Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten places to find color inspiration

Most of us have certain color combinations that we're particularly drawn to. For whatever reason, we find ourselves repeating them again and again. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but every now and then, it's nice to expand our horizons and try something new. If you've found yourself in a bit of a rut, color-wise, today's list of ten is for you.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Places to Find Color Inspiration

1. Nature
It's the original source. Take a quick stroll-- or a long hike!-- and stop every so often to just look. So often, we're too busy getting where we need to be that we don't take the time to see the world around us. Absorb some of the colors. Take notes of what you like, or better yet, snap a photo. If you live in a city and can't make it to a park, you can still find new color ideas by focusing on the hues of the city around you. Buildings-- window displays-- the unusual fashion choices of that girl who just walked past you: all are opportunities to be inspired.

2. Your closet
Say the weather's miserable (like it's been here for the past day or so). You don't really want to be wandering the countryside in search of color today. Well, take a peak into your closet, instead. This is a trick interior designers suggest for finding colors in your comfort zone. The colors you wear are probably the colors you're most at ease around, so they're natural choices for wall colors, etc. Of course, this may mean that you'll see the same color combinations you've been using over and over again in your polymer clay work-- the ones you're trying to take a break from. If so, then it's time to move on to the next suggestion. . .

3. Fashion magazines / catalogs
(Or any magazines, really.) Maybe you noticed, while peeking in the closet, that you need a few new items for your winter wardrobe. In that case, you can tackle two tasks at once. ;o) Any magazine or catalog that is more photos than text is a great place to browse for new color combinations. Those that feature fashionable "ensembles" or carefully decorated rooms are especially useful, since we know that color-savvy designers put them together. If you're not yet confident in your own color sense, you can rest assured that at least someone thought these colors went well together. (g) Bookmark the ones you like-- or tear out the page and put it into a "color/design inspiration" binder that you can refer to as needed. (You can also look at Internet-based catalogs with a similar goal in mind.)

4. Shopping
Internet-/catalog-shopping not your thing? (I like to look, but I'd really rather see things in person, myself.) The next time you take a shopping trip, keep colors in mind, too. This article on Crafty Places, while focusing on scrapbooking, has suggestions that can be useful for clayers, too. Silk floral arrangements and the bedding department provided two sources of inspiration for the author, and the possibilities don't end there. Browse a fabric shop for pretty prints or the interesting juxtaposition of bold solids. Look more closely at the colors used in the china, glassware, and pottery aisles. Even the packaging of products can spark a new idea. Take note of anything that grabs your eye. Shopping with a friend can also be helpful. Notice what s/he gravitates toward. You may tend to overlook things in favor of your tried-and-true colors, so let your friend be another pair of eyes for you.

5. Paper
Are you a paper addict? Scrapbookers, bookbinders, origami artists and others share a fascination for paper. Many of us have a nice stock built up. Take half an hour to page through your collection. Patterned paper can be an instant inspiration-- or spread out several solid colors, layering them in different ways and taking note of the combinations that catch your eye. (It's often easier to know that we like when we see it, rather than visualizing it beforehand.) If you have some scraps to spare, paste them into that inspiration binder I mentioned before.

6. Works of Art
The masters of the art world have this color thing down pat, so why not look to them for inspiration? Of course we can look at the colors polymer clay artists use, but there's no reason to limit ourselves to just polymer clay art. Glass, pottery, paint, metal, quilts-- whatever medium you like can awaken you to new possibilities in color combinations. There are photographs to be viewed for free online, or if you prefer, you can buy or borrow books of photos of works of art. Remember that you needn't use all the colors in a work. You can narrow it down to the two, three, or four most dominant colors, to simplify things. (Here's an entry on COLOURlovers that offers several examples of color schemes drawn from paintings, if you need help.)

7. Color Blogs
The blog I linked to in item #6-- COLOURlovers-- is just one example of a "color blog". (Check out this entry on Hallowe'en colors!) There are lots of color fanatics out there, and many of these folks are quite generous with their color schemes (or "palettes"). Browse them until you find one you like. And don't forget that you can tweak them to suit your tastes. Drop, add, shift the colors as needed. There are a few other cool features on this page, too, in addition to the blog, including color trends, discussions, and a color/palette search function. What a neat, fun resource! I'm sure there are other similarly great blogs out there, too, just waiting to be found.

8. Color Scheme Websites
There are a variety of color scheme-generating websites out there, but I'm going to play favorites and focus on one in particular. (Hey, my husband designed it-- and is still working on it-- and I know which side my bread's buttered on. (g)) This site-- http://www.colorsontheweb.com/-- offers a few different ways to find color combos, in addition to info on color theory and terminology. See reader-submitted color schemes (and grade them or submit your own) in the "Color Schemes" section. Spin the Color Wheel to get random color combinations. (If you like one or two colors, but not all of them, you can keep the ones you like and keep spinning until you hit a combo that is thoroughly satisfying. You can also see how the colors work together in a sample bit of web design. You can even decide which color takes each position in the sample.) Finally, use the Color Wizard to submit your own color (enter a hex code, adjust the RGB sliders to find your perfect color, or randomize the whole thing) and instantly get colors that coordinate with it. Scroll down and select different types of color schemes (i.e. analogous, complimentary, split complimentary, etc.) to see several options. Click any of the hue, saturation, or tint/shade variations to instantly reset the base color. Play around with it and see what you come up with. If you'd like to see some other color tools online, you have only to make a quick search.

