Friday, April 27, 2007

"Transferred" to a whole new world!

Image transfers are one of those "messy" subjects-- one of those things you hope a newbie never asks you to explain. ;o) Not because you're hoarding away your secrets, but because, well, there are so many different ways to do it, and it seems that there's just a little bit of magic involved in each of them. One person swears by this method, while another warns you that said method has never, ever worked for her. Nearly all explanations of the various processes conclude with "you just have to play around with it until you find a technique that works for you".

(That's true of many techniques, actually, but maybe more so than usual with image transfers.)

I've dabbled in image transfers once before-- but only enough to get the very tips of my fingers in the water. I used the T-shirt paper method, in which you use your home inkjet printer to print an image onto T-shirt paper-- the type that you can use to make iron-ons for T-shirts. You then emboss the print-out (image side down) onto a sheet of clay (usually white) and cure the clay for a short period of time. You peel the paper away, and ideally, you're left with a transferred image. (That's the method I used to make these key chains.)

Well, today I finally got around to playing with my new Kato Liquid, which can also be used to make image transfers.

(The Kato Liquid has been "new" since my birthday, back in February. Haven't I mentioned before that I have a problem with procrastinating? I have several other things I want to try with the Kato Liquid, too, so maybe now that I've started, I'll keep going!)

Because Kato Liquid (aka Kato Sauce) is clearer than TLS, it is generally favored for use with image transfers, but both can be used-- as can Fimo Decorating Gel, I'm sure. I'm fairly certain there are a number of ways to use Liquid Kato for transfers. The way I chose was this: Choose a picture/illustration/whatever from a glossy-paged magazine or catalog. (I used a catalog. More on that in a minute.) Trim the piece from the magazine. Apply a thin layer of the liquid clay to the side of the paper bearing the image you want to copy. Smooth it out evenly, trying to avoid bubbles as you go. Pop it into a pre-heated 275-degree (F) oven for... well, the bottle didn't give instructions. Since it was such a thin layer (and would be re-cured, later), I didn't figure it needed too long, but I try to cure for "a good long time", so I left it in for 10 minutes. (I also used an aluminum foil tent, as always.) To get optimal clarity-- if you're using Liquid Kato-- hit the clay side with a heat gun until all cloudiness disappears. (This took longer than I expected, and I was beginning to think that I'd just put on too much clay, but then it suddenly began to clear, and wow, what a difference that made!) Allow it to cool, then soak in water for a while. Gently rub away the paper. Admire the results. ;o)

I'm not sure if I got all the paper off my transfer, yet, so I'm re-soaking it, just to be sure, but I think I got most of it. Here's a photo of my first try, looking down through the liquid clay. (The other side is a big messier to look at, which leads me to think that I haven't gotten all the paper off yet.)



The photo's not that great-- reflections from water on top of it-- and there are a few bubbles that I missed-- but hey, for a first try, I have to say that I'm very impressed with this technique! It was so quick and easy! And now I have a permanent copy of this picture, which I've admired since I first saw it. (It's the "autumniness" of it. I'm one of those annoying "autumn people" who have never gotten over the obligatory adolescent obsession with fall. (g))

The drawback would be that if you're using a magazine photo, you can only make one transfer of each photo. Also, there are some copyright issues you'll have to look into, if you're making things to sell. But if you're just playing around, this seems like a super-easy way to go.

A couple of things I love about the possibilities this technique presents-- the "decal" (the image transfer on the liquid clay) is so flexible that it could very easily be applied to something rounded. (The other method I described would make image transfers to curved objects more problematic.) It would also be simple to trim the decal down to any shape you want. You could probably even cut through it with decorative edging scissors!

