Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Photography Tips

I'm a bit later than usual this time, but here's my weekly list of ten. :o)

Whether you want to sell your work online, share it with others (without sending the actual object), or start a photographic record of what you've made, sooner or later you'll probably want to photograph your polymer clay creations.

Photographing polymer clay art seems simple enough-- until you actually try it. There are a number of common problems that can detract from the beauty of your work, but there are also solutions. You'll soon find that getting a great capture is as much of an art as the polymer clay techniques you used to create the gorgeous object you want to photograph! It takes time to learn and perfect your photographic technique, but with a few good pointers, you'll soon see dramatic improvements. What follows is a list of ten tips to get you started in the right direction.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Tips for Photographing Polymer Clay Artwork

1. Learn how to use your camera.
Sure, it sounds obvious, but let's admit it: Most of us are so excited to try out our new toys that we don't always spend the time it takes to learn all the features. It can be intimidating, at first, but give it a try. Now is a great time to take out your manual and give it a closer look. If you know someone with camera know-how, ask them to show you some of what your camera can do. Experiment with different settings-- something beyond the automatic setting. Look for a message board or other online community where you can ask questions about your specific model.

If you have an out-dated camera-- or one that is strictly point-and-shoot-- now may be the time to consider shopping around for a new one. You needn't spend a lot of money to get a good digital camera, depending on what you want to do with it.

2. Be sure you have good lighting.
A photograph is captured light, so if you start out with poor lighting, you'll have poor photographs. I like to experiment with lighting-- take photos of the same object in a few different kinds of light. Sometimes I'm surprised by the results-- and with digital cameras, it doesn't cost much more than your time to take a few extra shots.

Natural light is almost always better than artificial light-- and it's free-- but you can also purchase special studio lighting. When photographing in natural light, it's usually best to have indirect light. In other words, you don't want the sun shining directly on the object. One way to achieve this is to use a diffuser. There are a number of ways to diffuse light. You can purchase a special box for this purpose (such as the EZ Cube), but you can also create your own "shield" from vellum, white fabric, or something similar. The idea is to let some light through to your object, but to soften it.

I made my own diffuser by cutting a hole in the bottom of an old gallon ice cream bucket. I simply place the bucket upside down over my bead (or whatever I'm photographing) and take the photo through the cut hole. The "frosted/clear" plastic of the bucket filters the light beautifully! (I first read this tip on PCC, but I can't remember whose it was. . .)

If you need to photograph with artificial light, you'll get the best results by using special lights in combination with a diffuser. (I don't know much about that set-up, myself, so I won't attempt to explain it. (g))

3. Use a tripod.
If you don't already have one, a tripod is a good investment. It doesn't have to be an expensive one, so long as it's easy enough to use that you'll actually use it. A tripod can help you cut down on blurry photos. Once you have your camera in place on a tripod, you don't have to worry about holding it the whole time-- and you more easily find the same spot time after time, if you're photographing a series of several similarly sized objects. A tripod also allows you to take longer exposures without blurring the photo. A longer exposure means that the shutter is open for longer than usual. As long as your tripod and camera hold still, this can give you a brighter image with a wider range of focus.

4. Get up close and personal.
If you're photographing small-scale objects like beads, earrings, or miniatures, you can easily "lose" your subject in the photo. A huge photo with a tiny bead in the middle isn't very impressive. Try to get as close to your subject as possible (without ruining your camera's ability to focus properly). If your camera has a macro setting-- or better yet, if you have a special macro lens-- now is the time to use it.

Macro lenses allow you to focus much closer to your subject than you can with a standard lens. For example, close-up photos of flowers and insects are usually taken with a macro lens. You'll find macro lenses at a variety of price points. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a macro lens that will take good photos of jewelry, beads, etc., but of course you can, if you'd like to. ;o)

If you don't have a macro lens and can't afford one right now, just get in as close as you can without sacrificing focus. (If you find, when you download your photos and see them big on the monitor, that they look a tiny bit blurry, go back and give it another try from slightly further away. Getting closer is no good if you end up with blurry images!) If your camera has a zoom function, don't forget to use that. Even if you can't fill up the whole photo with your subject, you can always crop the photo later. (I'll talk more about that later on.)

5. Be aware of your background.
So far, we've been putting all the focus on your subject, but it's also important to give some thought to the background. No matter how great your piece looks on its own, the right background can improve a photograph of it. Which background is "right" will depend on the subject (its color(s) and style), the purpose of the photo, and your personal taste.

For a very formal photo, you may want a solid black or white background-- or a gradient (look here for an example), which you can buy or print out on your home printer.