9. Color Scheme Books
If you prefer a book to a computer monitor, you can look in your local library or bookstore for books of color schemes. These fall into a variety of categories, so be sure to look around. You'll find books full of color combinations designed for use in crafts, graphic design, web design, house decorating, and so on. They're all fair game! (You can also find a more limited selection of color schemes in or near the pain chip section of home improvement stores. If you have a fascination for paint chips, you might find BEHR's website interesting. The "Explore Color" feature is pretty neat.)

10. Photos (Flickr, Photobucket, etc.)
In the past, I've linked to photos from Flickr to illustrate color combinations I like. Well, you can do the reverse, too. Browse the photos at Flickr (or your photo-hosting website of choice), looking for something that grabs you. There are many, many groups and pools of photos at Flickr-- in addition to the search function-- so it's fairly easy to start your search. When you find a photo with colors that speak to you, it's as simple as deciding which are the most "important" colors in the photo. If you need some help with this, there are some handy tools that take all the guesswork out of it. Copy the URL of the photo you'd like to "decode". (The URL must end in ".jpg", ".gif", etc. If you're trying to find the URL for a photo at Flickr, click on "All Sizes", above the photo, then scroll down to locate the URL near the bottom of the page.) Go to Color Palette Generator (or Color Hunter, which is very similar). Paste in the URL, hit the magic button, and up pops the photo and the coordinating color scheme (complete with hex codes, if you're into that kind of thing (g)). You can also use the Palette Generator at Big Huge Labs, which gives you more colors per photo than the other two programs do. This tool also provides a way to quickly and easily browse the photos in your Flickr or Photobucket without working in another tab or window.

Here's an example, the result of submitting one of my photos to the Palette Generator:

With so many color combinations to discover-- and work into polymer clay designs!-- and so little time, what are you doing here, still?! ;o)

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Faux Ceramics Experiments

I wrote earlier about the toner transfers I've been playing around with. One other thing I've been trying is different variations on faux ceramics.

I think I mentioned that I tried the "put tinted liquid clay on beads covered in extruded clay" technique with less than stellar results. (It dripped a bit so that there was very uneven coverage, even though I thought I'd heat set the liquid clay.) I may give that another try sometime, but not for now.

I also tried the "use a black clay base with opaque liquid clay" variation. Again, not the results I'd hoped for-- partially because some of the liquid clay I thought would be opaque turned out not to be. I used oil paint to give it more opaque color, but for some reason it just didn't work that well. Probably not enough paint in the ratio-- or maybe I should have included some white paint. . . I guess that next time I ought to test-cure a little drop to check for opacity. Anyway, the ones I made that were opaque still didn't thrill me, so I decided to go back to the more translucent liquid mixes.

These two were the result of making a base bead (in plain white clay), adding some appliqué flowers (also in white), texturing, and glazing with alcohol-ink-tinted Kato. After curing, I used a heat gun to bring out the shine in the glaze.

I liked the way those turned out, but before I could give it another try, I came across that interesting idea in Tina Holden's blog (which I posted about before). She uses mica powders under the glaze. I'd thought of mixing the powders into the glaze-- haven't tried it yet, though-- but not of just touching them to the clay base. That uses less powder, lets you combine different colors of powder (and gives you more control over where they go), and probably adds more depth to the piece than if the entire glaze is full of mica particles.

First, I tried it on a couple of flat pendants. The leaves are just white clay stamped and touched lightly with a couple of metallic colors of Pearl-Ex. I then glazed the piece with Kato liquid tinted with Lettuce alcohol ink. (All the colors of alcohol ink I mention in this post are Ranger Adirondack brand. I like the muted earthiness of the Adirondack line-- plus, because I can get them at the local craft store, I can use a 40%-off coupon on them. Brings the price down nicely!) The butterfly was pearl clay stamped and touched with duo red-blue Pearl-Ex and topped with Eggplant-tinted Kato. You can't really see the mica that well in this photo, but it does show up in "real life"-- especially when the light hits it from certain angles. (This is one of those times when using a more translucent clay is probably a good idea. I'm not sure how well the mica would show through tinted TLS. . .)

I'd like to play around with this some more, too. Different "themes"/patterns-- different color combinations. Paying close attention to the compatibility of the colors (of the mica powder and the tinted liquid clay) seems pretty important with this technique, since you're seeing the powders through the filter of the colored liquid clay. I don't know if any of the combinations would ever be exactly ugly, but I imagine some are more pleasing than others.

I took the technique one step further and applied it to the flower-appliquéd pendants. (I want to improve my appliqué skill, now. I'd like to expand my repertoire of flower shapes beyond what I've done so far. (g) I have a flower catalog-- I just need to sit down and study it.)

All three (in the photo below) started with a base of pearl clay. The butterfly pendant is duo blue-green Pearl-Ex under Stream-tinted Kato. Because the powder had a blue color, it's more subtle under the similarly-colored liquid clay. I dusted the same powder over the rectangular pendant, but because I used a green liquid clay (Meadow, I think), you can detect more of the powder on it. The heart had interference gold powder (I think. . .) topped with Currant-tinted Kato. Again, the effect is subtle, but it's definitely there.

