Saturday, August 18, 2007

With AT&T, it's easy as 1, 2, 3! ;o)

There’s a recent commercial (from AT&T, I think) that gave me a laugh. A woman is folding quilts, with her daughter and son (I guess) in the same room. Daughter comments on how wonderful the quilts are and wishes that other people could see them. Mother replies that when she was younger, she wanted her own shop. Son looks up from his laptop, has a bright idea, and sets to work. In what appears to be a very brief space of time (the same afternoon, probably only an hour or two), he presents his mother with her very own online quilt shop, complete with a gallery of photos of her handiwork. To top it all off, he casually remarks that she has an order.

(. . .long pause. . .) Hahahahaha! Yeah, right. If only it really were that quick and easy to put together a successful web-store! Set aside for a moment the fact that it does, in fact, take some time to build a decent website and take good photographs—even if you do use a template and have a handy-dandy camera-phone. This commercial is also propagating the misconception that “if you build it, they will come” (and buy)—and in just a few minutes’ time, too!

I’m all for people setting up web-based businesses. Many who couldn't possibly afford to have a brick and mortar shop are now able to run successful part-time (or even full-time) businesses from home. However, this commercial is thoroughly misleading.

Well, at least it’s worth a laugh.

. . .

P.S. How did Son know how much Mother wanted to charge for her quilts? Or did the Eager Beaver Buyer make an “I’ll pay whatever you ask, but I must have that quilt”-style offer, because the quilt is just that good? Hey, this is TV Commercial Land. It could happen! ;o)

P.P.S. If by some chance it turns out that I'm wrong about all this supposedly happening in one short afternoon-- if you've seen the commercial and noticed that they're wearing different clothes by the end of the ad, or something. . . Well, ignore everything you've just read. (g)

Despite the ridiculous speed of the quilt shop's emergence (and the rather annoying, Kill Bill-esque music in the background), I do kind of like this ad. What a nice thing to do for Mother! Even if he did offer her hard work for sale without asking first.


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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Various & Sundry

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. . .

First-- a little extra information on the faux ceramic technique. (If you've looked at the Polymer Clay Web forum thread on this topic, this won't be new.) I'm still learning how the Kato Liquid works, compared to TLS. One thing I've always heard (and have proven to myself to be true) is that if you hit the Kato Liquid with a heat gun or embossing gun after curing (or bump up the temperature in the oven, briefly), you'll bring out the greatest clarity. It's pretty amazing how well that works. It takes a little while for me, using my little embossing gun, so be patient. Just keep moving the heating tool around, and eventually you'll see a big improvement. Once it starts to happen, it's fast.

Well, anyway, I knew about the heat gun improving the clarity. What I didn't know is that it also changes the finish of the Kato Liquid. I've done a comparison of pieces cured normally and those that I've given the "extra heat treatment", and there's a definite difference. The "extra-heated" ones have a much shinier finish than the others. (I hope this doesn't mean that I've been under-curing the others. . . I'll have to recheck my oven's temperature, just to be on the safe side.)

Here's a photo that (kind of) shows what I mean:

All of these pieces have a Kato-based glaze, but the top two were heated with a heat gun, while the bottom two were not. (The bottom two have more of a sheen than you can tell from this photo, but it's much softer than the shine on the other two.) I think both effects are attractive; it just depends on whether or not you want lots of shine.

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While looking around at Parole de Pâte the other day, I was very impressed by this entry. It's been put through a translator, from French to English, but those translating programs leave something to be desired. The translated version refers to powder (Pearl-ex) and resin. Based on the comments, I think they really did use resin (two-part epoxy, such as Envirotex Lite) for the clear coating over the powders, though at first I wondered whether the translating program got that part wrong. (I thought maybe the French word for resin tricked it, as so often seems to happen with these programs.) In any case, I decided to use Liquid Kato, as I'm more familiar with that medium and knew I could get it pretty darn clear with a heat gun.

There's still the slightest bit of a haze in one or two parts of this heart, but it's not bad at all, and I might be able to get it to go away, if I gave it a little more heat. (You could probably also eliminate this problem by doing two thinner coats and clarifying between them.)


