Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

Okay, here it is... the blog post I promised.

I've been working frantically on Christmas stuff for my Etsy shop for the last several weeks because I realized at the beginning of November that I really needed to have Christmas things listed by Thanksgiving.  Of course that meant designing, creating, photographing, writing descriptions, and listing several items in just a matter of weeks.  Hence, no time for blogging or anything else. 

Anyway, so here's a little bit about my journey to getting Christmas ornaments in my shop.

My first idea was to make 4 different snowflake canes in translucent (snowflakes) and white (backgrounds) so that I could place them over a colored base layer and have the snowflakes be any pastel color I wanted.  That's where I hit my first snag.  I apparently can't make a pretty snowflake cane to save my life.  This is what I came up with:
The only one that looks even remotely like a snowflake to me is the bottom right one.  (The top right is actually leftover from the center of the bottom right.)

But I made the ornament I had in mind anyway:
Except for the snowflakes that look more like kaleidoscopes, it turned out pretty much how I imagined.  Of course, it didn't go all smoothly.  I had it propped on a skewer on my work table, waiting to be baked when my 18month-old decided it looked like a lollipop (she loves to chew clay anyway-she doesn't swallow it, just chews it up and spits it out) and took a couple of bites out of it.  Luckily, I had extra strings and was able to fix it up good as new.

All in all, I decided I'd had enough of that idea and scrapped it for now.  I might revisit it next year.

So, I thought I'd try some traditional polyclay filigree this time:
It turned out gorgeous if I do say so myself.  However, it took probably 10 hours or more to make and I'm not sure I love doing filigree on a round surface enough to make these to sell.  Oh, well, another ornament for me.

BTW, you wanna know what happens when your clay is done and you just turn the oven off and leave your project in there and forget about it and then later you go to make dinner and you turn on the broiler to preheat and all of a sudden the house is full of this terrible burning plastic smell and you realize you still had clay in the oven that is now getting broiled?  Take a look:
Yeah, I'm using plastic bulbs for a base and needless to say, they didn't stand up to the heat any better than the clay did.  It's a good thing Christmas tree ornaments only show on one side at a time 'cause I hung it on the tree anyway.

I was trying to come up with something pretty, unusual and relatively quick and enjoyable to make.  Here's the one that finally made it in my Etsy shop:
It took a little engineering to get all of the petals lined up so that they covered the entire bulb and still looked like a flower but I think I was successful.

Next I wanted to try some different colors.  I Googled poinsettias and found out that they come in almost any color but I chose a few of the more traditional ones.

 Blue (although I think the veins should have been skinnier):
And last but not least, pink:
So, that's what I've got in there now.  I've also done some mini ornaments that I will have to blog about later.

Oh, and one last one that I am still experimenting with and trying to decide whether I like it or not.  The photos aren't very good but it's teal and silver.  The skinny stripes were done using a mica shift technique  so they sparkle two different ways.  
Side view:
Top view:
Bottom view:

Hey, let me know what you think and if you have any other ideas for me to try.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cyber Monday Sale!

Oh my heavens!!  It's been way too long since I blogged last.  Don't have time now, either.  Just a quick word:


There it is.  Everything in my Etsy shop is 50% off until Monday night.  I'm trying really hard to get the word out about my work so help me out and tell everyone you know!


P.S. I will do a real blog post as soon as I can steal some time. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Forbidden Forest- I won!

Okay, thanks to any of you who voted for me on the Polymer Clay Central Challenge!  In case you haven't looked yet, I won 1st place!

Anyway, I loved making that particular piece.  I wasn't going to enter the contest this month 'cause the theme was "Spooks" and I'm not really all that into the whole Halloween thing... :P  Anyway, Rocke talked me into it and so I had to find something I could do with the theme.  Then I realized that Harry Potter has everything to do with Halloween and I set out in search of inspiration.  I found it in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."  It was the illustration for the chapter titled "The Eye of the Snake" (not sure of the chapter # offhand).  And the rest is history.  It was so much fun to make and now I'm ready to try a few of the other pictures in the books as well.

So, here's a few notes about how this piece came to be:

So, I wanted to put a hint of something hiding back there in the trees (for those who don't know, it's a thestral) besides just the eyes (which glow in the dark, by the way) so I put some translucent liquid clay on there and then took my heat gun to it to shine it up a bit.  Well, I overdid the heat a little and browned some of the leaves.  Luckily, it worked out okay.  I really like the results. (Of course, I had to burn some more of the leaves to make it look like it was on purpose, and then I discovered that hitting the tree trunks with the heat brought out the colors in them- smoked up the house real good.  Not a technique I recommend unless you are outside and wearing a mask.)

Here's a closeup of the grass and rocks.  I put several shades of green through the extruder with a really tiny hole, cut short pieces and rolled one end to a point for each blade of grass.  For the rocks, I mixed three bits of translucent clay with pepper, ground oregano, and ground cloves.  Then I made them into the little shapes you see here.  (I burned the rocks with the heat gun a little too, although that wasn't intentional- the trans clay just really burns easily.  Hmmm, I think Rocke needs to take away the heat gun...)

