Friday, March 30, 2007

Studio Friday - Gluttony (and Lust)

I missed last week's Studio Friday, so I thought I'd catch up by doing two in one, today. I'll start with the more recent of the two. Tine is leading us through a series of prompts based on "The Seven Deadly Sins", and this week's sin is gluttony. Here's the prompt:

"What do you overindulge in during your days in your studio while creating? Food or drink? How bad is it and how bad is it for you? How are you planning on changing it?"

Since I work with polymer clay, my hands tend to be sticky when I'm in my craft room. Either that, or I'm wearing gloves. In either case, eating isn't easy, so I actually eat less when I'm working with the clay! I don't often drink in there, either, though I have been known to take a can of Dr. Pepper with me, if I'm very thirsty.

Tangent: Outside of the clay room, my guilty indulgences include Dr. Pepper, junk food, and sweets. I love pizza, ice cream, and candy... and Little Debbie snack cakes... and chips and popcorn. I do eat more candy/sweets and drink more soda than I ought to, probably. But I've got my cola-consumption down to one a day-- most days-- and I think that's about as good as it's gonna get! ;o) As for the candy and other sweets... Well, if they're in the house, I'm going to eat them, so I guess I'll have to stop buying them. :o( I like healthier snacks, too-- like fruit-- but if I have a less healthy option, I'm sorely tempted.



Depending on my mood, I may overindulge in talk radio or music (80s and 90s pop, Enya-esque, techno/dance, hammered dulcimer, Pink Floyd, The Wailin' Jennys-- my tastes are varied). That qualifies as gluttony of the ears, I guess? ;o)

The talk radio can sometimes be bad for me, as it can put me in a bad mood if I get too much of it-- but in limited doses, it's stimulating. As for the music, how could Enya or 80s pop ever be bad? ;o) Ok, after a while, I get tired of even my favorite music, so I switch CDs often and sometimes work in silence.

...Come to think of it, maybe I'm also a glutton for fake, miniature foods, since that's a large part of what I make, these days. I made these mini Pop-Tarts as a custom order just yesterday, and the cupcakes came out of the oven this afternoon.





Now for last week's topic:

"What do you desire? What feeds your passion and excessive love? Do you listen to your heart's desires or not? What happens if you do, what happens if you don't?"



Usually, my response would be a loud "New supplies!" (such as the alcohol inks pictured above), but since it's not long since my birthday, and since my husband totally over-did it and spoiled me with gifts ;o), and since I still have some of those gifts (new supplies among them) untried, un-played-with-- I really can't give that answer. I'm sure the day will come again when I'll be making a wishlist, but for now I don't really need much... in the way of clay supplies...

...but come to think of it... I actually have been making a wishlist of jewelry supplies. (blush) So that's the materialistic side of my "lust". I've been thinking of cabochon mounts (to use with the resin-making supplies waiting in the craft room)... ring blanks (or whatever you'd call 'em) to make some cool rings with... maybe some fancy bails to use on pendants instead of the jumprings I've been using... and so on. And I do have one or two new clay books I'd like to at least look through-- but they're not even published yet. (g)

On a different level, I desire to make beautiful or interesting things... to find new techniques that work for me-- that kind of thing.

My passion is fed by the fun I have working with the clay-- the joy I get in writing about and sharing photos of it-- the pride I take in a well-made piece-- and looking at the wonderful things others are doing with it.

I think I always at least listen to my heart's desire, but sometimes I tell it that it'll have to wait-- especially if it's wishing for yet another supply or tool. ;o) Don't feel too sorry for it, though. I indulge it often enough, trust me! (g)

When I do give in, I of course experience a temporary "high". ("Yay, I've got it!"-- whatever "it" happens to be.) Sometimes that high lasts, and I know it was a good decision; sometimes I end up wondering what in the world I was thinking. When I don't give in, I usually am just post-poning the inevitable, but there are times when I realize duing my cooling-off period that it was a good thing I thought it through.