There are so many possibilities! What am I doing here at the computer when I could be experimenting?! ;o)

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Toner Transfer Silhouettes

(See more photos of this style of toner transfer pendants in my Flickr photostream.)

This is one of the techniques I've been experimenting with for the past few weeks-- toner transfers. I still have lots of things I want to try with them. I started out with the encased toner transfers Donna Kato demonstrates in her new book. I want to eventually go back to those for another try, but in the meantime, I've been sidetracked.

BlockPartyPress wrote recently about the returned popularity of silhouettes. I'd noticed that, too, and been drawn to their simplicity and graphic appeal. However, I've found myself wanting to add to them, to a certain degree. I guess I'm just not really that much of a minimalist, at heart. (g) Whatever the reason, I've ended up putting clouds and such behind the silhouette toner transfers.

While working on these pendants, I've thought that perhaps it's just extra work to do this with a transfer when you could get a very similar result from a stamp. Certainly it'd be easier to just stamp it on rather than going through the song and dance of making the image, having it photo copied, burnishing (and burnishing) it on, then carefully removing the paper. I guess the reason to do it with a transfer is that you don't have to own a stamp for each and every silhouette or pattern you'd like to use. I don't have that many stamps, so this works for me. There may be other advantages to using a toner transfer instead of stamp and ink, but I haven't (yet) used inked stamps on pc, so I can't say what they'd be. (That does remind me, though, that it's high time I used the ink pad I bought especially to use with clay. . .)

I've learned a little about which things do and don't work for this technique, but I'm still running into occasional problems with tiny air pockets in my clay that puff up during baking. Nothing awful, but not what I want. I guess I'll just have to be more careful about that. Unfortunately, I thought I was being careful. (g)

Incidentally, the pendants in the bottom photo are just about the only Halloween-themed things I've made this year. I had plans to do more, but I just never got around to it. Oh well. Maybe next year!

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"Victorian Lady"

Victorian Lady, originally uploaded by Art and Ghosts.

For Hallowe'en-style eerie beauty: Combine a generous helping of magic (both the pixie dust and the "Wonderland" variety) with a pinch of creepy-crawly shudderiness. Mix well and enjoy!

If you're in the mood for some surreal inspiration-- after all, it is that time of year-- head over to Art and Ghosts' photos at Flickr. (She also has a blog, which you can access through her Flickr profile.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Butterflies in Paper

I've linked before to the Geninne's Art Blog. She does beautiful things in a variety of media-- mostly paper and watercolors, but also collage, fabric/fiber, and rubber stamps. Yesterday, she shared a work in progress-- a 3-D display of butterflies in paper. It got me thinking. Why not do something similar in polymer clay? I don't know if I'll ever try it, but it'd be a neat idea for someone. You, maybe? ;o)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten ways to use translucent polymer clay

If you've been working with polymer clay for a while, this list might not be of much interest to you. (Sorry! Maybe next week. (g)) However, if you're new to clay, you may be perplexed by the "color" of clay called "translucent" (or "frost"). What's it for? Does it turn clear when you bake it? Well, no, unfortunately there is no perfectly clear polymer clay. (Wouldn't that be great?! So many new possibilities!) Even though it's "just" translucent-- not transparent-- there are still many ways to use it. So many that it's usually at the top of my shopping list when there's a clay sale. I love the stuff!

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Use Translucent Polymer Clay

1. Faux effects
This is probably one of translucent clay's most popular (and recognized) uses. Many natural stones (and other materials) are not completely opaque. They frequently have some degree of translucency, so translucent pc is the obvious choice when imitating them. Lightly tinted and glittered translucent clay makes faux opals or faux rose quartz. Many layers of translucent and gently tinted clay create the illusion of agate or ivory. Faux versions of jade, marble, amber, and more all utilize translucent clay.

2. Inclusions
Closely related to item #1 is the use of inclusions with translucent polymer clay. An inclusion is anything that may be blended into the clay body. It must be able to withstand curing temperatures, but other than that, there are few limitations. Spices, metal leaf, glitter, sand, embossing powder, dried flowers-- even soil can be used as an inclusion. Faux effects frequently call for one or more inclusion, but inclusions need not always imitate a natural material. I like the sparkle of colored glitter in translucent clay. It doesn't look like anything in particular-- not opal, for instance-- but it's still very pretty.

3. Infusions
Since "inclusions" are usually listed as solids (glitter, sand, etc.), I like to refer to liquids mixed into clay as "infusions". Most infusions are inks or paints. Technically speaking, they aren't liquids when they're mixed into the clay, as they are allowed to dry first-- but let's not be too fussy. (g) Alcohol inks are my favorite infusions, as they lend brilliant color to translucent clay without decreasing the translucency much, as can happen when you add much colored clay to a mix. Translucent clay tinted with alcohol inks can appear almost to glow in good light. You can also use acrylic paint as an additive, though this will decrease the translucency. I like the effect of metallic or iridescent paints mixed into translucent clay. It's important to let the paint dry thoroughly before mixing it in, and it's safest to make a small test batch first. You can also mix scents into polymer clay. They will eventually fade, but some people report that rubbing or gently warming the cured piece temporarily revives the aroma. Try essential oils, perfumes, or soap-maker's scents. Fragrant inclusions, such as certain dried herbs and spices, do double duty, adding a slight scent in addition to an interesting appearance to translucent clay.