For something less formal, you can play around with brightly colored and/or patterned paper (scrapbook paper, for instance), fabric, leather, glass, brick, stone-- anything interesting that goes nicely with the color(s) of your subject. You can even give your subject a little "set". This is especially popular among some jewelry artists. A necklace draped around a vase-- earrings in the fold of a large, lushly green leaf-- a bracelet nestled on the silken folds of scarf. These "sets" usually are chosen for visual interest and/or to convey a certain mood (freshness, femininity, youth, etc.). Sometimes they show the subject in its "natural surroundings"-- i.e. a piece of jewelry on a woman's dresser, near her perfume.

Sometimes people like to include something in the photo for scale-- a coin, a ruler, or a grid to quickly illustrate the size of the object for sale.

The main arguments against using strong patterns, "sets", or rulers in photographs is that they may distract from the main subject. This is a matter of personal taste, so experiment to see what you like. If you have trouble deciding what looks best, show some friends a few options and ask which set-up they prefer. Try to notice the background/composition of product photos you admire. You may learn a few tricks that way, too. Eventually, you'll find the solution that meets your needs.

6. Clean up your act! ;o)
It's amazing what shows up on your computer monitor! All the dust, fuzz, lint, etc. that you didn't see when you were happily snapping photo after photo "magically" appears when you're looking at the pictures full size. Try to eliminate some of these annoying distractions by giving your work a quick polish-- or a puff of air-- right before photographing them. The same goes for your background and "set"; if they've been sitting out for a while, they can get dusty. (Some dust can be done away with during post-processing, but if there's much, it's a real pain-- not to mention that it can be tricky, if it's on the main subject of the photo.)

If your camera has a feature that allows you to zoom in and see your photo larger (on the camera, before downloading them to the computer), you can take advantage of that. It might save you the annoyance of having to completely redo a shoot.

7. Look at things from different angles.
If you're photographing your work to sell online, you'll often have the option of sharing more than one photo of each piece. In that case, it's a good idea to take photos from different angles.

Even if you're just photographing for your own sake, you may find that changing things around a little gives your photos a fresh look. Instead of taking every photo from straight on, try lowering the camera so that you have a different view of the piece.

If photographing with a view to sell the object, you'll want to provide as many different views of the piece as possible. Show the front, back, and sides of the piece. Consider taking a close-up of any special details that may not be obvious from a photo of the whole object.

Remember, one of the benefits of digital photography is that you can take as many photos as you like without having to pay to develop them all, so keep an open mind and play around.

8. Do a "stand-up job". ;o)
(Ok, I'll admit it; I have a weakness for puns! (g))

If you're photographing a special bead-- or any other object that doesn't easily stand just the way you'd like-- you can give it a little help. It depends on the look you want, but sometimes having the bead "just lying there" isn't exactly inspirational. Maybe you want it tilted back a bit with the prettiest side showing. Maybe you just want to give it a little more stability so that it's not constantly falling over or rolling around.

Different artists suggest a few different solutions for this problem. One idea is to use the teensiest bit of poster tack (the stuff used to hang posters on walls without nails or pins). Roll a tiny ball of the tack, then press your bead into it. With a little practice, you should be able to position your bead perfectly with none of the tack showing. You can also use "prop wax", which is made especially for this purpose. When photographing larger items, you may be able to prop them up against something-- anything sturdy, but small enough that it won't be visible in the photo. Experiment to find what works best for you.

9. Do a little post-processing (as needed).
Whether we know it or not, most of the images we see these days have been "processed", to some degree. The already-skinny model has had a few more pounds shaven away digitally; the covergirl's little blemish has been erased with a few clicks of the mouse. I'll leave you to form your own opinions on that subject (g), but in many cases, a little post-processing can improve a product photo.

Post-processing doesn't have to be intimidating. Once you learn the steps and create a routine of your own, it's easy. You'll need some type of photo-editing software. Adobe Photoshop (including the cheaper, more basic Photoshop Elements) is the best-known, but it's certainly not the only program out there. Your digital camera may come with a very simple program that allows you to crop and rotate photos, but you can also purchase photo-editing software. You can even find useful programs available for free online. (I don't know much about programs other than Photoshop, but in a recent blog entry, Christie mentioned one called GIMP. I'm sure you can find other options with a little research.)

Once you have your photo-editing software, you need to learn how to use it. Fortunately, you don't have to know every single function to get started. There are plenty of tutorials and message boards online where you can learn how to use most programs-- or you may be able to find an instructive book (maybe even at your local library). If you're very lucky, you might know someone who can give you a lesson in person. Just take your time, take notes, and remember that it will get easier with time.