I should probably impose a "cooling-off period" more often!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Texturing Tools and Other "Found" Goodies

I love reading about homemade and "found" tools for use with clay. I love it for a variety of reasons, including the following:
  1. It appeals to my thrifty side, for one thing. Less money spent on tools = more money left over to spend on supplies like clay and ink and other fun stuff.
  2. Finding a new tool for free is like winning a scavenger's hunt! ;o)
  3. I'm inspired by the ingenuity of the people who discovered that such-and-such effect can be made with this, that, or the other.
  4. I like the "custom-made" quality of it. (No-one is going to have a tool just like yours, if you've made it yourself! Found objects are almost as unique.)
  5. Something about it just brings back that feeling of... "poor-man's wealth", let's call it... that I so enjoyed when I was a child reading books about fairies and other tiny people using common cast-off objects to enrich their lives. A thimble becomes a cup. An empty spool of thread is a perfect sitting stool. And a box of cornflakes can feed the village for a month! (I also loved reading the Little House book with the Christmas pennies and imagining what would happen if I could go back in time and give Laura and Mary a whole dollar each. (g) What? Is it really that weird?)

So when Pookie B asked about what I use to texture my mini cookies, I thought it might be fun to write a post about some of the "around the house" tools I've been using. And if anyone has some others they'd like to suggest-- or a link to a related webpage-- that would be great, too! :o)

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For a fluffy, spongy texture, try pouncing a brush lightly over the clay. (Try pouncing less-than-lightly, too, for a different look.) I've tried a few different brushes-- just what I had handy at my worktable-- but I ought to try a larger variety-- and you should, too. ;o) Different brushes will produce different results. My current favorite brush is an old toothbrush.

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Old toothbrushes are also useful for getting paint into nooks and crannies when you're antiquing something-- or any other time you're trying to get paint into every possible opening.

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For a crackled look, use a small scrap of crumpled paper or aluminum foil. Crumple the paper or foil up, smooth it out again, and press it into the clay. Experiment with different degrees of "crumpledness", different thicknesses of paper, and different degrees of pressure when texturing the clay. Repeated "applications" of the paper/foil to the clay add more and more texture.

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For times when you don't want texture, a piece of thin paper can come in handy. Baking parchment is recommended, but if it's not available, try wax paper or any other paper you have access to. To remove light fingerprints or to soften or remove textures, try placing a piece of the paper over the clay and gently embossing (rubbing) your finger over the paper.

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This bit isn't all about texture, but texture comes into play at the end...

I usually bake my mini cookies on some type of paper. I baked the first one directly on the tile and didn't love the ultra-shiny finish it had on the bottom. (Not that the bottom of the cookie really matters, but still, it was just too smooth, and it bothered me. (g)) So these days I use paper.

Cardboard will work. (I use cardboard salvaged from food packaging. I figure I'll use it as much as possible before adding it to the garbage I throw away.) The only negative with cardboard is that it will bend in the heat of the oven, unless it's weighed down, and I've found that this can lead to slight curves in the lightweight cookies. Not a big deal, but I prefer to avoid it, if I can.

I mostly use baking parchment for the cookies. It doesn't bend as much as the cardboard, so I don't notice it affecting the shape of my cookies. My husband says that the texture on the bottom of the cookies (a result of baking them on the parchment) is just like the texture on the bottom of the real cookies he baked as a child. Now, we never used parchment, so I can't say, but maybe he's right. Clay does have an interesting way of picking up the texture of whatever surface it's baked on. If we remember that, we can use it to some interesting advantages. :o)

Oh, and I imagine you can bake the cookies on just regular paper, too-- but unmarked paper is best, as clay can pick up ink and newsprint if it's left in contact with it.

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Use drinking straws to press or cut circles into clay. Or cut the straws at an angle to make oval- or leaf-shaped cutters. Collect straws from different places so you'll have them in a variety of sizes. I love the tiny straws provided with coffee at fastfood places. The tiny straws that come with "juice packs" (like CapriSun) also work, though they're thicker.

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This isn't strictly a texturing tool, though I have I used it to make some textures... One of my favorite bead reamers (for use on uncured clay) is a thick needle I got in a set of "household-use" type needles. I believe it's a canvas or a sail needle. It's much thicker than a regular sewing needle, and it's blunt, so I don't have to worry about constantly pricking my fingers with it. The whole set of needles was just a dollar (at Dollar Tree, if you happen to have one nearby). I love this needle because it allows me to easily pierce my beads with holes big enough for the thicker stringing material I often use. A knitting needle would also work, but since I don't knit... ;o) A bamboo skewer would also do the trick.

