Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cupcakes Galore!

There are cupcakes galore in my clay room, right now! Vanilla, strawberry, chocolate-- purple, green, and pink-- glittered, "confettied" and candy-sprinkled!

And these are just the ones that are done. I have probably twice as many cupcake bases waiting for the cake, icing, and decorations. Waiting for me to get back into a cupcakey mood. (I must be due for one soon, it's been so long since the last one came and went.)

I've had these finished cupcakes sitting around for months. I thought about taking a photo of them now and then, but it was always a bad time-- insufficient lighting, usually, and me too lazy to set up some decent artificial light. So of course now that I finally decided to snap a photo, it didn't turn out that great, anyway. (g) Oh well. That'll give me more incentive to take some good photos soon.

. . . Maybe? ;o)

First Button Test -- Results!

A looong, looong time ago ;o) I wrote about the fact that I was learning more about making buttons with polymer clay. Initially, it was to prepare myself for any questions some family members might have if/when I taught them how to make buttons for their quilts. (Still haven't done that. I'll have to check and see if they're still interested.) Now I've gotten more interested in the buttons for my own sake. Actually, I'm kind of obsessed with buttons, for the time being. (g)

Anyway, I made up a few test buttons and decided to put them through some tests. I wanted to see how different "finishes" would hold up through multiple washings and dryings, so I sewed them to a scrap of fabric and tossed them in whenever I did a load of laundry. They've been through many washings and heated dryings, by now. I stopped counting at around ten, but I kept putting them in with the laundry. It's probably more like fifteen or twenty, total.

They've been swirled around in the washing machine and knocked about in the dryer. They've been in repeated contact with regular detergent and fabric softeners (both liquid and sheets)-- but I kept them out of loads I washed with bleach. (The bleach might not have been a problem, but I didn't want to be too hard on them, and bleach isn't something you have to use with most laundry.)

And the results?
For the most part, they're fine. In fact, with one exception (which I'll get to in a minute), they're perfect!

Here they are-- the cleanest buttons this side of the Mississippi! ;o) (As usual, you can click on the photo to see it bigger. It's not a fabulous photo to begin with, but it gets the point across. (g))

Starting with the top left and working clockwise:

1) Plain, unvarnished clay.

2) White clay highlighted with mica powder, then glazed with tinted liquid clay.

3) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Only the top was coated with clear liquid clay.

4) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Nothing on top of crackled paint.

5) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. MinWax Polycrylic over the whole button.

6) Acrylic paint crackled on metallic clay. Clear liquid clay over top and sides of button.

I had feared that the unsealed crackled paint might begin to loosen or flake away, but it turned out that the only button I had a bit of trouble with was the one coated in Polycrylic (a product similar to Varathane)-- and even that one isn't too bad (as you can tell from the photo). It just began to peel very slightly on one side. I can think of a few possible explanations for this problem. Maybe it needed longer to dry (or go back into the oven for a little while). Another coat might have strengthened it. Or it could be that it just isn't the best product to use on something that's going to be put through the washer and dryer. I'm not a big fan of varnishes to begin with (I usually only resort to them when I "have" to), so I'm not likely to run more tests with Polycrylic.

Today, I started another test with a few different buttons. I'm curious to see how that'll turn out. . . Two loads in, the "subjects" are still looking good. Who knew laundry could be so interesting?! ;o)

Edited to add:
Treasurefield wondered what brand of clay I used for these buttons. (Thanks for asking! :o))

Oops! That might have been worth mentioning, huh? ;o) I used Premo for all the "regular" clay. The liquid clay I used was Kato brand. I imagine TLS would have produced similar results (as far as durability goes), but I wanted the best clarity I could get-- thus the Kato. (For European clayers or anyone else who can't find Kato-- Fimo Decorating Gel/Fimo Liquid is supposed to be comparable to Kato for clarity-- maybe even better.)

I haven't tried making buttons from any other clay, yet. I would expect Kato to yield buttons at least as sturdy as these. Fimo Classic would probably be fine, too-- but I have to admit that I'm a little wary of Fimo Classic after all the talk (a year or two or three ago? (g)) about the new, softer formula. However, we all know that Premo's been reformulated into mushiness, too, so. . . *shrug* When in doubt, it's always best to run a small test first.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More recycling ideas (on other blogs)!

It feels like forever and a day since I posted a non-10-on-Tuesday entry here! I've either been down (my sweet Eskie-dog died unexpectedly last month) or busy or obsessed with other things ("nature photography", scrapbooking, patio-planning). There's been claying going on, but I haven't photographed it, and I wanted to wait to write about it until there were photos.

Anyway, there will be some more real blog posts soon-- and maybe a break from the Ten on Tuesday thing. It's been feeling more and more like a chore, which translates into less interesting posts-- so maybe I need to focus more on other things. We'll see. . .