The following are some of the functions I find most useful in Photoshop:
  • Crop-- Allows you to select which portion of the photo you want to stay and which part should "go away". Particularly useful for shifting the focus back where you want it, if you couldn't get in close enough when you were taking your photos.
  • Resize-- If you don't need your photo to be huge, there's no sense in keeping it huge. It just takes longer for the program to process; it also takes longer to upload. However, you don't want to make them too small. How big they'll need to be depends on what you'll be doing with them. For instance, at Etsy, 1000 pixels wide is suggested. If you're not sure what size you'll need for a certain application, you can probably find advice in the FAQ or a forum.
  • Unsharp Mask-- There are a variety of ways to put a little extra sharpness on a photo. This is the one my husband (who just happens to be an Adobe Photoshop certified professional (g)) suggested that I use. (Note: If you find yourself relying too heavily on post-processing sharpening filters, it's time to work on your photo setup. Work to get a good, sharp focus when you take the photo, because no amount of post-processing can entirely compensate for a poor-quality photograph.)
  • Cloning tools-- This type of tool (Clone Stamp Tool, Healing Brush, etc.) allows you to copy one part of the photo and paste it over another part-- or to take an average of the surrounding pixels and "paint" over in a similar color and texture. (Each tool has its own pros and cons. Once you've played around with them, you'll know which is best to use for a given task.) These tools are amazing time-savers. With them, you can remove small blemishes with a few quick mouse clicks. However, if you're using your photos to sell your work, you'll have to be careful to remove only photographic blemishes (dust, for example) and not something that is a permanent element of the piece (fingerprints and similar). Remember that your goal should be to make your work look as good as it truly does-- not to give a false representation of it.
  • Color adjustments-- You can adjust the colors, brightness, contrast, etc. in a number of ways. (Look under Image>Adjustments.) Which is "best" depends on who you ask. Some people swear by Levels. Personally, I usually turn to Curves first (because that's how my husband taught me (g)), then maybe follow up with Color Balance (which is good way to pull down the yellow in artificially lit photos). You have the most control over your results if you manually adjust the colors, but if you're in a hurry or just aren't very particular about it, you can also use the auto adjust features, such as Auto Levels, Auto Color, and Auto Contrast. (There's also the option to select "auto" in the Curves box.)

10. Learn the tricks of the trade. (Study at the feet of the masters.)
We can learn a great deal from professional photographers. If you're feeling very ambitious, you can sign up for a class, but you can also learn a lot from a good book or from the many free tutorials, articles, and communities available on the internet.

Here are a handful of interesting links I found with just a few minutes of researching:
  • Jewelry photography articles at Ganoksin.
  • Information on photographing jewelry, beads, etc. (Yes, it's from a supplier of photographic equipment, but the information's free. (g))
    • This one's about glass, but I think many of the tips are just as useful for polymer clay-- especially translucent pieces.
    • Here's one about photographing jewelry in general.
  • Don't forget about the GlassAttic page on photographing polymer clay.
  • Rena Klingenberg's "Tips for Photographing Jewelry".
  • Syndee Holt offers some photo tips on her website. Also, if you have access to old issues of PolymerCAFE, you can find a couple of related articles she's written for the magazine. Look for Vol. 5 No. 1 (Winter 2006/07) and Vol. 5 No. 2 (Spring 2007). There may be more related articles in up-coming editions, because the second article is labeled "Part 2 of a series".
And of course there are many, many more just waiting to be found! Remember that the tutorial/article doesn't have to be written expressly for polymer clay artists. You can adapt many of them to suit your personal needs.

Isn't it wonderful how one hobby (polymer clay) can lead you into so many other interests? :o)

Friday, January 25, 2008

After Cleaning

After Cleaning
Originally uploaded by MossyOwls

Well, I finally got around to uploading the before and after photos from my craft-room clean-up. You can click the photo above to be taken to my flickr account, if you want to see more.

(This is one of those times when I wish that my family didn't know about my flickr account. (g))

I still have a few problem areas to work on, but for now, I'm done with cleaning this room! It's good enough! ;o)

It does feel more inviting like this, but I wonder how long it'll last?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Just daydreaming about *AQUA*. . .

New studio redo, originally uploaded by *jenny b allsorts.

I'm making serious progress in the big Craft-Room Clean-Up of '08. ;o) I think that if I'm determined, I can have photos ready to share by the end of the day.

In the meantime, though, I took a break to peek into some other craft rooms and studios, via a search on Flickr. There are some real beauties out there. I love the colors and sense of playfulness in the studio pictured above! That aqua wall color is absolutely gorgeous, and I love the vintage feel of the red and white details!

I don't have any plans of repainting my craft room/studio anytime soon, though. It's just too much work! (g) I don't even want to *think* about moving everything out of the room, now that I'm getting the last things put away.

