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 P√Ęte 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: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/magazines.asp

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: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/tools.asp.) 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: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/materials.asp

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)