For now, if any of you haven't already seen it, Angela (CraftyGoat) has a recycling-related post (with links to other similarly themed articles) on her blog, today.

(Reading blogs is another thing I've fallen [even farther] behind on. It's mainly thanks to Flickr's "From Your Contacts" feature that I saw this in a "timely fashion". Must catch up on blog-reading! Too much fun stuff to do, too little time!)

Ten on Tuesday: Earth Day Edition

While people differ in their opinions of how best to accomplish it, most folks want their environment to be as clean, healthy, and beautiful as it can be. Whenever possible, we try to make lifestyle choices that work in that direction. Here are ten ideas of ways we clayers can reduce our consumption of raw materials. Many of them have the added benefit of easing the burden on our wallet, too!

Ten on Tuesday: Earth Day Edition

1. Use "cardstock"-style food packaging instead of specially purchased materials. Most boxes that food is packaged in can be used for this purpose-- cereal boxes, the boxes that 12-pack colas come in, etc. Use this cardstock to make accordion-folded bead curing racks, in flat sheets to prevent shiny spots when curing (weigh down the corners to prevent curling), to protect your work surface when painting the clay, etc. (It's best to put raw clay in direct contact with only "unmarked"/uninked paper or cardstock. Clay can sometimes pick up inks, so just use the plain, raw side of the package.)

2. When painting polymer clay, use the lids from old food containers-- yogurt, butter/margarine, sour cream-- as makeshift paint palettes. These lids (and their containers, depending on how much product you need) can also be used when you're mixing or applying glitter to polymer clay-- and in a variety of other situations. Wash them up with a little soap and water, and they can be reused almost indefinitely.

3. Never throw away polymer clay. (It's hard to believe that anyone would, but you never know.) Even scraps and ugly, muddy mixes are valuable. Scraps can be mixed together (with a careful eye) to make very attractive custom blends, and ugly clay can still serve a purpose as bead cores or in other applications where they can't be seen. Not a bead-maker? Use ugly mixes to make homemade texture sheets or stamps-- or as handles for homemade or "found" tools (if you aren't particular about how the tool looks).

There may be hope for even cured clay in projects that didn't quite turn out like you expected. Failed projects can sometimes be used as armatures for another skin of clay. If nothing else, you can use a grater or a craft blade to "shred" the cured clay. Chop (by hand or with a clay-dedicated food chopper) into bits small enough to use as inclusions in raw clay.

4. Use things you'd ordinarily throw away in your clay work. For instance, you can achieve all sorts of interesting effects with inclusions in translucent clay. Here are a few possibilities: dryer lint, past-their-prime (or last bit in the bottle) spices, dried flowers/leaves (when bouquets have finally faded and shriveled), and tiny stubs of crayons (shredded/chopped).

5. Use found/used materials in your work. This can be as simple as turning a used medicine bottle into a Bottle of Hope or covering an emptied eggshell with polymer clay. It can also take polymer clay into the realm of mixed media. Before throwing things away, see if there are ways to incorporate them into a work of art. Mechanical parts/gears, broken china, feathers, a few loose beads, random bits of hardware (nails, screws, washers, nuts, bolts)-- the possibilities are endless.

For a little inspiration, see what you can do with something as simple as a burned out light bulb:
Naama Zamir's light bulb ladies
"colorfull's" Crocodiles/Dinosaurs on Etsy -- Check out the rest of the shop for other cute animals-- lovebirds, octopuses (octopi? (g)), monkeys, and turtles.

6. Store cured beads, buttons, and other little bits and pieces in the reusable plastic containers that so many foods are packaged in. Lidded containers (such as the yogurt, butter, etc. containers mentioned before) are especially good, since they can be closed to keep dust out and to prevent a catastrophic mess, should the container topple over. One of the disadvantages of reusing containers rather than buying them is that old food containers are often opaque. It's a pain opening tub after tub in search of a specific set of beads, but you can fix this problem by labeling containers with a little paper tape and a Sharpie.

7. Use "found" tools as often as possible. They're cheap-- very often free. They'll help make your work unique (because not everyone has access to the same exact "stuff" you do). They make it unnecessary for you to buy as much "stuff" as you might otherwise buy-- and every piece you keep out of the garbage can is one less piece that goes into the landfill.

I've written about this subject before, so see these links for some specific suggestions:
Texturing Tools and other "Found" Goodies
Ten on Tuesday: Places to *Find* "Found" Textures
Links to some interesting related blogs entries

8. Bake "en masse". In other words, if possible, don't run your oven all day long, curing one bead at a time. Instead, try to wait until you amass a number of beads-- a whole sheet or baking rack full, ideally-- then run the oven for a single curing cycle. Electricity costs money and uses up resources, so why use more of it than necessary?