4. "Stretch" (and Soften) Your Clay
Let's say you need more of a particular color of clay, but can't make it to the store. If you have translucent clay on hand, you may be able to stretch your supply just enough to meet your immediate needs. Translucent clay can be mixed thoroughly into opaque, colored clay, and as long as you don't add too much, it shouldn't noticeably affect the color of the clay. What is "too much" is open for debate and may vary by brand and color of clay, as some colors are already composed of large amounts of translucent clay. The more translucent a clay is, the more risk there is of an extreme color shift. (This is why it takes only a tiny bit of color to tint translucent clay. The color of the clay, pre-curing, seems to be amplified when the piece is baked.) If you're particular about the color, it's best to test your proportions before committing to the whole batch. Softer brands of translucent clay may also be added to hard or crumbly clay to improve its workability.

5. Get Your Glow On (without glow-in-the-dark clay!)
Premo "Frost" (aka "bleached translucent") glows under a black light. It will not glow without a UV lamp, as glow-in-the-dark clay does, but if you have a Halloween party coming up-- or some other event where you'll be partying under black lights-- you needn't make a special trip to buy G-I-T-D clay. ;o)

6. Mokume Gane
I know, I know. "Here she goes with the mokume again!" ;o) But it's true! Mokume gane is an excellent technique to try, if you're wondering what to do with translucent clay. There are many versions of mokume gane-- so many that it can be pretty much whatever you want it to be and include whatever you have on hand. Read more about mokume gane elsewhere on this blog: Top Ten Products to Add to Mokume Gane.

7. Millefiori Canes
Another very popular use for translucent polymer clay is canework. Used throughout a cane, it can give a dreamy, watercolor-like effect. However, it may be even more impressive when used in combination with opaque clay. Typically, these canes are composed of an opaque (or partially opaque) design-- such as a flower-- surrounded by untinted translucent clay. The cane is then sliced as thinly as possible, and the slices are layered onto a base of clay. When cured and finished properly, these pieces can have wonderful depth. The flowers (or whatever other image the cane contains) appear to float one atop another.

8. Skinner Blends
Skinner Blends can be used in a multitude of ways. Don't forget, when you're busy making these beautiful gradations of color, that the Skinner Blend works just as well with translucent clay as it does with opaque. Try it with two (or more) shades of lightly tinted translucent clay. Blend tinted translucent clay with untinted translucent clay-- or try an opaque clay with plain (or tinted) translucent clay. The options are endless, as are the possible uses of the finished blend!

9. Miniature Food
Many foods are not completely opaque. (Go look in the kitchen, if you don't believe me. Hold up a grape-- an orange slice-- a thin slice of ham. See how the light comes through in spots?) Recognizing this and varying opacity can mean the difference between a stunningly realistic miniature and something that's, well, not. I'd say that translucent clay is a must for anyone serious about making miniature foods with polymer clay. (Read more tips for making miniature foods in this blog entry.)

10. "Encasing"/Protected or Softening Images
An ultra-thin sheet of translucent clay (later sanded and buffed, usually, for optimal clarity) is sometimes used to seal (or "encase") and protect something, such as a toner transfer. You see the image through the layer of translucent clay, which softens the image-- an interesting way to create a dreamy effect. See Donna Kato's new book for examples of the "encasing" technique, or read more on this page of GlassAttic. You can also use this technique in other ways. Paint, ink, glitter, etc. can be sealed beneath a sheet of translucent clay. Or cut shapes from the sheet of translucent clay and apply them to a base of colored clay, as in the Crackled Inlay tutorial.

Obviously, this is just a start. There are more ways to use translucent polymer clay, and you can read about some of them at GlassAttic.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Pretty Things

I've been trying to catch up on a few months' worth of blogs. It takes time, but it's certainly a pleasant way to pass an hour.

I recently came across these beads by Mariane S., who describes them as being inspired by Donna Kato. Yes, I see the Kato influence-- the stripes and general shape-- but the "curlicue" and the interesting series of holes are something new to me. Very pretty!

I was also interested to read this entry on Tina Holden's blog. (Another blog to add to my list! And I found two others, as well, while reading other blogs!) Tina put another twist on the faux ceramics technique. Before adding the glaze of alcohol ink-tinted Kato liquid, she touched the clay with mica powders. Great idea! I'd already tried a light sprinkling of embossing powder, but I hadn't been thrilled with the results-- too bumpy for my tastes. (It might look better with different embossing powders. . .). After seeing Tina's lovely examples, I gave the more finely textured mica powders a try last week. It was fun to play around with the powders, and I'm looking forward to doing it again! There are lots more colors combos to try! :o)

One of these days, I'll make myself get out the ol' digital camera so that I can post pictures of my own "pretty things". ;o)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: ten color combos involving brown

To some, brown means old, dirty, and dull. While its true that objects which are past their prime sometimes do take on a brown patina of dust and grime, brown is also the color of rich wood, decadent chocolate, and luxurious leather. Like most colors, brown is what you make of it. Combined with the right partners, brown can be beautiful.