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When making texture sheets, I used a variety of things I found in my "hardware scraps" jars. These included the heads of screws and the tips of wire nuts (those things you use to protect the connection when you screw two electrical wires together). You can find all sorts of textures in a toolbox! Try sandpaper, for instance, for a nice, even texture-- useful for covering fingerprints.

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Another of my favorite texturing tools-- one I use a lot for faux metal and stone-- is a large metal medallion I bought at a sale at Claire's. The necklace itself was, IMHO, hideous. The medallion was about four or five times bigger than anything I'd ever actually wear, but the medallion has a great textured design that transfers easily to clay.

So, while you aren't likely to find the same exact medallion I have, you can still remember to keep clay and textures in mind the next time you're at a sale (or wandering through the junkyard, or rummaging through the attic, or... you get the idea). You can get cool textures for next to nothing! Look at "junk jewelry", children's small toys and trinkets, silverware (for the patterns on the handles), shoes (for the patterns in the treds), speaking of treds-- the tires on toy cars are a great possibility, and the list goes on!

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For more information about texturizing tools, visit Polymer Clay Web's page on texturizers. One of these days, I'll get around to making more pages about texturizers and other found tools. It's on my list-- I promise! ;o) In fact, I'm in the process of writing a section about homemade stamps, which is certainly related to this subject.

At the bottom of that page, I've somehow failed to put any related links, I see. I'll have to remedy that. If there were a list of related links, this one would certainly be on it: Glass Attic: Texturing. Glass Attic is another excellent source for information about all things polymer clay. Sometimes there's so much information that it can be overwhelming, but it's a great place to browse for new ideas.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Latest incarnation of "Crackled Inlay"--

Last Wednesday, I wrote that I was "varnishing" a few pieces done in my latest version of the "Crackled Inlay" technique. I think that a few of them came out very nicely-- so much so that I probably ought to see about putting a photo or two up on the tutorial page, just to show how the alternatives can look. (Honestly, right now I think they look better than any photos I have of the original technique.)

I could probably have done a better job of the photographing, but oh well. For now here are photos of the front and back (or back and front, depending on which side you favor) of my husband's favorite pendant from the batch:



Not absolutely perfect, maybe, but much better than I thought when I first tried cutting the sheet of clay with the metal leaf on it!

One thing I noticed was that some of the colors I used for this project seemed to change during curing. I started with four different shades of tinted translucent clay. (I used alcohol ink-- Adirondack and Pinata brands-- to tint the clay, but colored clay should work, too.) One was yellow, one orange, and the two last were slightly different shades of salmony pink. Now, I wasn't surprised that the pinks turned out to be the same after curing. I'd rather expected that that might happen. What did surprise me was that I could barely tell the difference between the orange and the yellow. The orange looks like a slightly darker gold than the yellow, while the two pinks look orange! It's not really a problem in this case, but it could be annoying under other circumstances.

I'll have to keep an eye on this in the future-- try to notice which ones shift the most and in what "direction", etc. I wonder how much of this is related to the ambering effect that sometimes occurs when you cure translucent clay? I wouldn't have thought that would be an issue in this case, as I used Frost (aka Premo Trans. w/Bleach), which I believe is supposed to reduce yellowing. Anyway-- something to think about for next time.

I still have some of the "metal-leafed" sheets of clay, so I'll probably give this project another try. I'd like to think ahead this time, though, and maybe try something a bit different. I'm not sure what, but I find that if I don't make a conscious effort to try something new, I generally end up falling into the same patterns of size, shape, and decoration style in my beads and pendants. Like anyone, I have my own personal comfort zone, and I naturally gravitate toward it if I'm not taking active measures to reach beyond it.

That said, I have a cold right now, so maybe I can be excused if I cling to what comforts me, these days. ;o)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Delicious mini foods in clay!

If you're as infatuated with miniature foods as I am, you need to visit Iris Mishly's blog. She has a great post with links to several mini-food related websites-- some of which were totally new to me.

It's such fun to admire these wonderfully realistic works of art. :o) I haven't had a chance to go through all of the pages in their entirety, but I've already picked up a tip from one of them. Let me see... Which one was it...?