If you're like me, you're always finding beautiful images in magazines-- things that you'd love to save and use, somehow, so that you could see them again and again-- but you can only use so much stuff for decoupage or pages in your "inspiration journals". It might not be practical to make image transfers of huge pictures, but this is definitely a simple way to make pendants, charms, key chains-- whatever-- from your favorite smaller "borrowed" images.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with these things-- how best to turn them into jewelry and such-- so I can make more of them! ;o)

On a tangent-- If you don't get a lot of magazines-- or if you don't want to cut up your magazines-- don't forget catalogs. There are lots of them available for free. Try searching the Internet. (For instance, there's this page.) Now, of course I'm not encouraging you to order catalogs if you have no intention whatsoever of making a purchase, because that would be unethical and would kill trees and the fairies and elves that live amongst them... ;o) But what you decide on your own to do is up to you. (g)

  • Catalogs for clothing and furniture sometimes have pretty photos of fabric swatches.
  • Those that sell home decor often have interesting objects or motifs decorating the objects.
  • Wedding invitation catalogs have script-style fonts (if you want text) and details like floral/romantic illustrations and (photos of) embossed patterns.
  • Travel brochures and kits that you can request on-line will include beautiful landscape photos-- and maybe even maps.
  • Post stamp catalogs have great photos of-- you guessed it!-- postage stamps!
  • Don't foget about the glossy sales papers and circulars you get in the mail. Give them a look-through before automatically tossing them.
  • Other glossy papers-- like old calendars-- can also be used for this purpose. If you have the stomach for it (some can't bear even the thought of it), you could probably also use pages from illustrated books, if the pages are glossy.

So, I'm going to have to give this some more thought and try to turn my "autumn decal" into something useful...

ETA:
After posting this, I learned a couple more things about this transfer technique and thought I ought to pass them along.

1. You know the side of the transfer that was "a bit messier to look at"? It was mainly "messier" because parts of it were still covered with a slight film of white. So I went back and started scratching it off with a fingernail. It came off, alright, but (a bit too late) I noticed that my scratching was also removing the colors of the transfer! So don't do that! (g) In future, I'll just be happy to use the non-messy side!

2. After realizing that I was scratching away the transfer, I placed the still-wet decal transfer-side down on a scrap envelope. (It was a piece of junkmail with a slightly glossy-textured envelope, in case the type of paper might make some difference.) It dried there, and a day or two later, I came back for it, peeled it off the envelope, and saw that still more color had been left behind on the envelope! I don't know how much-- if it's enough to be visibly missing on the transfer-- but the color left behind on the envelope was obvious enough. So that's another no-no. Don't place your transfer "inked"-side down on something-- especially if it's wet.

I'm thinking, now, that it's best if you just gently rub-- don't scratch!-- away the paper, let it dry with the transferred side up, not touching anything else (or gently dab it dry it with a cloth)-- and use it ASAP, preferably sealing the delicate side with clay, glue, glass--whatever. I'll give it another try one of these days.

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Studio Friday - Wrath and Envy

Since I missed last week's Studio Friday topic, I thought I'd squeeze them both in this week. (No pictures this time, though. Sorry!)

Last week's topic was Wrath.
I will admit that I have a bit of a temper, and sometimes-- when I'm working with something tiny or fiddly-- I can get annoyed with the situation. And there may be the occasional pitching of a fit. ;o) When I feel the frustration growing, I try to give myself a break-- stop myself from getting to the point that I want to scream and punch walls. (g)


Top 5 Causes of Wrath in a Clayer's Studio ;o) --
  1. Burnt or scorched clay
  2. Bubbles in the Varathane (or your sealant of choice)
  3. Lint and hairs in the clay
  4. Fingerprints!! everywhere!!!
  5. Unplanned plaquing
This week's topic is Envy:
"What do you desire that you are lacking and someone else has? If you could have it would you really want it or is it just a notion? How come you want to have it? What can you do to still that desire so that there is no need to be envious of any thing or anybody?"

Hm... Some of these topics seem to repeat themselves, for me-- particularly lust, greed, and envy. They're more distinct in the "real life"/"whole life" manifestations of these sins, I think, but as they apply to art and the studio, they run together...