Ten Color Combos Involving Brown
(with photographic examples courtesy of flickr)

1. pink & brown
This combination (in addition to several others to follow) illustrates one of brown's most interesting qualities-- that is, that close proximation to brown can effectively ground and mature "tutti-frutti" colors and pastels. Straight pink can seem a bit "little girlish" for someone past the pig-tails stage of life, but combined with brown, pink becomes elegant and appropriate for any age. (It's still plenty fun, too!)
Examples: necklace (by BlockPartyPress), cake (by PinkCakeBox), tote (by sushikat)

2. aqua & brown
I had planned for this combo to use a darker teal, but when I started searching, I found more photos with aqua, and as I think they give a similar vibe, I made the switch. (Besides, I can't say "no" to aqua. I just can't. (g)) However, for a bolder look (and something out of this "pastel and brown" theme I'm loving so much right now), you could substitute a more vivid teal. (Something like this peacock feather, maybe: feather (by D.James).)
Examples: assortment (by Posy Cheeks), quilt (by aviva_hadas), bird (by Dailyville)

3. mint & chocolate
I've learned today that some people's idea of "mint" is what I would call aqua. (I think of mint as more greenish than bluish.) So if you just looked at the aqua and were thinking "But that's mint!". . . Sorry! ;o)
Mint and chocolate go so well together-- not only in flavor, but also in looks. It's a fresh, clean color combo that just might leave you craving something sweet and minty!
Examples: frame (by MiySpirit), aero (by RugbyMadGirl), yarn (by Woolly Interlude)
(And here's what I think of as a more "lime" shade of green with brown: tote (by type.wright)

4. lavender (or lilac) & brown
I think lavender has a more pinkish tinge than lilac. . . But whichever you prefer, they both pair well with brown. This is another example of brown's ability to give a youthful color that touch of sophistication that it might otherwise lack.
Examples: iris (by choirbell), tag book (by marzycards), cake (by michelledoll.olson), invitation (by Mad With Power)

5. red/orange/yellow & brown
Reds, oranges, golden yellows and browns seem meant to go together-- perhaps because we see them combined every year as the seasons cycle 'round. Yes, when you see all those colors together in one piece, you're probably instantly reminded of autumn. If that's the look your going for, then-- well, go for it! ;o) If not, try pairing just one of the colors with brown. For instance, red and brown can be a striking color combination with less of an instant "fall" mood. You can vary the effect by experimenting with different reds and browns, too-- warm vs. cool-- rust vs. crimson.
Examples: gourd (by gblane), bamboo print (by m_lee), bag (by ChicBoutique), jewelry (by Iris Mishly), pendant (by BlockPartyPress), pin (bykalliportfolio)

6. peach (or apricot) & brown
Chocolate brown compliments delicate peach or apricot very nicely. Again, a bold color grounds a pale, airy one-- but brown does this more gently than stark black would do.
Examples: wristlet (by ohsewfresh), print (by kia's r kid), flower (by mimbrava), mittens (by cosymakes)

7. brown & gold (or golden yellow)
Dress brown up with a touch of metallic gold-- or use goldenrod if you prefer less glitz. Mustard and goldenrod combined with brown produce instant mellowness. They can also be reminiscent of autumn, but in less of a "showy" way than you get with vivid reds and oranges. (If you like the look of brown with metallic gold, you may want to try other metallics, such as silver, bronze, copper, and pewter.)
Examples: mask (by polymer_woman), arrangement (by doublesneeze), dead weed (by Zamboni), pillows (by craftsfromtheheart), earrings (by APrettyRock)

8. brown & blue
Whether you prefer turquoise, baby blue, sky blue, robin's egg blue, or powder blue-- blue pairs well with brown. Usually, you'll see this color combination with a blue from the lighter end of the scale (as is the case with most of these color combos-- and as is to be expected, since brown can be such a dark, heavy color), but it is also possible to mix brown with midnight blue or navy, though it usually looks best when cream, white or another pale color is applied liberally for contrast.
Examples: cup (by koreana), note cards (by Rachel H), coasters (by star.key.feather), bird (by cordan), collage (by Red Colander), earrings (by ClinkscalesArts)

9. brown & green
I started out planning to make this combo strictly about spring green and brown, but then I came across a photo that convinced me to widen my focus a bit. Green and brown are natural partners, as anyone who's been outdoors will recognize. Think about it-- delicate fern fronds emerging from dark soil. . . a canopy of forest green floating above pillar-like tree trunks. . . lush green lawn and fertile brown soil-- brown and green are everywhere. (Well, for those of us who live in temperate or tropical climates, they are. If you're in a desert, you may have to use your imagination. (g)) You can also take this color combo to the extreme; vivid, electric green goes beautifully with amber brown (as you can see in one of the example photos below).
Examples: abstract (by Brandy Shaul) , jewelry (by chickiegirlcreations), ACEO (by BlockPartyPress), egg (by made_in_lowell), pendant (by me), snake (by mikhailjw)

10. brown & cream (or white)
Some people may not think that putting white or cream with a color is a "real" color combo, but I beg to differ. It's a very simple one, admittedly-- the ultimate "limited palette"-- but that doesn't mean it can't be effective. You want clean, fresh and bright? Pair brown with white. You want something a bit warmer, maybe a little bit vintage? Then take your coffee with cream! ;o) I'll be you could make a very neat "sepia tone" cane worked in a monochromatic scheme with several shades of brown, all the way from dark chocolate to cream.
Examples: pendant (by Anne White Designs), swans (by myfear), bag (by Patchwork Pottery), tea (by smosch), yoyos (by robayre), cupcakes (by Cupcakes 'n Things), shoes (from artsy T)

So there you have it-- several tried and true color combs involving brown. See? Brown is useful for making more than mini chocolates, after all. ;o)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Finally! A photo of the new Heaser book...