It's a wet, grey, and dreary day, around here, and I thought that sharing this photo would be a good way of brightening up my blog, at least. :o)

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Very, *very* early spring cleaning? ;o)

This afternoon, I decided it was high time to give the craft room a major overhaul-- not so much moving around large pieces of furniture, but clearing away accumulated "stuff" and maybe coming up with some new storage solutions. A few other rooms in the house could also use a good "deep cleaning", but the craft room is the worst of the bunch (at least as far as clutter goes), and it's also more fun to go through art and craft supplies than it is to scrub toilets (Anyone know a good way to remove extremely stubborn rust stains?), wash out the inside of the refrigerator, and clean dusty baseboards. ;o) (Anything to postpone the more serious cleaning!)

I even took a few photos to document the pre-cleaning horrors. We'll see if I'm brave enough to post before and after shots. ;o)

So far, I don't think you can see a whole lot of difference. There are a couple of large boxes out of the room, now, but to be completely honest, they've just been moved into another room! (I'll have to deal with them later. . .)

Part of the problem is that there's just so much clutter-- so many little bitty things that have no real "place". If something has a place, it's just a matter of putting it there. It takes a little time, maybe, but it's not too bad. Just pick it up, identify it, and put it away. But with things that have no real specified "home", you have to stop and think. Is it something worth keeping? (If it has no obvious use, that can take some time to figure out.) Where would it most logically go? Do you need to rearrange things to make it fit? Moving just one item off the table can potentially lead to a "sub-task" that takes ten or fifteen minutes. I'm trying to organize things while I clean, and I find myself constantly being sidetracked.

I've barely touched the clay table, which is a huge mess. I'm down to a clear area of less than six square inches, I think. Everything else is covered with mixes of clay, containers of stuff (glitter, flocking, tools), and WIPs (works-in-progress, for those unfamiliar with the abbreviation). However, at least I've sorted through the majority of the loose beads and "bits and bobs" of cured clay. Every little bit helps!

I hope this will teach me not to let things get into this bad a state of disorder again-- but I doubt it will have any lasting effect! (g)

Ten on Tuesday: Places to *Find* "Found" Textures

In the world of art, it seems that people are always referring to "found" things-- "found" objects, "found" images, "found" textures. Found textures can be especially useful for the polymer clay artist, as the medium is so receptive to texture. Using found objects for texture appeals to the modern impulse to reuse/recycle/"repurpose" whenever possible-- and whatever is "found" is usually dirt cheap (or even free)-- so it's an appealing concept all around.

But-- have you ever wondered where these things were found in the first place? The beauty of the "found" is that you can happen upon it almost anywhere. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to experiment. If you need a little push in the right direction, keep reading.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Places to Find "Found" Textures (and Tools)
(Each place is followed by some possible things you might find there and potentially use to texture polymer clay. There's no real rhyme or reason to the ordering of these items.)

1. The Kitchen.
meat tenderizers, forks, dish gloves (the "traction" patterns, especially), cheese grater, colanders, paper towels, sponges, hard foods (pasta, hard candy, nuts), cut/pressed glass (drinking glasses, bowls), trivets, fridge magnets, food packaging (deli boxes, mesh bags, jars with interesting textures), silverware patterns, candy molds, cake decorator tips, cabinet hardware.

2. The Toolbox.
screwdrivers, screws, nails, sandpaper, nuts, bolts, hex tools, keys. Almost any tool will have some sort of texture-- possibly several. Look from all angles.

3. The Great Outdoors.
leaves, ferns, twigs, bark, stones, nuts, cut wood, seashells, garden art, bricks, snail shells, pine cones, tire treads, pet collars and ID tags, fencing materials (whether wood, wire, cast iron, etc.).

4. The Bathroom.
hair clips/barrettes/pins, medicine bottle caps, toothbrushes, combs, make-up brushes, hair brushes, perfume bottles (especially those with raised or indented patterns), safety pins, cabinet hardware, cut/pressed glass containers. Also check deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, lotion, and make-up containers for possible interesting textures.

5. The Home Office.
bubble wrap, paper clips (as they are or bent into new shapes), pen/marker caps, erasers (for carving your own small stamps), mouse pads, coins (domestic or foreign). Some older hardcover books even have textures impressed upon the covers-- but I wouldn't advise trying to use a book for a texture unless it's has no real (or sentimental) value, as the clay could possibly color or damage it.

6. The Closet (or Chest of Drawers).
textured buttons, zippers, soles/treads of shoes, belt buckles, belts (especially those with a more detailed texture, such as braided or stamped leather), drawer pulls, clothes hangers. Some fabrics (lace, for instance) also have enough texture that they can be used as a texturing tool. However, it would be best to try this technique with old garments that are past their prime-- not your favorite, most expensive blouse or your great-grandmother's wedding gown.