Yes, I sometimes envy the things I see that others have-- very lovely, well-organized studios, maybe... well-stocked cabinets and drawers of materials (though I really ought to be ashamed of that, considering how much "stuff" I've already accumulated!)... recognition, success... superior imagination or skill.

I try not to waste too much energy thinking about what I don't or can't have, but sometimes I catch myself doing it without even realizing it. I think it's only human nature to be intrigued by and to desire what we don't possess, but after a while, we should come to realize that it's not worth our precious time to be eaten up by envy. "The grass is always greener on the other side", and while I'm envying someone else's skill, there may be another person envying me. (And meanwhile, the person I'm sick with envy over is probably envying yet another person.)

So many of these sins seem to lead me back to the idea that we shouldn't waste our time and the materials, opportunities, and skills we do possess by pining after things that we either can't have or simply don't have yet. I hope that I can be happy with what I do have and make the most of it.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back from a break :o)

I'm finally catching up on my on-line life again, after a brief break. (Can we still call it a break if it was prompted by a surge of activity in other areas of life? Wishful thinking, maybe...)

While I was "away" from blogging (and Flickr, etc.), I had a brush with greatness. ;o) This blog (and my pop-tarts... and the collection of links to video clips) was featured on Cynthia Tinapple's Polymer Clay Daily. How flattering!

I do intend to get back into the groove of more regular "real" posts, but for now, the unglamorous sinkful of dishes is calling. So I'll just save everything else for tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Texture sheets on the cheap

While browsing a copy of Sarajane Helm's Create a Polymer Clay Impression, I found this nifty tip:

Use plastic placemats as texture sheets to texture polymer clay!

You know the kind-- those "fake lace" plastic placemats-- usually in white or ecru? Well, they would make great lacy textures on clay. They're so sturdy-- yet flexible and thin-- that they'd work great for clay. You could even cut them into strips to fit through the pasta machine! Similar plastic table cloths should work, too, but they're usually not as stiff/thick as the placemats.

In a similar vein, I suppose you could use plastic "doilies" to make lacy textures on clay, too-- though, because those have actual holes, they might be a bit messier to use than the placemats. You can always use a scrap of real lace, as well, but again, there's more potential for mess than with a plastic surface that can be wiped clean.

So now I need to be on the look-out for some cheap plastic placemats... ;o) I bet that's the kind of thing you can pick up for almost nothing at yard sales. Or if you know someone who uses them, just ask if she'll let you have her old ones when she buys a new set. Even if they're torn, there's probably still a perfectly good portion of the pattern big enough to use with clay.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Instructional video clips

I can usually follow a written technique fairly well, but I always prefer tutorials/lessons with lots of clear photographs. If the photos are good enough, you sometimes don't even have to read the instructions! (Not that I'd recommend that, of course. You never know when the author might place a crucial bit of information or a time-saving hint in amongst the directions.)

So if photos are great, then moving pictures must be even better, right? ;o)

For those who prefer to see a technique demonstrated from start to finish, but who don't have access to a polymer clay class, there are instructional videos and DVDs available. Many can be easily ordered on-line. Now, they're not cheap, but if you learn best by seeing the process in real time and hearing instructions, rather than reading them, a DVD might be worth the money.

Before you place an order, you might want to check the following places:

First, see if your local library system has any instructional videos or DVDs. If not, ask your librarian about interlibrary loans. You may be able to request DVDs from other libraries-- sometimes for a a small fee, sometimes for free. (In this case, it will be helpful if you know the titles of the videos or DVDs you want to borrow.)

Second, check to see if your area has a polymer clay guild. Most guilds charge an annual membership fee, but once you're a member, you'll have access to meetings with other polymer clay enthusiasts and a good source of information about opportunities to attend classes and participate in clay-related competitions and events. If the guild has a library of materials (you can ask before joining), you'll also be able to borrow these. (For example, here's a list of the Chicago Area Polymer Clay Guild's library contents and loan policies.)

Whether or not you're considering buying a video/DVD, there are a few clips available for free on-line. They're a good way to see if you're really interested in purchasing the DVD, and they provide some useful information in and off themselves. The ones I link to below are of a very decent length.