It's a simple technique, but the result is very nice. I'm going to have to give this one another try. :o) (And don't forget to follow that link and look at the photos on the other site. They're gorgeous!)
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There's another (more recent) topic on Parole de Pâte that also interests me. It's a new take on Jennifer Patterson's "Hidden Magic" technique. Very pretty!

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A few days ago, a customer asked me if I "do pizza". Not yet, but it had been on my wish list of mini foods for a long time. I'd been drooling over Milo's mini pizzas only days before-- we got pizza over the weekend-- and now comes this question. . . It must be fate, right? ;o) I decided to give it a try:

There are a few more mini pizza photos on my flickr.

It was rather time-consuming. Miniatures often are, particularly when they're comprised of detailed layers-- and of course I had to figure everything out as I went along, so that took some time. But it was fun, and I definitely see more mini pizzas in my future. :o)

Oh, and for those interested in size, each slice is roughly an inch long. Way too big for 1:12 scale, but ok for "Barbie scale" (assuming that your Barbies like large slices of pizza). Since they have eye pins sticking out of them, I suppose it's obvious that they're really meant more for jewelry than doll houses. (g)
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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Top Ten Tuesday: top ten tips for making polymer clay jewelry

Though there are more and more artists and hobbyists using polymer clay for an increasing number of non-jewelry applications (home decor, miniatures, evening bags, etc.) , beads, pendants and other "jewelry bits" remain very popular.

I haven't done any research as to why this is, but I think it has something to do with the fact that jewelry is wearable art. It's easier to show off a necklace to a bunch of people than, say, a mask or a vase. When you wear your own handmade jewelry, you never know when you might have someone say, "Wow, what a great pin! Where'd you get that?!" (And then, of course, you proudly-- or modestly-- admit that, in fact, you made it yourself. (g))

For many of us jewelry-makers, the main reason we do it is that it's lots of fun. Maybe you'd like to join us. :o) If you're just starting out-- new to polymer clay jewelry-making-- here are a few tips to help guide you along your way:

Top Ten Tips for Making Polymer Clay Jewelry:

(This week, I've decided not to "count down" from 10 to 1, but just to put the tips in semi-logical order. (g))

1. Gather inspiration.
Keep an inspiration notebook, bulletin board, blog, etc.-- just a place where you can gather and store magazine photos, jotted ideas, print-outs, paint chips, and anything else that inspires you, be it designs, color combos, or polymer clay techniques. Collect links to useful websites, too-- not only clay-related sites, but also general jewelry-making sites.

2. Adapt designs to polymer clay.
When looking through magazines, books, and websites for jewelry patterns and ideas, don't be discouraged if there aren't many designed specifically for polymer clay. Instead, consider how you can adapt the designs to suit your polymer clay beads, pendants, etc. Remember, since you make the beads, you can always tailor them to certain specifications of size, shape and color to fit a design you admire.

3. Plan ahead.
Make sketches of what you want your piece of jewelry to look like-- or at least "think out" the design-- so you'll know how many beads you need, what shapes and colors they should be, etc. (Sometimes it's fun to just make the beads first and design the jewelry around them later, but if you work this way you're more likely to find that you don't have enough beads.)

4. Make extras.
Whenever possible, make extra beads. You never know when one will have a flaw or be lost. With a few back-up beads, you can proceed without having to go back and try to duplicate the lost bead. Leftovers make lovely earrings, or save them to use in a later project that calls for mixed beads.

5. Mix media.
Consider combining time-intensive polymer clay beads with store-bought glass, acrylic, metal, and other types of beads. If you're careful in your selection, you'll not only make the polymer clay beads go further, but you'll also add attractive accents to your handmade beauties.

6. Coordinate the colors.
When ordering beads online or through catalogs, you'll soon find that catalogs (whether online or in print) don't always represent colors accurately. It's best to order beads early and have them in hand before making the polymer clay components of the design. Either that, or take your finished polymer beads/pendants to the bead store with you, so you can be sure to get a good color combination.

7. Weigh your options.
Polymer clay is relatively lightweight, but for very large beads or pendants, consider using an aluminum foil core. This option also uses less clay, which leaves more for other projects.