And here you can see the depth of the piece.  I absolutely love it! 

I plan on making some more similar pieces only with joshua trees and cacti.  We used to live in Arizona and I love the shapes the trunks of those trees make.  We'll see how that goes.

I know I promised another tutorial soon but I had a few setbacks and am still working on it.  Bear with me, maybe I'll have two in a row.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Cured-On-Raw Mosaic Tutorial

Okay, so I decided I wanted to do a mosaic using the techniques I taught the kids a few weeks ago and I thought I might as well write a tutorial while I'm at it.  So here goes:

(BTW, I'm a lefty so if the photos with my hand in them look awkward...)

This is the project I am going to show you:

Okay, so first make a pattern.  Mine is based on an abstract drawing I did in a drawing class years ago. (The gray stuff is a copy of the original drawing.)  I didn't want as much detail so I simplified a bit:

Color your pattern if you want.  Of course, these aren't the actual colors I will use, just a rough idea:

Next, mix your colors.  I keep all of my color families in separate containers (pinks, blues, green, metallics, etc) and just toss the scraps in there.  When I get a lot of little balls of any given "color," I mix them up into a new color and see what I get.  Since the colors in this weren't desperately important, I decided to do that:  (I had already started mixing the green.)

Now, normally I would tell you to condition your clay before you start work, but since all of these colors were mixed, they are conditioned already.  If you are using new clay, make sure you mix and knead it really well before starting work.  Then roll it through the pasta machine at a medium-thin setting:

Now, to save clay, I try to cut about the amount I'm going to need rather than just guesstimating.  So I laid my pattern on each color of clay and traced (loosely) around that color in the pattern to impress the design a little:

Then cut along the lines that you made.  I actually should have done a little more pink- I ran out:

Put the extra away (that's the wadded up piece).  Bunch up the stuff you are going to use and flatten it into more of a square shape. Roll it through the pasta machine at the same thickness as before and lay them out on an oven-safe tile.  Do this with all of your colors:

Now, you need to impress little squares into your clay.  I couldn't find my texture sheet with the grid pattern so I used this piece of plastic canvas.  (You could also cut the tiles freehand if you want.)  Lay it on there and roll over it with a brayer or something.  Make sure you do all the way out to the edges:

Score your clay along the impressed lines with a sharp blade.  Leave the tiles on your bakeable surface:
(You can scrap the rough edges if you want to eliminate even more waste.)

Bake your tiles according to your clay manufacturer's directions.  I usually bake everything at 230 degrees for 45+ minutes.  At that temperature it won't burn even if you forget it for a couple of hours. 

After the clay has cooled, scrape your tiles off whatever you baked them on:

Here's all of my pretty tiles piled up on my clay board:

Condition some black clay and roll it out on your thickest pasta machine setting.  Make sure it is bigger than your pattern:

Lay your pattern on the black clay and trace it with a needle tool or other pointy object:

Spread some liquid clay or white glue on the black clay in a very thin layer: (This will help the cured tiles to stick to the raw clay.)

Start laying your tiles on the clay, following your pattern:

When you need to fill in a small space or go around a sharp curve, use a craft knife to cut tiles to fit.

Keep filling in the design with tiles...

...until the whole pattern is covered: (You can see in the upper left where I ran out of pink and filled it in with purple.  I could have made more pink tiles but...)

Now, take your roller again and roll firmly over the entire mosaic, going in all directions, until all of the tiles are firmly pressed into the background and the background is starting to rise up around the tiles:

Cut the background away with your craft knife.  I originally was going to make the edges straight but when I got done, I decided I liked the edges the way they were so I cut around the tiles that were sticking out:

Ready to bake again.  This time I left it in for an hour:

Now, you can leave it the way it is or you can sand and buff the piece, or you can glaze it somehow.  I have been experimenting with using liquid clay to get a high-gloss finish.  So I spread liquid clay all over the mosaic...

...making sure to get it in all of the cracks and not getting it too thick:

I experimented with the heat gun for curing the liquid clay but it's not a craft heat gun and it blows too much air- pushing the clay around and making it ridged and lumpy.  So I baked it at 340 (yes, 340) degrees for about 5 minutes.  The high temp helps the liquid clay cure clearer and sets it so the heat gun won't blow it around.  Then I hit it with the heat gun, making sure to watch closely- as soon as a spot had a high gloss, I moved on to the next one.  It did smoke a little but I didn't burn anything (so far as I could tell).  Anyway, It has some air bubbles and I still need to work on the technique but it turned out pretty good.

If you don't want to mess with the liquid clay and heat gun, I recommend glazing it with liquid varathane (don't use a spray glaze) on a paint brush.  You can give it a few coats and even buff it after it's dry.

