck. (Only useful if you wear your hair up and have a backless dress.) Really, the dangles are too long on these lariats to suit that style very well.

#2--These lariats were actually made with another way to wear them in mind. Wrap the doubled cord around your neck, with just enough slack that you can "button" the loop (at the end of the doubled cord) over the large focal bead (and the dangles). Pull the focal bead tight to hold the necklace in place. The focal bead should be off to one side of your neck, with the dangles hanging down at slightly different lengths.

In my mind's eye, I saw this design as a very stylish, flirty, attractive type of lariat-- almost like a ribbon tied around your neck with a cute bow at the side. But like most choker/dog collar style necklaces, they aren't as comfortable as a looser-fitting necklace. Also, they may be more flattering on some necks than on others. A final mark against them is that you need a certain degree of flair and/or sass to wear something like that. I don't know how often I'll feel that a necklace of this style "goes" with the rest of my outfit... or personality! (g)

Anyway, I'm giving it some more thought. I already have the makings for one more lariat waiting for sanding and buffing. So we'll see how it turns out. It's sort of a psychedelic citrus theme with greens and yellows, so at least it'll be a little bit different from the others, but it's another flower-shaped focal. Sorry to bore you with my repetitive shapes. ;o)

"Crackled on-lay" technique...

Actually, I'm not sure what to call this technique. I've seen it used a few places, but never in a tutorial or anywhere else that would be likely to give it a name. So "Crackled On-lay" it is! ;o)

I made a few more beads in this style at the same time that I made these, but I have yet to get around to sanding and buffing them, so for the time being, these two are the only ones I can show:

I was pretty happy with how they turned out, all things considered, and I think I've learned a little about how to make them better next time I give this technique a try.

The basic technique is this:

  1. Make sheets of translucent clay. Thinner sheets will result in less crackle. Thicker sheets will result in more crackle.
  2. Paint the sheets of translucent clay with metallic acrylic paints or inks. (Ok, you don't have to use metallic paints, but that's my personal preference.)
  3. After the paints have dried (thoroughly), crackle them by feeding them through a pasta machine on successively smaller settings or rolling it carefully with an acrylic rod or brayer. You can crackle them as little or as much as your like, but keep in mind that the thicker the sheet of clay, the dimmer your paint will be. Thin sheets of clay are preferred.
  4. Make a base bead of your desired color of clay. I chose black for the ultimate contrast with the metallic paints, but any color can be used.
  5. Cut strips or shapes from the crackled paint clay. Place them on the base bead in a single layer (no overlaps in shapes, yet).
  6. Roll the bead between your palms until the seams disappear. The "on-lay" should be level with the rest of the bead.
  7. If you like, you may now add more layers of strips and shapes cut from the crackled paint clay. Add as many layers as you like, rolling the bead smooth between each layer.
  8. Cure according to manufacturer's instructions. Dunk beads in an ice bath immediately after curing to enhance the translucency of the clay. Sand through multiple grits (to 1000 or finer). Buff to a high gloss, preferably with a buffing wheel. If you want, you can add a a glossy finish/sealant, but personally, I like the way the un-varnished clay feels.

I don't know why I didn't think about the fact that the paint wouldn't crackle much when I started with such a thin sheet of translucent clay. I guess I was only thinking "thin thin THIN", and not remembering that it would be thinner once I crackled it. Well, I'll try the other way next time. For all I know, I may turn out to like this "mistake" version better! You probably see more of the colors of the paints this way, anyway.

I'm thinking I might do a tutorial on this project for the website... It's not a very advanced technique, but it can't hurt!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Back to the old tried and true-- sort of.

After experimenting with a few "new to me" techniques (i.e. making my own texture sheets-- and using them-- making "galaxy beads"-- and working on "ghost image" mokume gane, which I'd never done before), I've gone back to my old tried and true method of mokume gane.

Well, sort of. I tried a new color theme in this latest batch of mg. But really, that's the norm. I don't think I've made two mg blocks with the exact same color combinations, so far, and I probably never will! There are simply too many possibilities for me to want to repeat something, yet.

I just finished sanding the beads I made from about half of the mg block. All that's left is to buff them. That's when the real magic happens with the translucent clay turning to glass (almost), so I'm looking forward to it-- but the beads (and my poor waterlogged hands) need to dry before I can move on to that step.

Whenever I can bring myself to even think of sanding again ;o) the results of my "ghost image" mg (well, that's what I've been calling it in my head, but it's really just a very thin sheet of mg that's been stamped and shaved) still need to be lightly sanded (on the sides, if nowhere else) and buffed a bit.

And sometime next week I'll need to set up the camera and take some photos of these latest efforts. In the meantime, I ought to look up my notebook and see what's next in line for the website texts I need to write. I'm thinking I'll skip color theory for now. It's just way too big of a subject-- and there are apparently so many different ways of looking at it that I'm not sure what to include and what to leave out...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I am returned from my absence...

--Albeit one of only a few days' duration. ;o)

The tables arrived late (around 8 p.m.) on Friday. I won't go into the particulars (since no-one-- not even myself-- will be likely to care five days from now... or even right this very moment!), but suffice it to say that I was glad to have them finally in our possession.

However, by the time they got here, I was in the worst part of my cold-- nose tender from too many tissues, head dizzy, and mind foggy. (I always forget just how misearble a cold is until I'm living through one, but they never fail to make me wonder how really, truly ill people can manage, if a simple cold can bring me to my knees in such short order.)