There.... It was on Betsy Niederer's page of tips and tricks. She writes that instead of using cornmeal or semolina (which I've been looking for off and on, to no avail) to add texture to your mini foods, you should use partially cured and crumbled clay. (The cornmeal and semolina can degrade over time, and as you might imagine, that's not good.) I don't think I would've thought of that on my own, but it makes perfect sense. I can't wait to give it a try!

Also on Betsy Niederer's page-- Go here and just look at those hotdogs and fries. I'd swear they were real if I didn't know better. Her work is stunningly realistic. Of course, it's also meant to be art, so I'm sure it takes a lot of time to do. I also wonder whether or not certain pieces would be "wearable"-- or if they have unsealed chalks and things on them that would rub off if handled too much. Still, it's beautiful just to look at, and I think I'm getting some ideas for how to improve my attempts at mini food jewelry.

Thanks, Iris, for the inspiring links! Just what I needed to jump start my will to "go mini" again! :o)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Studio Friday - Hope

This week's topic at Studio Friday is Hope:

"What gives you hope? How do you keep it up? What or who guides you through the rough patches and makes you keep on going no matter what?"

As far as people go, my husband is the one who buoys me up when my spirit of hopefulness is wearing thin. When I doubt the worth of something I'm doing-- when I begin to think that it's no good-- when I need someone to tell me that everything will be ok-- he's the one I can turn to for support. :o)

I can also count on my parents and my family in general to be supportive of me. That's at least one of the things the members of a family ought to do for one another, when they can-- try to see the best in us and help us to see it, too.

The natural world gives me hope, too. A step outdoors-- a breath of fresh air-- my dogs' eager attentions-- a glimpse of sky (be it sunny or clouded)-- all renew my hope for the future.

Sometimes, it's what I don't do that helps me keep up hope. For instance, there are times when the daily news (or "news", because so often the garbage isn't real news at all, but fabricated nonsense) is just too much. Sometimes the blogs and forums and "lists" I'm on take an emotional toll, making me feel that either I'm no good or the world in general is in tatters. So when I feel one of those moods coming up, I try to "unplug" from the rest of the world for a day or two. As I must sometimes remind myself, life does go on without my seemingly essential presence in these circles. ;o) And after a refreshing "mini-break", I'm usually eager to return to them and see what's happened in my absence.

"Just doing it" helps, too. If I'm worried that what I'm doing isn't working-- isn't good enough-- whatever-- just sitting at my table and making something can renew my interest and re-convince me that, yes, it is worthwhile.

I think so many of our (well, "my", at least) problems could be solved by less thinking/worrying and more doing.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Apart from the obsessing...

When I haven't been working to set the house to rights-- or obsessing over Etsy, Flickr, et al.-- in the itty-bitty smidge of time I've allotted to the clay this week (so far)-- I've been "Varathaning" a few pieces.

Ok, I lied. I haven't been "Varathaning"-- not because "Varathaning" isn't a word (if you're one of those who abhor the trend of hijacking nouns and forcing them to behave like verbs-- such as "journaling", "scrapbooking", and "efforting"). No, it's because (as I was informed on a pc message board) what I use is Minwax Polycrylic (the water-based kind) and that is not the same thing as Varathane.

So, I guess I've really be "Polycrlic-ing" a few pieces. I have no photos (yet), but that shouldn't stop me from writing about them.

One of them is... was, since it's finished, now... an aqua-teal nautilus-shaped spiral-shell pendant. (Actually, I do have a photo of that one... Let me go upload it...)



Ta-da! Ok, nothing too fancy, I guess, but it's not too bad for a failed project that I just made into something else on a sudden whim.