Here are a few available on MindStorm Production's website:

Assorted clay techniques:
Dotty McMillan makes pottery shard jewelry.
Donna Kato demonstrates marbled paper effect.
Donna Kato makes a flower cane.
Donna Kato creates a carved vessel.
Gwen Gibson creates a faux enamel pin.
Marie Segal demonstrates faux metal surface embellishments.
Marie Segal makes a sunflower cane.
Marie Segal creates a signature cane.
Lindly Haunani demonstrates her version of mokume gane.
Nan Roche demonstrates her loop-in-loop technique for necklaces.
Sue Heaser creates a gilded leaf pin.
Jody Bishel creates a butterfly pin.
Margene Crossan creates an embarrassed face.
Margene Crossan makes pants and a shirt for a boy.

Miniatures:
Lavonne Hoivik sculpts a miniature crocus.
Sue Heaser makes a miniature vase and jug.
Sue Heaser makes a miniature raspberry meringue dessert.

Children's techniques:
Kris Richards sculpts a bear.
Kris Richards demonstrates how to decorate with stamps.

There are also four video clips available here: http://www.polymerclayexpress.com/video_clips.html
These clips include the following:
--Terry Lee Czechowski demonstrating how to make a pillow pin.
--Gwen Gibson demonstrating how to use texture sheets with clay and how to treat the resultant textured clay with paint.
--Gwen Gibson demonstrating how to make an ultra-thin sheet of translucent clay and how to silk screen onto clay.
--Mari O'Dell demonstrating stamping clay and back-filling the stamped image with tinted liquid clay.

There are also a few clay-related clips from the on-line tutorials taken from Judy Belcher's segments on Beads, Baubles and Jewels:
Striped Polymer Charm Bracelet with Memory Wire
Tessellated Pendant
Stamped Mokume Gane Pendant
Filigree Purse with Polymer Clay Leaf Canes

Finally, if you're interested in video tutorials, you'll want to do a search, every so often, through the on-line video sites, such as http://video.google.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/.

Searching for "polymer clay" on these sites, today, I came up with the following interesting clips:
Polymer Clay Babies, by Debbie Garrity
Sculpting a Pig, by Wvclaylady
Silkscreen on Polymer Clay, by Daphne Hill
Color Scales in Polymer Clay, by Maggie Maggio
Sculpting a Torso in Polymer Clay, by Megan
How to Use Face Push Molds, by Maureen Carlson
DragonflyLane, videos by Christie Wright
Sculpting a Hand, by Aidamaris Roman

So, there you have it-- enough free video clips to get anyone inspired to make something with clay! ;o)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

When it rains, it pours!!

And right now, it's pouring polymer clay mini-sweets-- a real gullywasher!

I've had two new "as is" orders from my Etsy shop since this morning, and I'm in the process of filling no fewer than five custom orders, too-- three of them multiple-item orders!

(Ok, anyone who makes a real living from this type of thing-- should s/he happen by some strange chance to ever read this-- is probably laughing at my naive amazement, now, but we all have to start somewhere, right? For a little something on the side, I don't think it's too bad.)

I absolutely forbid myself to say anything that might remotely be interpreted as a complaint ;o) -- but, that said, I can see how this stuff can become confusing! (g)

I had a small panic just a moment ago while trying to figure out who wanted the blueberry pop-tart pendant with the strawberry pop-tart earrings (no missing bites). I was getting that order confused with another order for strawberry pop-tart earrings (one missing bite). Seriously, I had no idea how many people love Pop-Tarts. ;o)

This is all very exciting, of course, for someone who's never really sold anything she made herself, until a few weeks ago. I'm thinking that once the rush is past, I'll celebrate by treating myself to a book or two. What's the book about, you ask? (Go ahead, ask, so I don't look quite so foolish.) Polymer clay! What a shocker, huh? ;o) I'm going to justify it by calling it an investment in "the business"-- R&D, you know. (g)

Well, better enjoy it while it lasts. I'm sure there will be slower times ahead. But for the moment, it's fun to be a bit hectic.