Needless to say, I wasn't feeling up to the task of putting together the craft room. (It was a "job" I'd been looking forward to, so I'd have hated to have it ruined by a cold, anyway, even if I hadn't been feeling quite so fatigued.) The worst part of the cold seems to be over, now, though, and the room is coming together. I still have some basic "putting away" to do-- as task that isn't quite so basic as usual, since I first have to decide where everything should be "put away". It's almost done, though, and by the end of the day, it should at least look organized, if not completely finished and decorated.

So, actually, what I really ought to be doing is working in the room, right now. Better get to it!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Studio Friday - Inspiring Dream Studio

This week's prompt from Studio Friday is as follows:

Inspiring Dream Studio

"We get to see these wonderful studios, - how about not showing our own, but choose among the great studios we know about now? Tell us a little about why you like this studio, what you would like to do if you could work there for a day as it was your own, and, - if it is so, - you have learned from this studio/ artist?"
~ mereteveian

Well, while I've seen photos of various people's studios (or humbler work spaces), I don't believe I've seen one that stuck in my memory so much that I'd say it is my "dream studio". But I have noticed some things I've liked and would enjoy having myself. I also have a few ideas of my own.

Things you'd find in my "dream studio"--
  • Lots of room-- Sure, you can produce beautiful works of art in a tiny room-- or just a corner of a room-- but so long as we're dreaming, let's dream big.
  • Plenty of work surfaces-- I'm the type to have multiple projects going at the same time, something that extra work surfaces would make so much easier. Plus I like to spread all my resources out in front of me so I can see what I have to choose from.
  • Storage, storage everywhere!-- I need things to have their own place where they "go"-- even if they're actually left out on the table 90% of the time. ;o) Abundant storage is wonderful when you decide to reorganize between projects.
  • Lighting-- Good lighting is a must. You have to be able to see what you're doing to tell if you're doing it well!
  • Comfortable seating-- to save your back (and behind, etc.) on days when you're sitting at the table for hours on end.
  • Entertainment-- There are times when I'll clay (or bead, or whatever) to the sound of silence, but most of the time, I want music, talk radio, the TV-- or something for background noise and to occupy my mind during the duller parts of the work.
  • Displays-- I doesn't have to be anything fancy, but I would like a place to display some of my work-- particularly pieces of jewelry. I'd also like a place to put up things that inspire me-- such as swatches of coordinated colors and jewelry sketches.
  • Materials-- A well-stocked studio is inspiring. I love seeing lots of materials-- clay in a rainbow of colors, bottles of ink and paint, a bountiful collection of beads, wonderful tools and books-- and some things that maybe I've never even seen before. There are so many possibilities in all those materials.
  • A nice view-- Not a necessity, but a pleasant view from the window(s) is a plus, too.

Now that our tables are about to be delivered-- today, between 1 and 2 p.m., if all goes as planned-- my work space will take a big step toward that "dream studio". I'll have lots more room to work-- one (larger) table for clay and another table for beading, scrapbooking, or anything else that's "dry" and not messy. There'll also be some extra storage, and once I get everything sorted and put away, I'm planning to put up some more things on the walls to make the room more my own and more to the purpose of a craft room.

I've been looking forward to trying it all out! It'll feel like a whole new place, I'm sure. :o)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

No tables, but a link...

Still no sign of the tables, despite phone calls to the "help" line. Apparently it's "out of their hands", now that the delivery company has the boxes. Maybe the delivery guy decided to keep them for himself. ;o) Seriously, if they don't come today, it's going to be time to get a number for the delivery company and contact the local branch directly. This is getting to be ridiculous.

. . . . .

I was redirected to Donna Kato's website today, where I found some new tutorials that she has up. So far, there are tutorials for a carved, antiqued bead, toner transfers, a new style of opal, jellyroll millefiori, and something she calls "layer dichroic effects"-- all very nice. I'm definitely going to try the new style of opal, one of these days. The only problem is that she uses Kato Liquid Polyclay, and I only TLS, which probably won't cure as clear. Maybe I'll get some Liquid Kato sometime. If it's really that much clearer than TLS, it'd be nice to have for some other projects, as well.

--Excuse me a moment while I get rid of this disgusting zinc cough drop. Yuck!!! Well, they might lessen the effects of a cold, but I think I'd rather have a cold than have to take one of those every three hours. Why are almost all medicines so horrible to take? Why can't they taste like pizza or candy? I wish someone would come up with a cough syrup (for example) that is pleasant-tasting-- or at least neutral. Now I need some chocolate or something to get rid of the taste! ;o)

So, back to the website I was writing about before...
There's also a gallery of some of Donna Kato's polymer clay art. Some of it's older, some of it's brand new. Some pretty things there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Key chains with photo transfers

Oh, forgot to mention in my last post that I uploaded a few photos to my Flickr account this afternoon. Not many, but a few.

Among them were some key chains with photo transfers-- made as "a little something extra" to go in with the Christmas gifts for a few pet-loving family members. While I'm happy that the photo transfer process I'm using seems to work pretty well, I'm less than satisfied with the overall project. I'm just not that great at putting together different elements of clay.

Buy hey, they're just key chains, so they don't have to be perfect!

Here are a couple made with black clay for trim. I added a silver metallic wax rub-on to give a faux metal look, so I "had" to seal them with something (to keep the wax from rubbing off). I used two or three coats of MinWax Polycrylic, glossy.

For this one, I used very lightly tinted (too lightly tinted, as I realized when I saw the result) translucent clay with glitter inclusions. I also sealed this one, more to protect the photo transfer than anything else. Oh, and the accent bead is a twisted together bit of white and black clay, dusted over with Pearl-Ex powder-- duo yellow-green... or gold-green... or whatever it's called.