9. Bake at cooler times of the day (in summertime). This may be less of an issue for some people, but where I live, our summers can be brutally hot and humid. Air conditioning makes life so much more livable that I'm not willing to go without it (if I have a choice). However, I do try to keep our electricity consumption (and thus our electric bill) down by setting the temperature at a reasonable level and using fans to circulate the air. Running the oven during the hottest time of the day forces the air conditioner to run more often, thus using more electricity. Putting off curing until the evening (or doing it early the next morning) makes more sense.

10. If you sell and ship your work, try to reuse packing materials, if possible. Save bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, etc. that you get in the mail and reuse them, rather than buying more. You may even be able to reuse envelopes or small boxes in your packaging. Most buyers are understanding-- even appreciative-- of your efforts to conserve resources, but you may want to mention your packing methods and/or offer the option of nicer packaging for gift items shipped directly to the recipient.

If you have a great idea for claying in Earth-friendly ways, please feel free to share it in the comments section!

Hope everyone's having a great week and a happy spring!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: Tax Stress Reduction ;o)

I think tax-related stress has finally pushed me right over the edge. . . ;o)

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Ways to Reduce Tax-Related Stress w/ Polymer Clay

1. Pull out the oldest, hardest clay you can lay hands on. Condition it thoroughly-- knead it, punch it, pound it with a mallet, do one of those "pro wrestling" moves where you jump into the air and land on it! ;o) Just keep at it until you're too exhausted to be stressed.

2. Play with the pretty, pretty colors. (After hours of goggling over tax forms and receipts, your mind may be temporarily reduced to goo. Mixing colors may be the most you can do for a day or two.)

3. Make a sculpture of a generic "tax man" (or the IRS in general). Stand back, admire your work, then squash 'im! ;o)

4. As an alternate to #3: Bake your sacrificial tax man sculpture at about 500 degrees, until he's burnt to a crisp. Of course, burning polymer clay can release toxic fumes which can be almost as irritating as the IRS itself. . . ;o) (Obviously, this is a joke. DON'T really burn polymer clay on purpose. It's just a waste of good clay. (g) And a potential health hazard!)

5. Put on a good movie/CD/book-on-tape/etc., find a comfy seat, and put all that pent-up rage to good use by sanding some polymer clay.

6. Paint (or image transfer) a generic tax man onto a sheet of clay. Slowly feed him through the pasta machine and watch with glee as he S T R E T C H E S . . . ;o)

7. Learn a new polymer clay technique. ("Distractionary" measures.)

8. Make a special "good luck charm / only refunds from here on out" pc-covered pen to use for filling out tax forms in years to come. (I suppose you could even use it this year, if you're fast with the clay and slow with the taxes.)

9. Make your own money (coins or sheets) out of clay to replace what the IRS has taken. ;o) No, it won't be "legal tender", but maybe it'll make you feel richer. . .

10. Sell some of your polymer clay work this year; use part of your earnings to hire a professional tax preparer, next time.

My taxes are done for the year! One hurdle jumped-- on to the next!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ten on Tuesday: "Colorful" Links

This is one of those days when I haven't come to class prepared. ;o) During yesterday's free time, I felt more like making scrapbook pages than typing at the computer, so this morning I have to start from scratch-- not even an idea as a jumping-off point. Let's see if I can make it to ten before I give out. (g)

Ten on Tuesday: Ten "Colorful" Links

1. Lindly Talking Color-- Lindly Haunani's blog about polymer clay and color.

2. Smashing Color-- "Maggie Maggio's blog for the color curious" (including tutorials)

3. Maggie Maggio's Color Scales in Polymer Clay video tutorial. (There are also parts II and III.)

4. Polymer Clay Cyclopedia entry on color recipes and tips.

5. Here's something to look forward to! Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio are writing a book on polymer clay and color. It's due out about a year from now.

6. Color-related links collected by "beadyeyedbrat" (aka Tommie Howell). She has links to color recipe charts and more.

7. Here's an earlier post I wrote about places to find color inspiration.

8. Even though translucent clay starts out almost colorless, there's no reason it has to stay that way! ;o) One of my favorite things to do with clay is adding inclusions to translucent (or lightly tinted translucent) clay. (Here are a couple more related links, too.)

9. The Glass Attic page about color offers plenty of information on all aspects of color and polymer clay.

10. Betsy Baker (of Stonehouse Studio) wrote this interesting article for her blog after taking a class with Maggie Maggio. (Funny how a couple of names keep popping up in this list, isn't it? ;o) They're the acknowledged experts on teaching polymer clay in terms of color.)

Well, there they are-- all ten of them. And they even kinda sorta make sense as a group! ;o) (Well, maybe the inclusions link was a bit of a stretch. . .)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!