7. The Jewelry Box.
textured beads, medallions, brooches. Even clasps can potentially have interesting textures. The box itself may, too.

8. The Craft Closet/Corner/Room.
bits of lace or rickrack, fabric scraps, stamps (not quite "found", but not necessarily bought to use with clay), buttons, zippers, leather tools, beads, cords, wire (that can be bent into "brands"/"stamps" of your own design), scissors, marker caps.

9. Yard Sales / Thrift Stores.
These can be great sources for cheap, unusual items with great textures. Kitchen gadgets, toys, costume jewelry (textured metal/glass), and all sorts of odds and ends. Just keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed!

1o. The Waste Basket.
Yes, that sounds a bit odd. (g) What I really mean is this: give things a closer look before tossing them. Ask yourself if there's any possible use for the item-- any unusual texture. If you think there's a chance (and the object isn't filthy or too hard to clean), it's simple to press it into a sheet of scrap clay and see what happens. Possible waste basket rescues include the following: used-up pens (and their caps), disposable food packaging (like deli boxes or glass/plastic jars), broken toys and gadgets. (Take apart old watches or timers to find all kinds of interesting bits and pieces.)

Remember, while you're looking for textures, that raw polymer clay can be sticky and often leaves a residue on whatever it touches. You'll want to thoroughly clean objects after using them as texture tools. Some surfaces may be more difficult to clean than others, and raw clay can stain or otherwise react badly with certain materials (fabrics, finished wood, some plastics). Consider the possible after-effects before putting polymer clay on anything valuable. It is also generally recommended that kitchen tools-- or anything else that comes in direct contact with food-- be dedicated to clay/crafts only, once you use them with clay. Use your own judgment, but try to err on the side of caution.

Here's a related post I wrote last year: Texturing Tools and Other "Found" Goodies.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clay sales this week!

Just a quick notice for those with Michaels or Hobby Lobby stores nearby--

Both places have polymer clay on sale this week. The standard 2-ounce blocks will be $1 at Michaels and 99 cents at Hobby Lobby. (Kato brand isn't included in the sale, though. I guess that would be too much to hope for, considering that the blocks are bigger.)

I need to look through my stash and see if I'm running low on anything. . .

To jump back to the subject of the new brand of clay-- my sweet husband checked for me at the JoAnn store in Mobile. He didn't see any Studio by Sculpey-- clay or tools. I'm not surprised, as that store's pretty small, and the clay department is fairly sparse to begin with. Still haven't checked Pensacola. I think it's a bigger store, so maybe they'll (eventually) stock the new stuff. However, I hardly ever go to P'cola these days-- too many traffic nightmares and I don't really know my way around town that well. Wouldn't want to make a special trip without knowing, but I guess I could try to call and see if they have it. Either that or order it online, one of these days.

Heaven knows I have enough craft supplies already to keep me busy in the meantime. ;o)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Studio by Sculpey

I just finished reading a few different bloggers' opinions of the new brand of polymer clay-- Studio by Sculpey. (Angela-- aka CraftyGoat-- has a review, as well as a few links to other bloggers' opinions.)

Angela writes that from what she's heard, Studio (or am I "supposed" to call it by its full name, Studio by Sculpey, every time? (g)) will be sold at JoAnn stores, but not Michaels. I wonder what the chances are of Hobby Lobby carrying it? Pretty slim, I'd imagine, but it'd be so great if they did. The nearest JoAnn stores aren't very convenient for me, so I hardly ever go. I wouldn't mind trying the new clay, but honestly, I'm even more interested in the tools. (g) The "Style and Detail" tools look particularly interesting. I also like some of the shape cutters and texture sheets.

I was going to write that I wondered what the price range would be for the tools, as I didn't see any of the Studio stuff up on the JoAnn website, yet. However, the retail prices are listed at MunroCrafts.com. The Style and Detail tools (set of three) are listed for $10. . . The set of four blades with handles is $12.99. . . The textures sheets (2 per set) are $7.99 for each set (kind of pricey). . . and I don't even see the shape cutters listed. So the tools aren't quite as expensive as I'd have expected (with the exception of the texture sheets).

It's always interesting when something new comes along, isn't it?

Spirals and Slices

I'm having a hard time getting started today, but at least yesterday I finally took some photos of new items so that I can list a few more things for sale. I also took a few quick photos of other things I've been working on, just so I'd have something new for this blog.

I wrote a week or two ago that I was having fun making spiral beads, so I'll start with photos of several sets of those. There are more in different colors, but this will give you an idea, at least, of what I'm talking about.

There's nothing in these photos to use for scale, but they're all relatively small-- under an inch long, and some about 3/4 of an inch long.