I guess the publishers were holding back the cover photo of the new Heaser book until after it was released, because I've been checking out the Amazon listing every so often, with no luck. Now that the book's out, at least I can see the cover. I don't really understand the logic behind the move, if it was a conscious decision on the part of the publishers and not just some glitch in the system. Personally, I'm much more likely to buy a book if I can see what it looks like. I "trust" it more if I have a photo. Tempting us with a great picture of the cover would have generated more interest in pre-ordering, I imagine.

The book's title is Encyclopedia of Polymer Clay Techniques: A Comprehensive Directory Covering a Panoramic Range of Exciting Applications. (What a mouthful!) I'm interested in reading some customer reviews, once they start pouring in, because I've liked Sue Heaser's other books (that I've been able to see). However, I doubt I'll purchase this one. From the little information I've been able to find, I get the impression that it covers a lot of the basic techniques-- ideal for the beginner, but not quite as exciting for someone who's worked with clay for a while and read a few other books on the basics. That said, I'll bet it's full of useful tips, many of which I've probably never heard before.

I like the cover. It reminds me of Carol Blackburn's bead book-- the font of the title, the colors, the dimensions of the book. . . And I love the stained glass effect in the main photo.

. . .Well, that's enough time wasted for now, I think. ;o)

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What I've been up to, lately. . .

What I've been up to lately (in the realm of clay). . . Quite a few annoying "flops", in varying degrees of floppiness. ;o)

I'll admit it-- I'm impatient, and I have unrealistic expectations. If something doesn't go right the first time, I'm a bit miffed. If it messes up a second time, I threaten to move on to the next thing, never mind the well-known fact that "practice makes perfect", "Rome wasn't built in a day", and so on. If it's something I really want to do, I might give it a third "go"; otherwise, I need to take a breather and come back to it later. These days, I have a number of "come back to it later"-grade projects.

While reading Donna Kato's new book during my vacation, I came across a few more things to add to my "to try" list. I've been gradually working my way through some of those.

The first project I tried (the alcohol ink on metal leaf under translucent clay) kind of flopped (partly because I deviated from The Plan and didn't realize how sticky the inked clay would be, even after a good, long drying time). I have those lemons sitting off to the side, waiting for me to work up the willpower to see if they can be salvaged. (I'm sure they can be, but I'm just not in the mood to clean up messes, lately. As the piles of clutter in the office can attest!!)

The second "Little Project That Couldn't" ;o) was another from the new Kato book. And ok, maybe it "could", but it didn't do it as well as I'd hoped. It was the encased toner transfer project, and this time, my problem was two-fold.

On the first try, I chose a transfer and color combo that didn't work out very well. The colors are ok, but you can't see much of the transfer. It looks almost like some interesting cracklature instead of a transferred design.

On the second try, I took contrast into consideration, so the transfer is alright-- but this time (as with the first try) I had a little trouble with the translucent clay sticking to my work surface and tearing/stretching when I tried to move it (even when I used a clay blade). After all that burnishing to make the transfer, it's no wonder that the clay gets stuck, but it's still a huge pain. Next time, I guess I'll work on a small tile and chill it. . . Then I also had trouble deciding what to do with the sheets of clay. I tried a couple other things with metal leaf and paint-- attempts to dress up an otherwise dull piece-- but I fear I may have only made things worse.

All in all, it took quite a bit of time, and left me with lots still left to do before I'll have anything finished. Not exactly an exhilarating experience, but I have to keep telling myself that I can't expect everything to go smoothly the first time. (If only I were one of those people who truly enjoys a challenge! (g) Instead, I think I really prefer it when things come easily!! Only joking. I guess. . .)

Looking at the pieces again, I think maybe I was too harsh with them. I mean, I definitely wouldn't say they're my best work, but it's not as though I'll have to bury them in the dead of night. ;o) I think my main problem was that I'd looked forward so much to trying this technique, then when I finally was able to, it wasn't the dream I'd been expecting. I do tend to expect things to go more easily than is likely.

So, what else? Well, I tried that faux ceramic tutorial I linked to the other day-- the one that glazes extruded clay beads with tinted liquid clay. The first try was a disappointment. The liquid clay was running more than I'd expected (probably because my bead rack doesn't hold beads on vertical pins, but on horizontal ones). I tried setting the liquid clay with an embossing gun, then put them into the oven to cure properly. Apparently I didn't heat set them sufficiently, as the liquid clay still cured into a slight drip. :o( Fortunately, it was a test run with just two beads, but now I'll have to figure a better way to deal with the remaining "base beads" I made for that technique. (Maybe I'll make another bead rack, like the one used in the tutorial photos.)

So, has anything been going right? (g)
I did go through with a plan to make different pizza toppings, which was fun. I've run into a slight problem with my pizza slices, too, but it's nothing major, and I think I know how to fix it.