Another thing I "varnished"-- something I'm thinking of adding to Etsy. It's a bit different from anything else I've put there, because it will be a "custom-made" item. Basically, it's a glow-in-the-dark clay shape with a single letter of the alphabet on it in black. (That way, when it's glowing, the letter will stand out in contrast.) I'm thinking of uploading a pic of the one I've made (an "M") and a pic of the alphabet(s) from which the customer may choose. I don't know if there's much of a market for that sort of thing, but hey, it's only .20 to list it once, and maybe... Personalized stuff is popular with some people (particularly people with kids, I think), and kids like things that glow... and one of the two items I've sold was GITD... So I wanted to add one or two more GITD things, anyway... :o)

Everything else I've been varnishing is from my latest batch of "Crackled Inlay" alternative-method beads/pendants. I took my own advice and tried the method of tinting the translucent clay, adhering the metal leaf to that, and cutting shapes from it. At first, I was disappointed to find that the leaf didn't want to cut evenly. It was the same problem I'd had with the inked sheets of clay. Then Donald suggested that I might have better luck if I turned the clay over so that the leafed side was facing up. I tried it-- and I think it did make a little difference. Anyway, it worked well enough that I made a few beads and pendants, just to see how they'd turn out. I think some of them are pretty. I'm looking forward to photographing them. :o)

As a matter of fact, maybe I'll go see about turning one of them into something I can wear tomorrow... :o)

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Haven't been claying this week :o(

I haven't had much time for the clay this week. I've been busy trying to get things ready for: 1. the new furniture that's scheduled to be delivered on Friday, and 2. some house guests we're expecting... toward the weekend, sometime? It's Donald's (my husband's) sister, Ingela, and her S.O., Joachim. (I may have just terribly misspelled his name. Fortunately, it is very doubtful that he'll ever read this!)

However, in all honestly, I haven't been so busy that I couldn't have devoted a bit more time to claying. (Now, if I'd done all the things I needed to do, I would've been, but seeing as I didn't...) Instead, I've wasted possible clay-time by obsessing over my Etsy shop, my photos on Flickr, and possible ways to promote the shop, including signing up at various places on-line.

This obsessing is not a good thing. (Duh. Really? (g)) I mean, checking every so often-- noticing whether my views and hearts are increasing-- being interested in how things are going-- that's just natural. But when it's making me feel blue because nothing seems to happen (despite my best efforts), and when it's keeping me from doing something more productive-- not to mention a heck of a lot more fun-- then it's time that I stop.

Well, one good thing. I'll be too busy the next few days to spend much time on-line, even if I wanted to. ;o)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

I got feedback! Who could ask for anything more? ;o)

And it was positive, too!
Yay!

My first customer never made a peep. Probably didn't think about it. I know the package arrived (thanks to the delivery confirmation thingy at USPS.com), and I hope she was satisfied. Since she didn't complain, I'll assume she was.

But my second customer has left me a positive rating, which makes me happy. :o)

I kind of expected that she might, since I put in an extra little freebie along with her purchase. I had seen on her profile that she mentions she has twin girls, so I thought, "Maybe this is for one of her daughters..." and since I happened to have another (unlisted) item that was in the same style (and even had another kitten in it), I wrapped it up along with the other. And I must have been having a psychic moment ;o) because the feedback does in fact indicate that the pendant was for one of the twins, and now they both get one. :o)

So, anyway, yay for feedback. :o) And I'm glad that the pendants will have happy new owners, too.

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Mini Cookie Earrings

Over the weekend, I decided to play around with earrings.

To start things off, I made some mini cookie earrings to match the pendants I've been making. There are mini sugar cookies (pictured below), mini chocolate chip cookies (also pictured below), more mini sugar cookies (in a slightly different style, but there are no photos, yet), and mini peanut butter cookies.



For the mini chocolate chip cookies, I slightly altered my style from the mini chocolate chip cookie pendant I made earlier. Instead of using "pointed" chocolate chips, I flattened them out. I think I prefer the pointed chips, but the flattened ones are probably more realistic, since I think the chocolate chips would probably melt in the oven.



I also tried my hand at miniature cupcake earrings. I think I can improve them with a little tweaking here and there. Working in miniature made it harder for me to get them just the way I wanted them. Maybe making slightly larger miniatures-- say, for pendants or cell phone charms-- would be a bit easier.

This was also my first time to use a polymer clay icing/frosting. It worked very well (apart from being messy), and I'm looking forward to trying the frosting on some other miniatures. Cakes come to mind, of course, and possibly cookies, but I can't think of much else that needs that precise texture...