It's especially fun choosing the colors for each new batch. I usually have at least one large ceramic tile covered with a variety of clay mixes-- everything from "straight out of the package" solids to hand-tinted translucents with glitter inclusions. Looking over that selection, trying out different combinations, deciding what's lacking (and then mixing up whatever that might be) is a good way to play around with colors and perfect your color-mixing skills.

More recently, I've been working on a new batch of pizza slices. I made a new pepperoni cane because I needed some bigger pepperonis for these larger slices (which are destined to become magnets). I can't decide whether I prefer the new pepperoni or the old one. Both will "do" just fine, but I ought to decide which is better, for future reference. These larger pizza slices are about two inches long:

And now I need to get up and do some housework so that I'll have time later to sit at the clay table. (I also need to work on listing an item or two. . . and spend some time figuring out the system at the new online shop!)

Ten on Tuesday: Valentine Color Schemes

Valentine's Day may still be a month away, but if you're planning to make Valentine-themed objects from polymer clay, the time is now! (Or better yet, a month or two ago, if you're selling them online.) I made another visit to ColourLovers.com in search of Valentine-themed color schemes, and I didn't come up empty-handed.

Whether you think of Valentine's Day as a 24-hour love fest-- a good excuse to eat lots of chocolate-- a commercial nightmare dressed in pink and red-- or a painful "rub it in my face, whatdoncha" taunting of single folks everywhere ;o)-- there's a color scheme for you! (g)

Note: I find that the color palettes are much more powerful when viewed larger and against the darker background of the original site. To get a better feel for the colors, click the palettes to open up new windows.

Ten on Tuesday: Ten (or so) Valentine-Themed Color Schemes

1. Hardcore Valentine. Reds tending toward black, with a nice watermelon-y punch in the mix.
Hardcore Valentine
For a similar (red-themed, going from dark to light) palette, take a look at MBV Loveless. Again, we start with an almost black shade of red, but this time we lighten toward magenta for a very different look.
mbv loveless

2. Still My Valentine.
Here, we turn the whole focus on those delicious watermelon and salmon pinks. Sweet and warm, but more mature and restrained than you'd expect from a palette so dominated by pink.
still my valentine

3. Restless Valentine.
Purples and dark mauves are cooler (in tone) than the traditional reds and pinks.
Restless Valentine

4. Valentine Kiss. Spicy orange-reds, sophisticated pink, and rich scarlets.
Valentine Kiss

5. My Secret Valentine. A different take on Valentine pink. I'm fond of the way this muted pink fades into a soft, minty green.
my secret valentine

6. Atomic Bombshell. Youthful, fresh, and full of energy! This combination of pinks and purples-- with a dash of bold red-- screams "teenage girl" to me, but I don't think you have to be a teen to appreciate this palette.
Atomic Bombshell
If you like the excitement of Atomic Bombshell, but prefer to leave purple out of the equation, why not try Heart Beat. Lots of steamy hot pink grounded by a maroon that's flirting with pitch black.
Heart Beat

7. Neutral Valentine. Dark, velvety reds accented by understated golds. They combine to make a palette that is understated, mature, and elegant.
Neutral Valentine.

8. Chocolate Valentine. This palette uses pink very sparingly, instead putting the emphasis on sweet-toothed creams and browns. The single rosy accent is all that's needed to define this as a Valentine color scheme.
chocolate valentine

9. Nostalgia Valentine. Muted colors, with a couple of pastels. There's more grey and blue in this palette than you'd usually find in Valentine-themed color schemes, which gives it that slightly sad feeling you'd expect from something described as "nostalgic". ;o)
nostagia valentine

10. Love Hate Love. Ranging from dark, plummy purple to red-hot red, this color scheme can go either way-- passionate love or hatred. ;o) Personally, I love it.
Love Hate Love

Didn't see one here to suit your personal tastes? Why not go over and run a search of your own? Or better yet, make up some of your own! :o)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

ColourLovers patterns--

This isn't necessarily related to polymer clay, but you could apply it to clay.

ColourLovers.com, a website I've mentioned a few times before as one good place to find color schemes (or generate your own), now has a pattern feature. You can choose from a number of patterns (everything from flowers to plaid) and select the colors you'd like for different elements of the design.

Just be aware that it's addictive:

Psychedelic Spring
Flashing Waves
Librarian's Plaid
Watermelon Polka

Here's another cool feature that I just now noticed: If you find a palette (or pattern-- or just a single color) that you lovelovelove, you can easily select it for your desktop background. Just look for "Get This Pattern Image"-- or "Palette Image" or "Color Image", depending on what you're looking at-- to the right of the pattern, palette or color. What a great way to remind yourself of a great palette that you want to incorporate into your next project!

Hope everyone's had a wonderful weekend! :o)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Flocking as an inclusion?