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Studio Friday - Sloth

This week's Studio Friday continues the series of topics drawn from the Seven Deadly Sins.

How do you fail to utilize your gift and talents? How do you feel at those moments? Are you unwilling to act? Is it that you are afraid? What is really going on? How can a few simple steps change you? What do you need for that happen?

My "illustration" for this week's topic is an empty chair-- the chair at my clay table, which many times stands empty when it ought to be filled.


(It should really look a bit more forlorn, but flash lighting and the aqua paint don't help when one tries to create an atmosphere of dejection. (g))
I have a bad habit of procrastinating-- one that I feel ties in well with this topic. There are so many times and areas of my life in which I tend to put things off. It's usually because I'm afraid of doing them wrong-- or at least not as well as I feel I could do them, were I properly prepared.

I have ideas I put off and put off. I have plans that I never put into action. I have products that remain unused because... I guess I'm waiting for the "perfect time" to use them to present itself.
I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to do things well and sometimes saving something special until you're better able to use it. (If you're learning to sew, you probably want to practice on cheap cotton before cutting into your best piece of silk, for instance.) The problem comes when we-- when I-- put off so many things for so long that I'm essentially paralysed by fear of taking a wrong step.

The planets don't have to be perfectly aligned. I don't need a Sign to tell me that I'm finally "ready". I just need to accept the fact that I will make mistakes-- and so what? The fate of the world doesn't hinge on my success. (Thank goodness!) Sometimes there is no perfect time. You just have to do the best you can at the moment. There's always next time to do it a bit better. Seize the day, and all that sort of thing. ;o)

This applies to many aspects of my life, including my creative pursuits. Of course, like most good advice, it's easier to give than to implement!

As for changing... (apart from just trying to tell myself regularly that I should worry less and create more)... I've heard people suggest that you touch the clay at least once a day. Just the act of kneading it can be enough to get you past your "artist's block" or whatever else is plaguing you. Like most things, just taking that first step is more than half the battle won. (Also, once you've gotten your hands "dirty"-- or sticky, at least-- you might as well make something. Why have sticky hands for nothing? (g)) I'm not sure how likely I am to touch the clay every single day. Sometimes you need a break. But I do usually at least look over my clay table once a day-- see what I've done, what's in process, and all the little colorful scraps of clay sitting on the tiles. Looking over things and planning new projects is also an important part of the creative process.

Writing this blog and working on my shop at Etsy both help keep me active with the clay, too, I find. I don't list something new every single day, as many recommend, but I do try to list at least every two or three days. Going through the listing process-- and writing here every few days-- keeps the subject in my mind.

That said, I have work to do! Off to the clay table to see if my scented cupcakes (a new product for me) still have their scent after curing...

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Fimo's suggested curing temp. has changed!

I'm more of a Premo gal, myself, but I do have some Fimo in my stock (mostly the translucent that's supposed to be prone to plaquing, for use in faux stone), and maybe someone who reads this will find the information helpful...

Fimo has officially changed its recommended baking/curing temperature-- lowered it from 265° F to 230° F! That's a pretty drastic change! Fimo has always suggested a slightly lower temperature than some other clays, but before, the difference was only 10° F. Now there's a whopping 45° F difference.

This new recommendation is showing up on the newest packages of Fimo. Apparently, the company is indicating that this is an energy-saving issue that they took into consideration when planning the formula for the new recipe of Fimo Soft, which hit the shelves last year.

However, the word is that even older packages of Fimo-- those that don't bear the "new and improved" labelling with the temp. change-- should also be cured at 230° F. (Well, I know they "can" be, but I'm not sure if they go so far as to say that you "should" use the lower temperature...) All types of Fimo brand clay can/should? be cured at the new temperature, including Fimo Classic and Puppen Fimo.