There are more photos of these particular miniatures at my Esty shop. :o)

Making earrings is fun. :o) Of course, you do have to make two items that are reasonably similar is size, shape, etc., but that's not so hard, and with mini foods, it's ok if they're slightly different, since real food varies in shape and size, too.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Studio Friday - Fragile!

This week's topic at Studio Friday is "Fragile!"

Here's the prompt:
What is the most fragile in your studio? What makes it so fragile? What would you do without it and where do you keep it so it is safe and won't break?

Hm. Well, I have some metal leaf (which I use for mokume gane and a few other techniques), and that's pretty fragile. The stuff is rather maddening to work with, actually. It's incredibly thin and lightweight, so it really wants to fly away and tear into millions of featherweight pieces-- or be lifted on the slightest breath of air and crumple together.

But to tell the truth, the first thing I thought when I read the prompt was, "the clay itself!" Which is... misleading, maybe. After all, polymer clay, if of a good brand (Premo, Fimo Classic, Kato, for instance) and if cured correctly, is fairly durable. Some people swear that their clay pieces can be twisted and "bent" without breaking. I'm still too nervous to do that with my own stuff-- but I did try it on a little scrap of clay rolled into an ultra-thin snake and cured-- and it was very flexible.

So, why do I still think of it as "fragile"? I guess there are a couple of reasons. First, I started out with Sculpey III and had a couple of my early pieces break. That "put the fear in me", so to speak. Second, I'm extremely cautious about the curing of my work. I don't want to scorch it, of course, but neither do I want it to be "under-cured" and disintegrate over time. I don't worry about it quite so much, these days, but I'm still vigilant about it. And I guess that translates into my persistent feeling (right or wrong) that the clay is fragile... Or at least, that the curing process is fragile-- delicate-- requiring careful attention.

The other parts of the question--

If metal leaf "breaks" (or tears, rather), I can still use it. It's just a bit more of a pain to adhere to the clay in a somewhat-solid sheet. But since I usually crackle it, anyway, a little tearing here and there doesn't matter much.

If I had to do without it, I'd just use metallic paints and inks instead. I already use them and am happy with the results. The metal leaf has a nice look, but sometimes I actually prefer the paints. In other words, life would go on. ;o)

I store the metal leaf in the package it came in. It comes in little "booklets", sandwiched between sheets of tissue paper. I keep these booklets in the snap-shut plastic sheets they were originally packaged in. It's "nice and neat", and I like that-- though you might not guess it to see my house, right now! ;o)

As for the clay-- What would I do without it? Well, since it is the primary component of most of what I do... I'd be stuck! I'd have to find another medium, I guess. Fortunately, it's not really that fragile. Oh, and if a single piece breaks (which does happen from time to time-- especially if I'm experimenting with something new), I can either try to repair it, save it for the scrap pile, or toss it out and start over.

There's really no way for uncured clay to "break", but it can be partially cured if it's stored in too warm or sunny of a location. If left open to the air, it will also collect dust and hair. I store the uncured clay in plastic bags, which I keep in plastic boxes (for long-term storage) or small plastic, unlidded bins (for immediate use). If I know I won't be using it for a while, I sometimes keep the uncured clay in the fridge, in a crisper drawer. The cooler temperature is supposed to keep it fresh for a longer period of time.

Cured pieces are just here and there, in ziploc bags, in a bead box, in small bins-- waiting for me to turn them into jewelry. I keep them where they won't be trod upon or eaten by my dogs. I don't think much else will hurt them, unless you go out of your way to damage them! (g)

I don't work with very fragile materials, I guess. The clay and accompanying materials are fragile enough for me!

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Pirate Booty - coins and pendants

Today, I uploaded a little bit of pirate treasure to my Etsy shop and my photos at Flickr. Here's one photo of the silver-tone pendant I made last week:

I've also uploaded photos of a copper-tone one antiqued with verdigris, and there are photos of a gold-tone one I have yet to upload.

They're all made from the same mold-- a mold my husband carved himself for a tutorial at our clay website. The tutorial illustrates how to make a "pirate coin". I just took it a step further and turned the coin into a pendant/medallion.