Are you a bargain hunter? I am! There's a definite "rush" when you get something for next to nothing. Have you ever bought something not knowing whether or not you'd actually be able to use it, but just because it was so darn cheap you couldn't pass it up? (g) I try not to do that, but sometimes I'll still get things figuring that I'll find a use for them, sooner or later.

Yesterday, I was looking through Hobby Lobby's marked-down Christmas stuff-- all 90% off-- when I came across these:

Plastic bottles of colorful flocking. Originally $1.99 for two bottles; at 90% off, about 10 cents each (not counting tax (g)). I wasn't sure if they'd be useful with polymer clay, but I figured I could use them for card-making or scrapbooking, if they didn't "go" with the clay. At that price, I decided to get all the colors I could find, so I now have 8 grams each of dark blue, white, red, dark green, light green, and pink.

I was thinking mainly of using the flocking as an inclusion in translucent clay. I think I've read about people putting dryer lint into clay to mimic Granitex polymer clay (albeit with mixed results), and I thought this might be an interesting alternative. Now that I google it, I see that I'm not the first to have this idea: Gale Ann Hartman's lion figurine. Even more people have written about using flocking as a surface treatment on cured clay: here and here, for instance.

I've given the inclusion method a test run already, earlier today. I put a mixture of the dark green and blue flocking into translucent Premo. I haven't used Granitex (yet), so I can't really compare my results with that. One interesting thing was that a few bits of the blue apparently didn't mix in completely, so there are a few flecks of very dark blue here and there. Over all, though, the color is fairly uniform-- not quite as different from "regularly" tinted translucent clay as I'd expected/hoped. Of course, I'm sure you can vary the look in any number of ways-- for instance, by using a greater or lesser ratio of flocking to clay. Sanding and buffing would probably improve the translucency, too.

I took a few photos of one piece, but they were all too poor quality to bother uploading. Once it's been completely finished and I'm taking the time to take decent photos, maybe I'll have something worth showing.

(On a side note, I think I may have gotten a speck of flocking in my right eye. At least, it feels a bit irritated . I'll have to be more careful next time!)

Until next time, then!
Good luck in your own bargain hunting! :o)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Translucent Layers

I've admired Kathleen Dustin's incredible layered translucents ever since I first saw photos of her work. I love the way she incorporates so many different techniques-- many of them involving translucent clay-- into one cohesive whole.

Today, while taking a look at Elise Winters' new website, Polymer Art Archive, I was interested to see a post from Kathleen herself. She writes about how her work evolved into the style that is today so easily recognizable as her own. Very interesting stuff-- and some great inspirational photos, too. I love the elegance of the bead by Lori Feiss, and I'm fascinated by the possibilities demonstrated in the layered clouds in the larger bead in this photo of Dustin's first experiments with layers of translucent clay.

I'm amazed all over again by the versatility of polymer clay. Such scope for the imagination!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Photos of Mica Powder on Clay

Mica powder is great to use with clay! As you can see from this previous list of ten, there are numerous ways to incorporate this marvelous product into your work. All you need is an idea and the willingness to experiment. How about a little "clays meets mica powder" eye candy to add a little shimmering inspiration to this Tuesday?

mica powders under Kato liquid

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Photos of Mica Powder on Clay

1. Mica Garden, by Julie Picarello

2. Single Parents 001, by Elizabeth Bonura

3. Carnival Glass Look-a-Llike, by Ruby Shoes Sam (Sandra Miller)

4. Blue Glasses Silver Vines, by MaevinWren (Morgan)

5. WISH-ornament, by tejaesart (Tejae Floyde)

6. Flower Earrings, by beadworx (Bettina Welker)

7. Mistress Maggie's Metal Garden, by dcdesigns (Denise C.)

8. The Critters, by nancymesaaz (NancyMicheloni)

9. Enchanted Tree Pendant, by chickiegirlcreations (Janet)

10. Lumière sur des Effets de Lumière, from Parole de Pâte
(I'm not sure which individual person made the ones in the photo at the top-- Françoise, perhaps? but the photo further down the page is from Tewee. If you go to her blog, you'll find still more pictures of pretty combinations of mica powder and clay.)

You may have noticed that the mica powder was on the surface on all of those objects-- or on the "surface" under a protective clear coating of some sort. Don't forget about all the other ways to use mica powder-- mokume gane, inclusion, etc.

Happy creating, everyone! :o)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happy First Birthday!

What with other celebrations, I didn't notice until today that this blog just turned one year old, on January 2nd!

It's hard to believe it's been a whole year since I decided to give myself a little place to "talk clay". Time is tricky that way. ;o)

Here's to the future, and many more blog posts to come, I hope!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Studio Friday: Brand New!