I need to think out a better way (or at least a way I'm more satisfied with) of using photo transfers with jewelry and such. (It's the covering up the back of the transfer clay and finishing off the edges nicely that gives me the trouble...) I'd like to try more transfers, but I'm not sure yet what all I want to do with them! (g)

Still waiting...

Here it is the next day, and still no new tables. :o( Well, they're sure to get here sooner or later, but it looks like it's not going to happen today.

In other news... ;o) ...I buffed up a few of the beads I made a week or so ago-- the ones with crackled paint on translucent clay, placed paint down on black clay. I only buffed three of them, because so far, I've only sanded three of them. Oh my gosh, how I do hate sanding round beads!! It's so much worse than sanding other shapes of beads-- not that I love love love doing that, either. Maybe when we get the tumbler tumbling, I can leave the round beads for it to handle. :o)

Anyway, the beads buffed up beautifully, if I do say so myself. They have a gorgeous glossy finish-- without a finish. I do prefer to leave my clay "naked" whenever I can. The finishes just take more time (and trouble) to apply, and I don't like the feel of the finish as much as the feel of the polished clay.

However-- I did learn a few things in this process-- things I hope to remember when I try this technique again. Namely, the following:
  • Sanding round beads is a major pain (as previously stated).
  • But on the other hand, round beads are nice for a change from my usual bead shape choices.
  • The paint didn't crackle enough for my tastes. Next time, I need to start with thicker sheets of translucent, so that there's "room to crackle". That way, more black (or other base color clay) will show through the decoratives strips and shapes, and I think the beads will look better that way.
  • I ought to also try this technique with metal leaf-- with the original colors of the leaf, but also with pre-tinted translucent clay to alter the color of the leaf. (Of course, this will tint the whole piece of translucent clay, but that might not matter so much against a dark background color. Or... I could try tinting the leaf priot to adhering it. I wonder how well metal leaf would "take" alcohol inks...)

While buffing, I tried putting the round beads on a rod (copper wire), holding either end of the rod, and letting the beads spin freely against the buffing wheel. (I did them individually, but come to think of it, I guess there's no reason I couldn't have put multiple beads on the rod at the same time.) One of them worked out well. The other seemed to buff more in one place than in another, which I don't quite understand-- unless the bead was just that uneven. Anyway, it made the bead easier to hold, that way, so even though I still had to buff the ends (near the stringing holes) off the rod, I'll probably use that technique again, the next time I'm buffing round beads. (Which, given what a pain they are to sand, might not be often. (g))

I'm still thinking about how best to display/store my finished necklaces and other pieces of jewelry... It would be nice to have a way to keep them so that I can see what I have and keep them from becoming tangled or potentially scratched or otherwise damaged. I think I have the supplies already around the house to make one or two strips with cup-holder hooks for hanging jewelry. They'll only hold a certain amount of items at a time, but that's better than nothing, for a start.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not today...

With less than twenty minutes left until 5 p.m., I've decided that the tables simply aren't coming today.

This is rather annoying, considering that the e-mail notification specifically stated that they would be delivered today, sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. So after waiting and waiting all day today, I'm left to wonder whether they'll deliver them tomorrow-- the next day-- or ever. Maybe I need to call the help line tomorrow morning, to make sure there wasn't a mistake somewhere along the line.

Honestly, I'm so tired of faulty delivery systems!! Why can't they do what they say they'll do? Why such incompetence?! If they know it's going to take a day or two more, why not just give that later date from the get-go, rather than leading us to believe (or at least hope) that we'll receive the item on an earlier date?

I know (I guess) that they aren't doing this "on purpose", but it does seem that every time I'm expecting a package, it takes longer than it's supposed to-- and oftentimes, there's some bizarre mix-up somewhere. Either they can't find my house (which isn't really that hard to find), or they can't find my post office (or supposedly no-one is there when I know good and well there must have been people there), or something else weird happens to delay the arrival.

Ok, I guess I've grumbled enough (for now). It won't bring the tables here any faster (well, not unless I'm grumbling to someone over the phone-- that might make some difference!), but I still needed some sort of outlet. This has been a cold, dreary day, and I'm annoyed that I spent the whole time waiting for something that never came. Plus I'm probably a bit tired after my late night last night. And I have one or two other things on my mind-- such as, if I have to go pick up the car from the mechanic tomorrow, there won't be anyone here to receive the tables. So anyway, I'm grumbly. It happens, sometimes. ;o)

Waiting, waiting, waaaaiiiting...

I hate waiting for deliveries. (Yes, I'm strikingly unique from other folks in that way.)

I'm trying to get some things done today, but between the cold that's steadily creeping into the house and the waaaiiiting for the tables to be delivered, I'm not having a very productive day. If I go into the back of the house (away from the driveway), I keep hearing phantom noises and "having" to go check to see if someone's pulled into the driveway.

There are still four and half hours in which the tables might possibly be delivered. On the one hand, that's good, but on the other hand, that's over four more hours for me to keep thinking I've heard something on the road.

Well, better try to go get something accomplished...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Too much caffeine!

Even though my sugar-free sweet tea was half decaf, I guess it wasn't decaf enough to allow me to drink as much of it as I did and still get to sleep at a normal hour... So now I'm sitting up with a hungry tummy. (Am I the only one who turns ravenous if she stays up an hour or two past her bedtime? I could really go for a slice of pizza or something similarly bad for me...) However, eating now will probably only keep me awake longer, so I'm going to wait it out.

I haven't done any claying in the past few days. Part of the time, other obligations have kept me busy. And now my clay space has fallen into such disarray that I don't want to clay until I've put it back into order.