I tried out a new finish on these coins-- matte instead of the high gloss I normally use. I think the matte is a vast improvement over the gloss-- at least, for things that don't look right with a high gloss. IMHO, the high gloss never has looked right on my "faux metal" pieces. They're simply too shiny with it. The matte doesn't 100% authentic, either, I think, but it's pretty good for things that must be sealed. (These medallion pendants have to be sealed because the rub-on wax would otherwise rub off on skin or clothes-- eek!)

Hm. The dryer's buzzing at me. Time to go...

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Crackled Inlay" experiment #1...

So, a couple of weeks ago I tried out one of the alternative ways I'd brainstormed to do "Crackled Inlay". (The link takes you to the tutorial for the technique.) The results were... well, not quite what I'd expected.

The idea was to paint a thin sheet of translucent clay with alcohol ink, let the ink dry, apply metal leaf to the inked side of the clay, and cut shapes from this sheet to apply (leafed side down) to base beads.

I ran into two problems.

First problem-- The metal leaf didn't adhere as well to the inked clay as it does to uninked clay. (I'd wondered how this would work. Turns out the answer is "not so well"!) Now, there may be better ways to do this than what I tried. Maybe it sticks better if you adhere the metal leaf before the ink is dry. I doubt it-- it sounds kind of messy, actually-- but I suppose it's possible.

Second problem-- Once I got the metal leaf kinda-sorta on the inked clay and tried to cut shapes from the sheet (using a wavy blade, mostly), I saw that the metal leaf didn't cut as cleanly as I'd hoped. Meaning there were tiny bits of metal leaf sticking out from the sides of my shapes. (The leaf was tearing loose from the clay in places, so parts of it had no leaf and other parts had loose bits of leaf sticking out randomly.) Now, this did vary somewhat. I tried three colors of ink, so I had three inked sheets of clay. One sheet seemed to cut more neatly than the others. (Not sure what was going on there...)

I made one focal bead with "inlay" from the best sheet of inked and leafed clay. I think it turned out nicely. At least, it looked good enough that I gave it away as a gift before I had a chance to photograph it. But overall, this twist on the technique just didn't work for me. It was such a pain trying to get the leaf to adhere to the inked clay.

I hated to waste that metal leaf and translucent clay, so I came up with another idea to use my left-overs. I reconditioned each sheet of clay separately, breaking up the metal leaf and working the ink into the clay. Then I fed each sheet through the pasta machine and cut my shapes from them. (And applied the shapes to the base bead, etc., etc., according to the original technique.) This was much easier to cut into shapes! The results were a totally different look, too.

So far, I've only photographed one bead from that set, and I don't have the photo on this computer, so I can't upload it here, but if you're interested, just go to my Flickr page. Or better yet, here's a link to the exact photo. It's not the best photograph (and it seems to look worse on this monitor than on the one I normally use!), but it gives you an idea, at least. (For future reference, I used aluminum leaf, Premo Frost and Black, and two shades of Adirondack Alcohol Inks-- Lettuce and Stream-- for this bead.)

So. I was disappointed with the failure of my initial idea, but the lemons made a pretty decent glass of lemonade. ;o) And I have another idea for how to get the more traditional crackled look from the metal leaf. (It's one I've seen in others' work before. I thought my way might look better, honestly, but it turns out that "my" way doesn't really work, so... (g))

Instead of painting the surface of the translucent clay with ink and applying metal leaf to that, try this: Drop the ink onto the translucent clay (or paint it on, if you really must, but it's not necessary). Let the ink dry thoroughly. Mix the ink into the clay. You can either mix it completely or leave some marbling (streaking). And if you don't have alcohol ink, you can also use a tiny pinch of colored clay... or possibly a little acrylic paint-- just don't over-do it, as you want lightly tinted translucent clay. Roll the clay through the pasta machine (or by hand, into a thin, uniform sheet). Apply the metal leaf. Turn the sheet with the metal leaf down and cut your shapes from the sheet.

Now, I haven't tried this yet. It may turn out that it gives you the same problem with the leaf wanting to tear when you cut your shapes, but I think the problem I had was due to the fact that the leaf never really adhered to the inked clay the way I had hoped it would. If you do have problems with tearing, you might try cutting out your shapes with a very sharp craft knife (rather than duller shape cutters and such).

I'm looking forward to trying this new twist on the technique and seeing how it works... :o)

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