I haven't participated in Studio Friday for a while, but this time I thought about it in time (and had time to respond). :o)

The topic for this week was as follows:
A new year!!! Exciting! All new things, experiences, flavours, people and things are waiting for you to be met and greeted.How about your studio and creative space? Are there any brand new items, materials, colours, paints, papers, wooden logs, clay, journals... waiting for you to be unwrapped or unpacked?? Maybe there is a new project or idea waiting to be polished and executed? Or you may have set a new goal for yourself or a resolution?

Ah, new supplies! A subject so very dear to my heart!! ;o)

Because I have the unfortunate combination of a slight addiction to art supplies and a hesitation to actually use most of them (for the first time), I actually have a quite a few things waiting to be unwrapped-- or used. But for this post, I'll focus mainly on the things that are new since Christmas.
Here's a photo of some (but not all, if you can believe it) of my craft-related gifts this year:

In case you can't see everything: new packages of polymer clay (You can never have enough!), eyelets, three colors of embossing powder, little shape cutters, a texture sheet, Amazing Mold Putty, blue-toned confetti-style glitter, and a watch (of the type that you make your own wristbands for). :o)

I'm going to have fun with all this! With the exception of the watch, everything there was on my pc-related wish list this year. And I could use some pc with that, too, if I really wanted to, by using polymer clay beads. (g) This'll be a good opportunity to use some of my stash of storebought beads, though. :o)

I'm excited to try everything in the photo. (In fact, I've already tried the embossing powders!) I'm holding back on the mold-making putty-- want to make sure I use it on something that's "worth" it-- but I'm really looking forward to using that, too.

I bought the confetti glitter for myelf, with a coupon. I thought it looked a lot like the colored Arnold Grummer flakes. I have plenty of the regular/clear iridescent flakes-- though not the AG brand-- but I haven't seen any colored ones around here before, so I was happy to find them. If only they'd had mint green. . . But the blue is gorgeous, too. I'm going to give Donna Kato's liquid-based faux opals another try, one of these days, and these beauties will come in handy then!

I just remembered that when I took the photo I forgot to include the lovely "queue" of rose petal-themed fluid chalk inks I received (Clearsnap brand, I think). They're wonderful colors. I have no excuse not to try some of the inked beads in Donna Kato's book, now. ;o)

In addition to the clay-related supplies, I now (since the great day after Thanksgiving sale at JoAnn Fabrics) have a stock of pretty flannels that I need to use. I'm venturing into the world of sewing/quilting, starting with flannel rag quilts. I've already made one rag-quilt-style bag and started on a flannel and denim rag quilt, but I have many more projects lined up-- and plenty of flannel to keep me busy for quite a while!

Here's a photo of some of my favorite prints:

Such happy, pretty colors! I love the colors in the polka dot fabric, and the floral print reminds me of the illustrations in William Steig's The Amazing Bone (which I used to read to my youngest sister). It makes me happy just looking at it. :o)

So I have plenty of new supplies to kick off the new year creatively! Now it's just a matter of deciding what to do with them all! :o)

ETA: Sorry about the disappearing photos. I don't know what happened. I guess Blogger ate them, somehow. Hope these copies stay in place for a while! (g)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Christmas cookies (almost)

I made up a batch of "gingerbread cookies" / "gingersnaps" for this Christmas. Most of them were turned into pins, but a few took the tree ornament route instead.

This is a pretty poor photo, but I should have a better one in a day or two.

Christmas pins

For those who might be wondering, the pig shapes come from a small cookie cutter my mother-in-law, Britt-Marie, gave me while we were in Sweden. For some reason, the pig is a traditional shape for homemade gingersnaps, in Swedish homes. (I have no idea why they use the pig shape, but I've read about another holiday tradition involving pig-shaped goodies. I think it was a Victorian custom to smash and eat a pink peppermint pig.)

It's a bit late for gingerbread men, but I didn't want to post photos before Christmas, since there were various family members getting these with their gifts. I was planning to make a tutorial for these. (Not that they're extraordinarily unique, but I did put a few of my own twists on the basic idea. ) However, I ended up running out of time, so maybe I'll do that next year, instead.

I think I have quite a few little things that I need to photograph, so maybe I'll work on that tomorrow. Yesterday I spent some time making twisted spiral beads-- such fun to make. Well, all except for the texturing, which I do to cover my fingerprints. That part (and getting them in the oven without the bead-loaded pins falling off the rack) isn't the best, but every other part-- choosing the colors, "doing the twist", and spiraling them onto a pin-- is a blast! :o) I love that shape, too. It's so reminiscent of the seashells I love to find on the beach. It was really nice to make something with the clay without there being a deadline or the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else. (Ok, so technically I could've/should've been cleaning something, probably, but you know what I mean. (g))