For once, the jumble isn't due to my habit of starting project after project and accumulating lots of "works in progress" (or more accurately, clay bits left over from completed works, waiting for me to make more completed works in the same style). Well, ok. There are several "projects underway" remnants on the clay table-- everything from tinted, glittered translucent from my opal-making enthusiasm to crackled paint on translucent clay from my latest experiment. But those could have been easily set aside or otherwise organized, were it not for The Renovation.

With the news that my sister-in-law and her S.O. will be coming to visit sometime in the next few months, I started thinking more seriously about what to do with the guest room situation.

Since my in-law's visit last year, which prompted us to turn the spare room into a full-fledged guest room, I've slowly but surely been taking over and turning it into a craft room. I moved in my clay table (a pitiful relic that was left in our old trailer by the previous owners), steadily filled up the chest of drawers with clay supplies, and covered the bed and floor with jewelry-making paraphernalia.

It had gotten to the point that the room really was "my" craft room; it just happened to have a guest bed and bureau in it! ;o) I decided (after some discussion with Donald) that it was time to convert the library/music room (seldom inhabited for more than five minutes at a time) into the new guest room and turn the former guest room into a craft/music room.

A couple of bigger craft tables are supposed to be delivered here tomorrow (Yay! Room to stretch!), and in the meantime, we've started the transformation. The former library/music room now has the bed, bureau, nightstands, and vanity in place, along with a couple of extras (including one of our full bookcases). Meanwhile, the craft room is... Well, right now, it's mostly just a cluttered mess, but it's a somewhat organized mess of clutter, and I'll work to set it to rights tomorrow morning. If the tables don't take too long coming, it just might be recognizable as a craft room by evening. ;o)

I think we have it all plotted out, as far as furniture placement goes. Donald helped me move the heaviest pieces of furniture this evening, and I hope that (if they even arrive tomorrow) I'll be able to move the new tables into place myself. If nothing else, I can at least move Donald's sheet music and some other books into the craft room bookcase and sort through the piles of stuff around the room.

Once I get the tables in place, I can really start to put the clay and jewelry supplies where they "belong"-- most of which is yet to be decided, based on how things look and feel at the moment. Then I'll look into decorating the room a little. Well, both of the rooms, actually. The guest room needs a little more wall decor, as does the craft room. I'm thinking I'll move the cork board tiles we have in the office (where they never get used or looked at) into the craft room, somewhere where I can see them while I work. There'll still be lots of room for adornment, so that should be fun. I'm thinking that something with hooks on it would be nice-- to give me places to hang completed necklaces. I'll have to see what we have around the house...

I have so many ideas bouncing around inside my head, it's no wonder I was having trouble getting to sleep, caffeine or not! ;o) But I think I might be able to coax myself into dreamland, now, so I'd better give it a try-- or else I might not be awake for the table delivery!

Now won't I be annoyed if the tables never come tomorrow!? ;o)

Friday, January 12, 2007

New photos up at Flickr...

Along with the faux stone and faux metal pendants I mentioned in my last entry, I've uploaded lots of other new photos to my Flickr account.

Some of the stuff is "older", because I haven't taken photos of my clay stuff for quite a while. There are lots of pics of mokume gane beads and pendants, since that's one of my favorite techniques. There are also a few older attempts at faux metal and faux stone. You'll also find some closer-up photos of the "Galaxy Beads" I made.

There's also this picture of the shawl pin I made:

Remember, I wrote about shawl pins just a day or two ago, surprised to find that someone else was making similar objects from polymer clay-- and actually had photos of them on-line. I've drawn up lots of ideas for different shapes and sizes and styles of these. (The notes have been in my idea notebook for at least a year, I think.) Now I just need to get around to trying out a few of them. I think next time I'll make one out of something other than faux opal. For one thing, I'm getting out of the opal craze I went through for a while. For another, faux opals need lots of sanding and buffing, and that was kind of a pain, with this donut shape.

Mmm, donuts... I almost forgot that there are two of them sitting in a box on the coffee table, waiting for dessert tonight. Krispy Kreme-- yummy!! :o)

Faux stone and metal

Yesterday, I finally got around to photographing some of my polymer clay beads and pendants. Among the things I photographed were the recent batches of faux stone and faux metal pendants I textured with my homemade texture sheets.

Here are some of the antiqued faux stone pieces...

And here are some of the faux metal pieces...

This last one wasn't from a texture sheet. Instead, I just stamped into the clay with a rubber stamp and used an embossing tool to make dots around the stamped image. I used the same type of rub-on wax that I used for the other pieces of faux metal.
I was a little bit disappointed with how the photos of the faux metal turned out. I mean, they're clear enough, but they don't really capture the shine and "metallic-ness" of the originals. I'll have to see if I can come up with a better way to photograh them...

One other thing I don't like about these pieces-- any time I use metallic wax on a piece of jewelry, I pretty much have to seal it with a clear finish. This adds to the shine of the piece, but it actually makes them look less realistic, I think. Maybe it's because most metal just isn't shiny in that particular way. Maybe it's because the recessed "tarnished" parts (the parts with no metallic wax on them) are shiny, too, whereas real tarnished metal isn't. Either way, I can't really see a way around it. I think that I need to coat the whole piece to really seal the wax, but even if I didn't have to, it would be a major pain, trying to varnish just the upper parts of each piece... Maybe a satin finish would be less offensive to my sensibilities, but I doubt it'll make that much difference. It's just a trade-off-- if you want the look you get from metallic wax, you have to accept the gloss of the sealant.

On a positive note-- It's interesting, seeing how the same design looks with the upper parts highlighted vs. the lower parts being emphasized with paint. The same design can take on a totally different look, depending on how it's used.