I was also pleasantly surprised with toner transfers. I'd been putting them off and putting them off-- partly because transfers in general are such persnickety things and there are about a hundred ways of doing them-- partly because I didn't have easy access to a copier. I finally got around to visiting the Xerox machine at a local library, which wasn't too much trouble (g), and the water technique in Donna Kato's book makes the process much easier than I'd expected. (Yay!)

(Of course, before I could go to the copier, I had to get my "master sheets" ready. That did take some time-- finding images that were in the public domain, arranging them on the page-- and then, when I had ideas for projects requiring specific images, figuring out the basics of Adobe Illustrator and drawing my own vector images. . . Not that all of that is absolutely necessary, depending on what you want to do. It's pretty satisfying to wrestle a new computer program into semi-submission, but it can also be ir-ri-tat-ing!)

Um, where was I? Oh yeah, toner transfers. So I've been focused on those for a little while, now, using them in a more straightforward way-- not in the encased technique. I was heartbroken when a couple of what I'd hoped would be "perfect" pieces came out with bubbles marring them. But oh well. I'm pretty sure I know what went wrong, and I can adjust my technique.

And that's been it, apart from a few other bits and bobs along the way. I don't have many new photos from the past couple of weeks. For some of the projects, I'm waiting until I get it just right (or "right-er"). As a matter of fact, I'm off to test my toner transfer bubble-problem fixer-upper right now! Wish me luck! ;o)

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Three Little Tidbits

It's about time for a non-"Tuesday Ten List" post, I'd say. (g)

Of course, this will be nearly as choppy as a list. . . What can I say? That's how I think. I'm a list-maker.

Tidbit #1:
I found this photo a while ago, via a polymer clay collaborative journal that's written in Cyrillic alphabet. I think it's Russian (since the creator of the jewelry in the photo lives in Moscow), but I'm not 100% sure. I'm not a language expert; I just like to look at pretty pictures. ;o)

I'm not usually extremely taken with animal print fabric and accessories, but I love these. I think it's the mica clay that sets them apart, but they also just look very well put together, from the polymer clay components to the final products.

This jewelry is the work of Xanka, who has a whole photo album devoted to polymer clay jewelry. The most recent work is on the last page. A few photos back from the "gepard" (cheetah) set, there are some lovely pearl "wedding roses". And if you love strawberries, you have to check out this photo (and this one) of a fun strawberry-themed necklace.

Tidbit #2:
I remember reading somewhere that books featuring glass art beads could be a wonderful source of inspiration for polymer clay bead makers. For those of us who demand instant gratification (or simply don't want to buy or take the trouble to borrow a book), there are plenty of photos online. One of my favorite sites for ogling glass beads is BeadArtists.org. There are a few polymer clay bead artists here, but they are few and far between. Everywhere I look on this site, there are incredible glass beads. Here are a few-- um, several of my favorite galleries: Anastasia, Ayako Hattori, Sarah Mader, Mr. Smiley, The Glass Turtle, Akihiro Ohkama, Ashton Jewels, and many more!

Tidbit #3:
While looking up some info about liquid clay, the other day, I came across this page: http://www.sculpt.com/catalog_98/clay/SCULPEY_TLS.htm
It contains some very helpful hints about ways to use TLS (and other liquid clays, since they are similar in many ways). Some of it I already knew, some of it I'd read before but forgotten. Useful for people new to liquid clay. Quite a bit of information in a short space.

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Ten on Tuesday: ten October projects/inspirations

It doesn't feel very Octoberish around here, yet. Highs near 90, still! But we're expecting a slight cool spell by the end of the week-- and maybe some of you other folks are already enjoying crisper air.

Whether eerie, shivery, spine-tingly Halloween is your favorite holiday (and you've had your costume all picked out since June) or you prefer a "cannier" (see "canny", def. #3) celebration of the harvest, it's a great time to pull out the ol' polymer clay and get craftin'. The colors of the season are beautiful, and there's a strange sense of excitement in the air. Take advantage of these fleeting, golden days of October! (Before you know it, it'll be time to think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you won't have time to breathe, much less enjoy a leisurely afternoon with the clay!)

Ten on Tuesday: Ten October Projects and/or Inspirations

1. If you haven't already visited Sculpey's list of projects, now's a great time to do so! Many of them are great for beginners or kids, and there's a whole section with fall, Halloween or Thanksgiving themes.

2. Speaking of kids. . . Unless they've changed a lot since I was one (which admittedly, was a number of years ago-- and that number just keeps growing (g)), kids love things that glow in the dark. Consider adding a little glow to a project for a bit of instant spookiness. I just came across this page (by Lesley Shepherd) describing the qualities of glow clay. Could be useful, if you're new to the stuff.

3. If you didn't find the right project on the Sculpey site, check out this page of Diane Black's GlassAttic for a list of links to seasonal or holiday-themed projects. (There's a separate page for Christmas, if you're getting an early start this year.)

4. And for those who aren't so much into the whole "Halloween" thing, here's a little autumnal inspiration. . . This is something I just found by clicking a link at random (from the GlassAttic list): a photo of some beautiful miniature pumpkins. (The photo is labeled "Jodie Pumpkins", so I assume that I ought to give credit to Jodie Last-Name-Unknown.)