8. String them along.
Your beads, that is. ;o) Give some thought to stringing materials for necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Choose a stringing material that's sturdy enough to support the weight of your beads and/or pendant. Also keep in mind how the look and texture of the stringing material will work into your design-- especially important in pieces with lengths of exposed string/cord/etc. For example, large beads or pendants generally look best on (and need the extra support of) thicker stringing materials, such as leather thong or heavy rubber cord. More delicate beads probably won't even fit over leather cording and are better suited to tigertail or a thinner cord.

9. Find some findings.
Findings (the metal "bits and pieces" of jewelry, such a ear wires, clasps, jump rings, and eye pins) are made from a variety of metals-- everything from cheap base metal to pricier silver and gold. You can buy them in shops or online-- or even make many of them yourself, from a spool of wire. When you're still learning, it's probably best to use a cheaper material, but eventually, you may want to upgrade to a finer metal. If cost is an issue, you can always reserve the silver findings for your very best work.

10. Get the tools of the trade.
All the sterling silver findings in the world aren't going to do you much good if you don't have the proper tools to use with them. (Try opening and closing a jump ring neatly with your bare hands. Just try it. I dare ya. ;o)) It takes a little time-- time you'd probably rather be spending at your clay table-- but learning how to use jewelry-making tools is an important step in making your own jewelry. Just a few tools (wire cutters, flat-nose pliers, and round-nose pliers) are absolutely required for most jewelry-making, though there are others (split-ring pliers, crimping tool, bead reamer, etc.) that are also useful, in specific situations. If you can master a handful of simple techniques with these tools, you'll be able to follow almost any jewelry design you can find. Once you've gathered the "absolutely necessary" tools, there are a few ways to learn to use them. Books and jewelry-design magazines (on loan from the library or bought), Internet tutorials, videos, classes at your local bead or craft store, a crafty friend with beading know-how-- all are possible ways to learn the basics.


There's something very satisfying about taking a few unfinished materials and turning them into something that you can be proud to wear or give as a gift. Obviously, the most masterful designs are the result of time, practice, and skill (not to mention natural talent), but even a novice can achieve something attractive with a few hours of work. And with every bead you form and string, you're improving your technique-- while having fun!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Kato Color Concentrates -- now available!

For those of you who may not have heard yet (such as myself, until I was catching up on e-mail this morning), Kato Color Concentrates (the new product I wrote about in this post) are now available for purchase.

Again, they're only available in selected Internet shops, as of yet. They're supposed to be at Polymer Clay Express, for instance, though I think you may have to call or write to order them. At least, I didn't see them in the online store, yet. However, I did find them at Prairie Craft Company, where the set of three colors (the only ones presently available) sells for $9.99. I see that they come in 1.5 ounce blocks. For reference, that's half the size of a block of regular Kato Polyclay. A little goes a long way, from all accounts, so it's not surprising that the blocks are a bit smaller.

So, now I'm looking forward to seeing what people will do with this product, now that it's out. :o) I don't think I'll buy any immediately, myself. I would like to play around with it-- see what it can do-- but I've done enough buying for a while, I think. . . Besides, it's been so brutally hot lately that I'd rather postpone clay purchases another couple of months. (Last time I had clay delivered, the mail-lady left it in the car-- with no note about it in the mailbox!! I was rather annoyed, but fortunately the clay seemed unharmed.)

. . . . . . . . .

If you frequent the same message boards and mailing lists I do (though I'm not a frequent "frequenter" these days (g)) , I'm sure you've already heard of the new polymer clay that Polyform's putting out-- Studio by Sculpey. If I understand correctly, it's coming out in connection with the Donna Dewberry instructional system... or whatever it is. It even has its own website (http://www.studiobysculpey.com/), but as of yet, there's nothing there.

I've read bits and pieces about this new brand, but frankly I'm just not terribly interested. I mean, it's great that there's going to be a new brand-- the more selection, the better-- but I. . . well, I just don't care much about this product. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm happy with the brands that are already out there... Maybe it's just this infernal heat and humidity; it sucks the enthusiasm right out of you, some days!