One of the next things I wasn to try is making another set of black pendants with the texture sheets and treating them with mica powders instead of rub-on metallic wax.

Studio Friday - Travels

From Studio Friday:

"Travelling is a wonderful possibility to open for new inspiration and ideas. I´ll say it´s actually one of the greatest advantages to travelling!

A lot of new impressions and probably also new materials to bring home for future artwork. Maybe new friends - who knows? Anyway, I thought it could be very interesting to know where other bloggers travel. And if you don´t travel right now because of limited econonomy or other restrictions - I think we always travell in our mind: dreaming of somewhere in the countryside - or maybe a big city loaded with museums, galleries and flea markeds for new "input" for our studios and art."

~ Hanne

Real-life travelling--

Because my husband is Swedish, with all of this family still living in Sweden, and because we are currently paying off our house, building our savings, etc., money isn't in such high supply that we can go just anywhere we want to, whenever we want. When we do travel, a lot of it will be to Sweden, probably, so that we can visit Donald's family. I've been twice so far-- once before and once since our marriage.

The things that struck me most on my trips abroad--
  • In my eyes, the beauties of the countryside far outweign the attractions of the city, no matter what country I'm in.
  • That said, the verdigris copper roofs in Stockholm are charming, and the "Old City" is the epitomy of "quaint". (But I can't imagine living there in such cramped conditions!)
  • Oh, how I love being able to understand what people are saying nearly 100% of the time! The communication barrier is painful, after a while-- and this is in a country where the majority of citizens can speak or understand some English!
  • However, it is freeing, for a while, to not even have to bother interacting with strangers. This is in part because of the language barrier (my husband gets to deal with communication issues), but is also due to the fact that Swedes in general are much less likely to strike up random conversations with strangers. (It is even considered rude, by some!)
  • All Swedes are not fair-haired and blue-eyed. ;o)
  • The age of the structures-- the ancient burial mounds-- the stone circles placed by pagan hands-- the knowledge that there are records here going back for hundreds and hundreds of years! What a sense of history all around you!

We have also travelled somewhat within the US-- to Atlanta, New Orleans, Orlando, the Everglades, and up to the Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Appalachians will always hold a place in my heart because of all the times I went up there on family trips, before I was married. I think of them as cool, lush, beautifully misted places where you're never far from the soothing plash of a mountain stream (or the roar of a waterfall!) or a wildflower-starred valley full to the brim of golden sunshine, and where you might just catch a black bear in the gloaming, if you keep your eyes open.

For my "mental travelling"--

I guess I sometimes go back in my mind to the places I've actually been-- a certain field in Sweden-- Mingus Mill in the Smokies. I also frequent Prince Edward Island, as described by L. M. Montgomery, one of my favorite authors. Her descriptions of natural beauty always strike a chord in me. They remind me of scenes I myself have witnessed. They bring back the sense of magic I had as a girl soaking up the twilights and sunsets of my formative years. In many ways, they are a time machine for me, giving me a glimpse back into a past made lovelier by years gone by. No present could be quite so lovely as the past that is softened by a forgetfulness of all but beauty...

Ok, enough platitudes. My old writing teacher would say I was being "trite"-- as he did say, more than once. Hmph! ;o)

I dream so much more of "somewhere in the countryside" than of big cities. Cities can be exciting, in their place, but they tire me out and sometimes even frighten me. (I feel safer on a lonely but familiar woodland path than on a street corner. People are more likely to hurt you than plants or animals.) I'm usually happy to leave the city behind me and find peace and relative solitude in more natural surroundings.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Uploading some old(er) photos...

This morning, I've been uploading a few old(er) photos of polmyer clay stuff I've made-- to my Flickr account. There's a minin-sushi necklace I made:

...some crackled paint beads, like this one:

...a few pieces in the mokume gane style:

...and a "guest appearance" by my husband, Donald. He sculpted and painted this zebra's head for a work-related project:

Now I just need to get myself in gear and take some photos of more recent work!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Testing out my texture sheets...

I've been testing out the mini texture sheets I made a few days ago-- using them to make small, textured pendants.

For the first batch of tests, I mixed up some faux stone (translucent clay with inclusions). I now have all of those sanded (inclusions sometimes make for rough edges when you're using shape cutters), antiqued with acrylics (mostly white), and re-cured to heat-set the paint. I'm going to try buffing a few of them to finish them off. Strictly speaking, they don't even have to be buffed, but I prefer that look, myself. Then, maybe, I'll get around to photographing them.

While antiquing them, it became apparent that some of the textures probably lend themselves better (or at least as well) to metallic wax, mica powder, or other "upper surface" highlighting than to antiquing. So I've just finished baking another batch with black clay, which I intend to treat with metallic waxes, once they've cooled (and I have time). To tell the truth, I had intended to touch some with waxes and others with mica powders, but I didn't realize until they'd been in the oven for 30 minutes that I should have done the powders prior to curing. Doh! Can you tell I haven't used that particular technique very often? Well, I'll just have to make another batch, sometime.

I've also started the first steps in one of the other projects I mentioned before-- the crackled paints on very thin sheets of translucent clay, applied paint-down to base beads. So far, I've just painted the clay and am waiting for it to dry so that I can crackle it. I used each of the three new Daler-Rowney acrylic inks I got for Christmas-- Silver Pearl, Birdwing Copper, and Mazuma Gold-- plus a new shade of Dazzling Metallics (Festive Green), FolkArt's Metallic Blue Topaz (a lovely teal color), and a color of my own mixing. The color is a pale sky blue mixed with a product that can be mixed with any acrylic paint to create a pearlized equivalent of the color. It was a bit thick and didn't go on very smoothly, so I may have to look into changing how best to use that product-- especially if it doesn't want to crackle very well. However, even with pre-mixed, store-bought paints, I've noticed that there is a wide variance in how well they crackle-- even between different colors in the same line of paints. I like to crackle, but it can be a bit unpredictable. That's part of its appeal, actually. If all else fails, I can always use scrap clay!