It's a bit confusing, somehow, and disorienting... One of the Great Truths of Polymer Clay-- that different brands can be "mixed and matched" at will-- has been shaken, if not collapsed. Because... if I mix some of my Fimo translucent with some of my Premo violet, for instance, I'll have to decide what temperature to cure it at. Before, I would've set it to 275° F and never thought twice. Now... I'm just not sure! Maybe 275° F is too high. Will it scorch the Fimo? Weaken it? But then what about the Premo component? Will it cure properly if it doesn't get the higher temps?

(...holds head in both hands, rocks back and forth, and mumbles incoherently...) ;o)

Ok, so I'm dramatizing things a bit. (g) It is one more thing to keep in mind.

If you want to read more about this, here's a link to Crafty Goat's blog post on the subject. She has a link to an e-mail conversation between Garie (a polymer clay teacher and artist) and the company that manufactures Fimo brands of clay.

You never know what mind-blowing event will take place next in the ever-evolving world of polymer clay! ;o)

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Studio Friday - Greed

From Studio Friday:

Part III of the new SF mini series looked at from an artist's perspective in a different angle and light: "The Seven Deadly Sins":

This week's topic for Friday April 6th: Sin #2: GREED!

This is an ugly one as well....uuuuh! What is it you are greedy about or feel greedy about? Is it material or is it a behavior? Are you greedy for emotions? Do you hoard? How do you want to change for the better? It can be small steps or do you rather take a big step to change?

I suppose I am greedy about materials. I don't buy craft supplies with the intention of just hoarding them. I buy them to use them (though I can be stingy with my favorite supplies, not wanting them to run out)... But I do find that no matter how many supplies I get, I can always think of something more I'd like to have, and I guess that qualifies as greed.

Whether it's beautiful beads...


...or gorgeous findings...

...or inks, stamps, and glitter...

...I want it all! ;o)

Of course, I don't buy it all. So I'm not completely awful, am I? (g)

Like many people, I sometimes feel greedy for the praise and admiration of others-- for some sort of recognition or success. However, any time my work does get noticed, I tend to flee the scene and avoid reading the feedback! Guess I'm just weird. ;o)

As for changing things-- I can change my spending habits by avoiding places where I have the opportunity to buy craft supplies. (It's not really a problem, as it is. I mean, it's not like I'm going into debt or something. ;o) But it would still be good for me to focus more on using the materials I have rather than daydreaming about what I might do with the materials I don't have.)

And I don't think the desire for praise is too much of a problem, either, but to prevent it from becoming one, I can focus more on the joy I get from the actual process of working on my projects. If I'm happy with something, I shouldn't worry too much about having others confirm my own feelings. :o)

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pop-Tarts in miniature...

Last week I got my first-ever request for a custom order at my Etsy shop. :o) I was a little bit nervous about it, at first, since the person wanted something I'd never tried before-- miniature Pop-Tarts-- but it turned out pretty well, I think. The customer is wonderfully friendly, and she seemed happy with the pop-tarts, at least (and isn't that what really matters, anyway?). She's even thinking about requesting more custom work, down the road, so I count the whole experience as a success! :o)
Here are a few more photos of the mini pop-tarts...
My first effort, white frosting with colorful sprinkles:

Next up, "chocolate" frosting with white sprinkles:

And a different view of the three together, including the last of the set, with pink frosting and colorful sprinkles:

After I finished making that order, I played around with a couple more ideas for the mini pop-tarts. First, I made a couple of smaller ones with wire loops, so they could be charms or pendants. (The originals were each about an inch long and had no wire loops, as the customer wanted to turn them into magnets.) Then I tried making a slightly larger one (about 1 and 1/4 inch long) to turn into a brooch. That's this one:

I need to make myself try something new more often. I mean, it's not a huge stretch from my sugar cookies to these pop-tarts, but it's still one more thing I can add to my repertoire. Now I just need to figure out what the next small step should be... ;o) I've been wanting to try hamburgers, so maybe later in the week I'll give that a go. The worst I can do is make a little scrap clay, right?

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