Anyway, a few things I think I remember reading about Studio by Sculpey:
  • It comes in a larger package than most polymer clays (...I think).
  • It's aimed more at making items for home décor-- not so much for caning, though some report that it is possible to cane with it.
  • It will come in 26 "toned down" colors (again, geared more toward home décor, where people are likely to choose "Lavender and Lace"-- one of the actual color names, I swear-- in favor of bold, brilliant purple or fuchsia.)
  • It is rather "marshmallowy" in texture, prior to curing, and easily conditioned.
  • It seems to be pretty sturdy after curing.
  • It doesn't require an armature (for certain things, at least), as it doesn't droop during firing, like most polymer clay does.

Ok, I guess it's kind of interesting... Just as long as Polyform doesn't get rid of my precious Premo in favor of this new stuff. ;o)

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A talented miniaturist

I was just taking some time to look through some of my contact's recently uploaded photos, over at Flickr. I don't do it very often-- especially if I haven't uploaded anything, myself, since that's about the only time I'm on that site-- but every now and then I make the time. It's always a treat to see what everyone's been up to. There are so many beautiful, inspirational works of art and craft on that page!! Much of it rivals the nicest work I've seen published in books.

You don't have to have an account (free or paid) to browse the photos, so if you haven't already checked it out, now's a great time. (Same goes for if it's been a while since you were there. There are new photos every day.) I'm sure the other photo-sharing sites are wonderful, too. I ought to look around some of them, myself. . .

One person who's work just blew me away today was minicaretti. She focuses primarily on miniatures, and that's what you see in her Flickr photostream. (She also has a blog. It's written in Italian, but as always, you can get a lot just from looking at the photos.) I know that at least some of her work involves polymer clay, but she may also use other materials. From what I gather, serious miniaturists (the type who make things in scale) are very resourceful and use whatever best imitates the "real thing". This can result in a polymer piece topped with or displayed next to something made in resin, etc.

If you have a minute, go take a look. Some of these foods are so realistic, you'll have a hard time believing that they're miniatures. You'll probably be hungry by the time you're through. Don't say I didn't warn you. ;o)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Faux Ceramics

A while ago, I posted a link to a blog that featured lots of photos of beautiful ceramic pendants and charms. If you missed it before, or have forgotten about it, here it is again: http://bijouxdiva.canalblog.com/
There are links to several albums of "the Diva's" work along the right side of the page.

Those photos-- the luxurious glazes-- reminded me that I'd been wanting to try my hand at a faux ceramics effect. So I did-- and it was fun! :o)


Go to my Flickr account to see a few more photos of my first attempts. I also have a new batch waiting to be properly photographed.

It was interesting to note, during those first tries, that some of the colors I was least enthusiastic about to start with turned out to be my favorites. You never can tell about those things, which is why it's so important to experiment and step outside of your usual routine (as I need to remind myself from time to time). For instance, if I stick to the same color schemes every time, I'll never learn about the other combos that I could be enjoying.

It was also amusing that my favorite texture tool wasn't a texture sheet-- or a stamp. It was something I bought, but I only paid .25 or .50 for it (can't remember which it was, now), and it wasn't even meant to be used for applying texture. It was originally a medallion on a necklace at Claire's, but it was so huge that it made a hideous pendant, which is probably why it was on sale. (g) I bought it with texturing in mind, though, and it was definitely worth the price!

Anyway, I've put up a tutorial for the technique I used. It's nothing very complicated, and I like the fact that it doesn't require much "finishing". Well, you might want to do some extra finishing to yours. . . and I might give one of them a sanding and power-buffing, sometime, just to see what happens. . . but they look perfectly fine as they are, I think.

Here's the link: Faux Ceramic Pendants Tutorial

If you like it and give it a try, feel free to stop by this faux ceramics thread of our forum and post a picture or two-- and a link to your own blog or Flickr albums. :o)

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Top Ten Tuesday - top ten ways to use mica powders with polymer clay

Mica powders are very popular with clayers-- one of the top few "extra" materials most of us buy, I'd say. It's no wonder, considering how many things you can do with them and the way that they can turn a ho-hum piece into something shimmering and beautiful.

Top Ten Ways to Use Mica Powders with Polymer Clay:

10. Use it with a stencil.
Place a bought (usually in the paint section of craft stores), found (such as a paper doily), or homemade (cut from cardstock or a thin sheet of plastic) stencil over a piece of clay. (This technique works most easily on flat projects.) Gently tap mica powders (as many as you like) onto the exposed clay. Carefully lift stencil to reveal your pattern.