Lumina clay

A while back, there was a link at Polymer Clay Daily to the work of Camille Young. Her floral pins have a wonderful delicacy to them that I can't help but admire (though I do wonder how hard they are to keep dust-free, with all those crevices). However, she works not with regular polymer clay (which must, of course, be baked to harden) but with an air-dry clay-- Lumina. She demonstrates the flexibility of the finished product on her blog.

I am hesitant to start up with a new medium just yet-- partly because Lumina clay isn't as easy for me to find locally-- but I see no reason why I can't take inspiration from her delicate florals and bring them to regular polymer clay. Indeed, I have seen polymer clay artists create similarly thin works from familiar brands of clay. I guess I just don't have that confidence in the strength of the medium, yet. I started with a weaker brand of clay, had a couple of things break early on, and have been nervous ever since. I should also remember that, as wearable art, my creations don't always have to be able to withstand rough handling. I can simply let it be known that they must be treated with reasonable care.

So, anyway, a big fan of her florals! Beautiful work! :o)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Texture sheets and tutes...

So, I followed my own advice, dug through some buckets of shells, and found some that I thought would make interesting textures. I also raided my craft odds-n-ends and picked out promising bits and pieces. Next, I made some nice sheets of clay and tested the textures. Some of the things I thought would be my favorite textures are actually not that impressive, but on the other hand, I also discovered a few things (such as barrel-shaped metal beads and fabric trim) that made very interesting textures. Now that I've tried it, I think I have a better idea of what will or will not work as a texture, but it's easy enough to test things. :o)

For that first batch, I made several small texture sheets using Bake & Bend clay. I chose to make small sheets for a couple of reasons-- First, since this is new for me, I wanted to make sure I was doing it "right". (I seem to have done well enough. The sheets work, at least, and my choices of textures range from "okay" to "oh yeah!".) Second, most of what I make with clay is relatively small-- beads and pendants. I don't really need a huge texture sheet for that. Making them small allows me to make lots more textures with the same amount of clay. (And with the 2-oz. blocks of Bake & Bend apparently going off the market, this makes a difference. I won't be able to restock that particular brand of clay during the 99-cent clay sales, but will have to buy the pricier combination packs, once I run out.)

So, success on that front! :o) Yay!

While making the sheets, I had a few a-ha moments and I think I have the makings of a couple more tutorials to go up on Polymer Clay Web. (Ok, so I already have more content to write than I could get done in a month, probably, but it's still good to have new ideas that I'm excited about.) I'm thinking of doing one on homemade texture sheets, one on homemade tools (including texturing tools), and one on shawl pins.

On the subject of shawl pins... Ever since I first saw one in a yarn catalog a year or so ago, I've wanted to make them from clay. One of my very first projects was an attempt at one, but because I used SculpeyIII (and no reinforcement/armature), it broke. :o( I finally did make a sturdier one in faux opal a couple of months ago. (Haven't photographed it yet, though-- need to do that!) The a few days ago, when I was looking for polymer clay-related blogs, I came across something interesting. A clayer named Eva-- someone whom I vaguely recognized from PCC-- had photos on her blog of something very, very similar to "my" shawl pins. Actually, they're basically the same thing (becasue she describes how they're meant to be used, and yep, that's a shawl pin), but she calls them "pin-buttons". Evidently, she made them for a Syndee Holt chat/project, and Syndee liked them so much that she suggested that Eva send them to Belle Armoire. Strange, how two completely separate people can come up with the same basic idea. Of course, someone else may have had the same idea years ago, and shawl pins themselves certainly aren't anything new.

Back to the subject of tutorials, Donald's putting together a downloadable PDF of the faux opal tutorial I wrote for the website. He's also been working on the tutorial for a faux pirate coin project he did on his own. And one of these days, he'll get around to putting up my mokume gane tutorial and PDF. In the meantime, I ought to start working on the other tutorials and techniques I have yet to write.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Studio Friday

I didn't participate in Studio Friday (see the link in the right-hand column), even though one of the first things I thought of when I started this blog was, "Hey, now I can join in at SF!" I looked at the topic and wasn't sure what to write. But now that other people's responses are popping up, I see that I could have written something, after all. So maybe I will, now.

Here's the topic:
This week's topic for Friday January 5th suggested by Susan: CHANGING NAMES...
"I've been reading Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit and here's an idea from her book - " the ancient masters of Japanese art were allowed to change their name once in their lifetime. They had to be very selective about the moment in their career when they did so. They would stick with their given name until they felt they had become the artist they aspired to; at that point, they were allowed to change their name. For the rest of their life, they would work under the new name at the height of their powers." So let's presume we are at the height of our careers - what name would you choose and why? "
~ Susan

I wouldn't change my name in my "real life". I know this because I have actually given it some thought before.

I've probably given more thought to names-- and my own name in particular-- than most people have, simply because my name is rather unusual-- for a girl, at least. Every now and then I hear about another female "Michael", but it's certainly not a common occurence, and growing up, I got a lot of "How do you pronounce that?" and "Is it Michelle?"... Oh, and "Your parents must've wanted a boy." I don't mind surprise or slight confusion, but the suggestion that my name indicates that I "should have" been a boy does irritate me a bit, I must admit.