5. I learned a while ago that owls were "in" a year or two ago. (I didn't know that when I chose my Internet identity. Honestly! (g) I explain the origin of the name in my profile, if you're interested.) Anyway, if you don't mind looking a bit faddish (or like you're trying to be faddish, but are a bit behind the times (g))-- if your fondness for owls is genuine, maybe you'll benefit from Marie Hart's pictorial guide to sculpting polymer clay owls. As for why this is on the list-- owls are vaguely spooky, aren't they?

6. This one could count as inspiration if you're the type who finds motivation in an organized challenge. You're invited to enter the Inscrutables, MAKE, and PopSci DIY Halloween 2007 Contest. There are four categories, the one most relevant to pc probably being "Decorations, Gadgets, and More". You have until November 4th to enter. Check out this page for more info!

7. There are several pumpkin tutorials out there. Okay, more than a mere "several". I'm too lazy to go through them all, but for the most part, they're very similar. Here's one: Pumpkin Picture Holder, by Jill King. She makes her pumpkins pretty big-- about one pumpkin per 2 oz. package of clay. They have to be large, to support the wire and photo. Personally, I'd probably build the clay around a base of some sort (such as a small stone)-- partly to save clay, partly because I worry that thick items like that might be difficult to fully cure. (Of course, you could also cure it in stages/layers.) Anyway, putting aside my worrywartiness ;o) , you can use a similar technique on a smaller scale to produce miniature pumpkin decorations, beads, or pendants.

8. Need inspiration? If you have time to kill, go to flickr (or your photo-hosting source of choice) or Etsy and search for "Halloween polymer", "creepy polymer", "autumn polymer"-- you get the idea. You never know what you'll find, or what ideas of your own will be sparked.

9. For still more inspiration, visit the PCC Challenge archives. Some of the past challenges have had autumnal themes, such as Harvest and Autumn, or (possibly) spooky themes, like Gothic. Scroll further up the page for a list of photos of Claypen photos (such as Autumn).

10. If you can learn by photos alone (or if you can read Russian... or whatever language this is-- the Cyrillic alphabet throws me for a loop!), take a look at this scull and crossbones cane by cloud777. Thanks to the numerous photos, the process seems pretty clear-- and the results would be great for Halloween-themed projects.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ten on Tuesday: Mokume Gane Photos

I think I'm changing "Top Ten Tuesday" to simply "Ten on Tuesday". (I know there's at least one meme out there by that name, but oh well. (g)) The reason for the switch-- I found myself tending to make lists that weren't exactly a top ten "countdown", so I thought the old name might be misleading. Anyway, for now, it's "Ten on Tuesday". (g)

Today's ten focuses on beautiful photos of mokume gane (mg) with polymer clay. A photo of work by Kim Cavender (who has recently started a blog, by the way) inspired me to search the treasure troves of flickr. . .

Ten on Tuesday: Mokume Gane Photos

1. "Mokume Pendants", by Kim Cavender:
Gorgeous depth in these mg pendants! Based on her name for this version of mg-- "Mokume Gane to Dye For"-- I suspect that it involves some sort of dye. (Very clever of me, I know. ;o)) (A few other mg pieces are also available for your viewing pleasure, if you check out her photostream.)

2. "Katsumushi", by Jael:
Lovely blue mg-- and an interesting combination of mokume gane with canes. (There are photos of other pieces from this same mg slab, too, as well as completely different "batches". The blue heart and the "thermal imaging" style rainbow of mica clays are great.)

3. "Mokume Gane - Magnets", by mirandami:
An unusual use for mg-- slices of clay cured/glued to the back of flattened marbles! This could be a nice way to use up mg scraps, if you had some that were too small to do much else with, but too pretty to mash into scrap clay.

4. "Pulsera de cerca", by anenit:
I love the colors in this mg-- aqua with flecks of gold. If you look at the photos before and after this one in her photostream, you'll find a few other pictures of this piece and some matching earrings.

5. "Celestial Forest Polymer Clay Pendant", by chickiegirlcreations (Janet):
This is a great example of how the mg technique can be used to mimic stone. There's a similar piece in pink and green, if you look through the rest of her photostream.

6. "What I did this week", by Paula I
According to the caption, polymer clay is a new hobby for her. Pretty nice results, huh? It's the colors that captivate me. . .

7. "This is my FAVORITE!", by ClaynPrazy
(And we can see why! (g)) I love the sparkling green against the other colors in this piece. :o)

8. "New mokume gane pen", by Christie:
Beautiful purple and silver mg-covered pen-- an excellent example of how you can use mg for more than jewelry. There's also a photo of a switch plate covered in this same type of mg, if you look through the rest of her photostream.

9. "Lazy Woman's Mokume Gane - blue", by penguintrax (Barb):
Another take on mg-- this time using a clay gun (extruder). There's even a link to a tutorial, in the caption! Check out a "tropical" version of the same technique, also in her photostream.

10. "Electric", by Julie Picarello:
Masterful use of the "non-translucent" mg technique. (If you like these, be sure to check out the rest of her photostream, too, as there are many other goodies in there.)

All this mokume gane has put me in the mood to "mokume", too. But that'll have to wait, as I'm already knee-deep in projects! (g)

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