9. Make a sparkling glaze.
Mix a little mica powder into a small amount of polymer-friendly finish (Future or Varathane) or acrylic medium. (You can mix some in a painter's palette, if you need very little, or use a small paint pot or film canister if you want to make enough to save for another time.) Thin with water to reach desired consistency. Apply over plain or decorated cured polymer clay pieces for an extra touch of sparkle.

8. Crackle it over raw clay.
In order to crackle mica powders, you'll need to mix them into an acrylic medium or polymer-friendly finish. Future Floor Wax works well for this. Mix it (as described above), then paint it onto a sheet of raw polymer clay. Allow the finish to dry, then feed through the pasta machine or roll with a brayer or acrylic rod to produce the crackling effect.

7. Use it in mokume gane.
As described in last week's Top Ten Tuesday, you can use mica powders in mokume gane in a couple of ways. Either apply occasional dabs of it to painted or plain polymer clay sheets, or mix it into Future (etc.) and paint it onto the sheets.

6. Salvage ugly scrap clay.
An unattractive mix of scrap clay (or a color mix gone wrong) can take on a whole new life with an application of mica powder. Just shape the clay and apply the powders before curing. Be aware that certain colors (such as the interference colors) may not completely mask the color of the underlying clay. If in doubt, experiment with a tiny bit of clay and powder.

5. Create faux effects.
Mica powders are useful in a number of faux effects. Metal colors (such as silver or bronze) create an instant appearance of metal. A mix of colors (blue, purple, pink, gold, etc.) "splotchily" blended on black clay imitates the look of raku. Pearl powders make. . . well, pearls. ;o) A touch of these sparkling powders lends a realistic look in a number of faux stone mixes.

4. Tint liquid polymer clay.
Translucent liquid clay can be tinted in a few different ways. Using mica powders as part or all of the colorant gives it a subtle shimmer that's lovely.

3. Tint solid translucent clay.
Translucent clay tinted with mica powders can seem almost to softly glow. Use this mixture "as is" or make a Skinner Blend between two mica-tinted bodies of clay for a ravishing effect.

2. Cover the exterior of a piece.
Using one color or as many as you like, cover an entire piece with mica powders. If you want texture, apply the powder to both the clay and the stamp or texture sheet prior to making the impression. If any portion of the clay remains unpowdered, fill in those spots with the aid of a paintbrush.

1. Highlight textured clay.
For a different look from the "all over sparkle", texture the clay first, then apply mica powders (in however many colors you want) to only the raised portions of the pattern or texture, allowing the clay color to remain visible in the impressions. This can give the appearance of antiqued metal.

Remember: Most mica powders require a coat of polymer-friendly finish (such as Future or Varathane) to prevent the powder from rubbing away-- particularly if the piece will be worn or handled. If you've mixed the powders into Future, Varathane, or another polymer-friendly finish, the extra coat is unneccessary, unless you want more layers for protection or added shine.

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Faux Abalone

One day last week, I finally gave myself permission to try a project from one of my polymer clay books. I chose the faux abalone from Carol Blackburn's bead-maker's bible, Making Polymer Clay Beads. (So there won't be a tutorial for this one. )

I stuck pretty close to the instructions on this project, though I think I may have left off one or two of the colors of clay suggested, and since I didn't have abalone leaf/foil and was too lazy to try my own idea of using inks and paints to make my own "faux abalone leaf", I used plain composition gold leaf. I also used the abalone loaf a bit differently that suggested in the book. (I made sheets of my slices and cut them with shape cutters, rather than tearing the slices into pieces.)

I was pleased with the results. (Though now I can think of some things I should've done differently. Well, I'll just write down some notes for next time.)

Here's a photo of what I made with some of my faux abalone charms:


I also took this opportunity to try out one of the magnetic clasps I bought on sale a long while ago. I haven't decided if I like the magnetic clasp or not. I like the idea of it, because so often, putting on a bracelet without assistance is an exercise in futility. I'm just not convinced yet that this particular clasp is strong enough. . . and (as expected) when the clasp is open, the magnets want to stick to the chain and jump rings. I'll wear this one a while to test out the strength of the clasp.

If you're interested, there are a couple more photos of the faux abalone at my Flickr account.

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