When I was in kindergarten, somehow or other (I don't recall the details) the kids called me by my middle name (a more traditionally female name) for a week or so. It was ok, but after the novelty wore off, I was ready to go back to my real name. When I was older, my parents gave me the option to legally change my name, if I wanted to, but I don't think I ever seriously considered it. I am Michael, and I wouldn't want to change that, even if it does get me some double-takes.

The sort of name I might consider changing is my on-line name/identity. Lately, I've been known on-line as "peskimo" (derived from Daisy, my "pesky Eskie" American Eskimo Dog) and Mossy Owls (derived from a Swedish saying my husband taught me). I wouldn't want to change from MossyOwls at the present time, because I'm just now getting started toward someday selling some of my polymer clay creations on-line under that name. It doesn't make good business sense to change your on-line name too often. If you switch just when people begin to recognize your name, you'll confuse them!

So, no name change for me-- not for now, at least.

So much to do, so little time!!

I don't think I'll ever get around to using all the beautiful, exciting polymer clay techniques I've taken notes on! ...But it sure will be fun trying! ;o)

Here are a few items on my short list of things to try:

  • Crackled/crazed paint on translucent clay. Something I saw in an ad in the latest issue of Polymer Cafe caught my eye and reminded me of something else I'd seen. Anyway, the basic idea is, I think, to crackle paint on an ultra-thin sheet of translucent clay. (I'll dip into my reserve of Bleached Translucent/Frost for this one, since ultimate translucence will help with the look of the finished product.) You may want to do this with a variety of coordinating colors of paint. Then you take a base bead (or sheet of clay or whatever) and apply bits of the crackled-paint-clay to the base, with the paint side facing down. Smooth seams, etc. and bake. Oh, and I'm sure you can layer as many pieces of the crackled-paint clay on the base as you like. Overlapping different colors might be a nice effect. Early in my "claying career", I was obsessed with crackled paint. I still like it, though I've wandered more in other directions. I think this technique might give more of the look of dichroic glass, which is why I liked the crackled paint so much to being with.
  • Make texture sheets and/or molds from seashells, pressed glass, etc. I've been meaning to try this for such a long time. I have made molds of a few plastic beads, but beyond that, I've held off. There's really no reason to do so, though. I'm going to look through the house and yard for interesting textures to capture. I'm pretty sure I can find at least two or three in a couple buckets of seashells Donald and I picked up on Sanibel Island last year. :o)
  • Make miniature foods. I've made mini sushi beads and tried some mini chocolates, but that's the extent of my miniature food experience. I'd like to try the chocolates again, as well as some cake slices and things. I'm a little less certain of where to start with this plan, since the minis I most admire have an unusual texture that really doesn't look like plain polymer clay. I probably need to mix something in with the clay to get the right texture, but I only have a few ideas as to what. Well, I can at least give those few ideas a try. :o)

So, even with just those three things, I could keep myself busy for a looong time.
Better get started!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Galaxy Beads

Take a look at my first attempts at the "Galaxy Bead" project in Katherine Duncan Aimone's new(ish) book, Polymer Clay: The Art of Jewelry. (The book was a Christmas gift from my parents. Thanks, Mom and Dad!) The photo quality's not much, but it'll have to do for now. It's too dark to take a decent photo (since I normally use natural light). At least you can get the basic impression:

The project was contributed by Jennifer Bezingue. I didn't recognize the name, but the beads (and another, similarly styled project she contributed to the book) are absolutely gorgeous, I think.

I had fun with the project, though it was a little bit of slow going at first. Even by the last bead I made, they're still rather time-consuming beads to make. I'm sure I could crank them out faster by pre-cutting the appliques, but I like to see what I need for each bead as I go. Besides, I don't really need to crank them out.

One thing I had a little trouble with-- in the book, many of the appliques are these darling little stars-- far, far smaller than the smallest star-shaped cutter I have (the Makin's Clay brand of cutters). I ended up using mostly the hand-cut swirls and drinking straws to cut circles and crescent moons. I think the moons turned out pretty well, but I really loved the look of the stars, so I'm putting that on my "Maybe Someday" wish list, assuming I can ever even find a place that sells such tiny shape cutters. Art stores on-line probably do...

So, anyway, fun project, beautiful beads. I'm looking forward to trying it again, maybe with a few twists on the basic idea next time.

Fabulous Faux Opals

I love the look of opals, so I was very excited when I learned that it's possible to make faux opals from polymer clay.

(Actually, faux opals were one of my very first projects with clay-- maybe even the very first. The imitative techniques were that convinced me that this polymer clay stuff might be fun to play around with. I loved the faux opals, mother of pearl, abalone, jade-- and so many others, too!)

There's an old legend that opals are bad luck. Some versions of the legend say they're bad for everyone, others say they're just bad luck for those who don't have the opal as their birthstone. (But I have heard that you can get around this if someone gives you the opal as a gift. Buying an opal for yourself is a no-no. ) However, I haven't seen anything about getting bad luck by wearing a faux opal. ;o)

While I'm not a particularly strong believer in most legends of this type, I am somewhat deterred by the price of some real opals. ;o) Plus, it's nice to be able to make "opals" in whatever size and shape you like. It's also fun to tell people who admire the "opal" that you made it yourself-- from clay, of all things! (Of course, they may not believe you...)

I've read about numerous techniques for imitating opals-- some in books, some on-line. My favorite opal recipe from a book can be found in Irene Dean Semanchuk's beautiful Faux Surfaces in Polymer Clay, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in imitative techniques. For free (yay!) on-line tutorials, my favorite two (by other people) are Linda Geer's and Barbara Reider's versions.

After playing around with everything I was able to find about faux opals and tweaking things according to my tastes (and what I had in my supply cabinet), I put my own version of the technique in an on-line tutorial, which you can find here at Polymer Clay Web.

Here's a photo of some of the faux stones I've made with this technique:

Of course, with something like this, with all the translucency and layers of glitter, it looks better in person than in any photograph. I love the way the "fire" in even faux opals shifts as you turn them in your hand.

As you can probably tell from the photo, I'm especially fond of the pinkish/yellow-green-tinted opals, but you can make them in any color you like. I've made them with cotton candy pink and blue, peach, and other colors, too.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Glow-in-the-Dark Clay

Glow-in-the-dark (GITD) clay doesn't seem to be used much, in general, but there should be some interesting applications for it... For instance:

  • Try GITD clay for anything you need to see or find in the dark-- keychains, switch plates (for light switches), lighters, ceiling fan pulls, pens (?), etc. The clay won't glow all night long, of course, but it works for a little while.

  • Why not use GITD clay for doll house miniatures or artistic representations of anything that would glow or give its own light "irl"? Stars, the moon, flashlights, lanterns, lit matchsticks, candle flames, light bulbs/fixtures, lighthouses, etc.

  • GITD clay is an obvious choice for anything spooky-- ghosts, eyes on scary animals or figures, bones (I've seen some great GITD bone earrings!), skulls, UFOs, alien faces, jack-o'-lantern faces, etc.
  • Kids love stuff that glows in the dark! (Well, at least they did back when I was a kid in the 80's, and I think they probably still do.) So basically anything that you make for a kid, if you make it so that it glows in the dark, it'll just be that much cooler. ;o)

  • You can buy different colors of GITD clay or start with the basic color (the only one readily available to me without ordering on-line) and tint it yourself-- just don't add too much color, because that will decrease the glow of the clay.
  • Rather than only making things out of one color of GITD clay, consider combining colors or even combining GITD clay with regular clay. (I think opaque white, black, green, pink, or fluorescent colors could all make interesting combinations with glow clay, as could tinted or untinted translucent.) I'd like to use some of these different clays in combination with GITD to make simple, bold canes, such as checkerboard, bull's-eye, jelly-roll, and striped canes. (Can't you just imagine how pretty they'd be while glowing?)

  • Crisp-edged shapes or patterns with clean outlines would probably be the most effective with GITD clay. I'm thinking stars, moons, hearts, diamonds, key shapes-- anything with a simple, clear shape.
Here's a tip: As anyone who's been claying a while can tell you, polymer clay addicts live for the clay sales that happen at certain chain arts and crafts stores (Michaels, mostly) every few months or so. You can get the 2-oz. blocks of clay for .99, .88-- even .77 each. (Usually it's a 99-cent sale.) This is a great deal for any brand or color of clay, but it's an even better deal if you're interested in glow-in-the-dark clay, because that type is usually more expensive than the non-glowing clay. (Or at least, when I compared prices, it was.) So don't forget to try a block or two of GITD clay the next time there's a sale!

I haven't done a whole lot with GITD clay, myself, yet, but as you can see, I've been brainstorming possibilities, and there are quite a few. And I did whip up some glow-in-the-dark polymer clay earrings to give to the women in my family at aNew Year's Eve party. (I thought we'd have fun glowing through the fireworks display, but as it turned out, there were no fireworks, so the glowing was at a minimum in the well-lit house. :o( Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?)

So, here are the two styles of earrings I've made (to date) with glow-in-the-dark polymer clay. This is how they look when the lights are on:

And here are the "moon and star" pair with the lights off:

Pretty neat, huh? Well, I like them, at least. Maybe it's just the kid in me that gets such a kick out of making my own cute trinkets that actually glow in the dark. Seriously, I feel the need to a have a little girl just so I can shower her with GITD jewelry and room decorations-- maybe her name in glow-in-the-dark "lights" on the wall... ;o)

Go ahead! You know you want to! Satisfy the kid in you-- pick up a block of GITD clay and spread a little glow across the world! ;o)

There's been a whole lotta linkin' goin' on!

Last night, I spent some time adding some links to the sidebar. Some of them I've been reading for a while, some I visit from time to time, and a few are totally new to me. I tried to stick mostly to blogs and websites with a focus on polymer clay, but some are more clay-centric than others...

For a daily dose of polymer clay art, I suggest Polymer Clay Daily. The author, Cynthia Tinapple, can be counted on to post something polymer clay and/or art-related nearly every day (except on weekends, I think). You never know what might turn up there, so it's a fun way to get your creative juices flowing.

Oh, and here's something new-- Maggie Maggio, a polymer clay artist who teaches color theory (as it pertains to clay), has a new blog. Read along to pick up some tips on how to use color to your greatest advantage.

As for the others, well, I'll let you check them out for yourself. ;o)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Getting things started...

Hi there, and welcome to my polymer clay blog!

Though I haven't blogged before, I'm not new to on-line publishing. I've kept some sort of on-line journal for five years or so, now. I still have one going-- visit www.mossyowls.com to see it-- but I didn't want to run my (few) readers off by jabbering about polymer clay and other crafty things non-stop, since most of them aren't into clay. Besides, a blog devoted just to polymer clay and crafts-- where I could let myself go wild writing about anything and everything... It seemed like a fun experiment. :o)

I really don't know exactly how this blog is going to look a few months down the road, but my (somewhat nebulous) plan is to make this a place for polymer clay related rambles, links to on-line stuff I like, lists, scrambled together ideas and "what if"s, and just about anything that comes to my mind. I'm a devoted note-taker and list-maker, and I'm looking forward to extending my polymer clay notebooks into the digital realm.