You can see my high shine a little better in this photo:

So, there it is!  I hope you enjoyed my first blog tutorial and if you have any questions, feel free to comment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fair Winnings Part Three: The Kids' Entries

Okay, so just about a week or so before we had to have stuff to the fairgrounds, my two oldest daughters decided they wanted to enter stuff with me- and of course it had to be polymer clay.

So here we go!  I think I'll show Emmy's first- she's 11, and loves dolphins:

It is a mosaic but I didn't have her do hers all in raw clay the way I do mine.  I wasn't sure she would have the steady hand required for that yet. 

So, I had her roll out very thin sheets of clay and lay them on my stone tile, then score them with a sharp blade.  Then I had her bake them.  After they were baked, she scraped them off the tile and broke them along the scores. 

Then I had her roll out a thick sheet of white clay, trace the pattern onto it, and stick the tiles into the white clay.  Then she baked it again. 

There were a few tiles that weren't stuck in deep enough and they fell out the morning we were headed to the fairgrounds.  She tried to fix them with raw clay (without saying anything to me).  If she had said something to me, I would have just had her glue them back in.  But it turned out really well nonetheless. 

I'm extremely proud of her.

Moving on to Kjeri- she's 13:

(In case you can't tell, that's a blue ribbon hanging off the vase.) After watching a couple of video tutorials on youtube and flipping through my clay books, she decided she wanted to sculpt a bouquet of flowers.  I don't sculpt myself so she was totally on her own here.  She did such a good job that I think I might have to try some flowers, too.  Here's a close-up photo:

That was her first project.  Then she decided she had time to do a mosaic like Emmy.  Same procedure only she chose a pegasus instead of a dolphin:

Once again, she did a really good job!

I am so proud of both of my daughters and I think their work and seeing other kids' work at the fair has inspired the younger kids to do a few projects for next year.  We'll see what happens!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fair Winnings Part Two: Polymer Clay

This is going to be a long one...

In my last post I showed off my crochet/quilt that I entered in the fair and won a few ribbons for.  This time it is all polymer clay (which I did much better on).  So here we go...

First was my cube necklace:

I didn't get a ribbon on this one.  I don't think the judges realized that the cube beads were handmade.  On the other hand, maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.  There were a lot of necklaces and this one really could use a nicer clasp.

How it was made:  I made some cube-shaped cores and baked them, then laid a raw clay veneer over each side and impressed each side of each bead with a different tool or found object.  Just before they were baked I finger-buffed on a bronze powder.

Anyway, moving on...

So, I got second place on this one.  They hung it with a couple of other patriotic pieces- looked very cool!  I actually made this for one of the Polymer Clay Central challenges back in July,  seen here.  The theme, of course, was "red, white and blue" and this idea just came naturally to me considering this is the view from my kitchen window.  The piece is based on this photo (taken from my back yard):

How it was made:  I printed the photo above in the size I wanted the sculpture to be.  Then I drew lines across, following the terrain, marking where I wanted the layers to be.  Then I rolled out some black clay and used the pattern to make several graduated layers of clay.  You can see the layers better in this photo:

I textured each layer with various tools as I put them together:

After it was baked, I finger-buffed the colors on and there you are!

Okay, next was my watermelon pen: 

I don't know how they judge this unusual stuff  'cause there's nothing to compare it to.  The only other pen I saw was a wood-turned one and they aren't even in the same category.  Anyway, I was happy with the results.

How it was made:  Simple, cane slices over a black sheet of clay covering the barrel of a Bic Round Stick.  Then I took a fat slice of the watermelon cane and cut it into quarters to make the beads attached to the end of the pen.  It's easier to see in this photo:

Okay, so here's the other piece of jewelry I entered:

I love making these pendants!  There's not really a whole lot to say about how it was made.  Cane slices and bits of clay that I just sculpted into a flower shape.  I call them my "Kaleidoscope Flowers."
Here's a better photo:

Next is my paisley filligree:

I made this to match the quilt I'm planning for my bedroom.  I really like the way it turned out.  This was another piece I entered in the Polymer Clay Central Challenge seen here.

How it was made:  I photocopied a swatch of the fabric I wanted to duplicate, rolled out a sheet of white clay to the size I wanted, and traced the pattern from the paper onto the clay.  Then I ran all of my colors through my extruder to make a ton of long, skinny strings of clay.  Then I started laying out the strings according to the pattern. 

Took probably 10-15 hours total.  Then I added the dots, the double frame and some white strings for border. 

And last, but most definitely not least, my lighthouse:

I know, you can't even tell what it is from here.  Does this help?:

(Man, that photo needs redone.)  Okay, now you can tell it's a mosaic but how about a little perspective?:

Every year in the hobbies and crafts building they do a "Fair Challenge"  where they give you a picture to recreate in your own medium.  This year it was a lighthouse and this was my contribution. 

I figure there are more than 7,000 tiles between 1-2 mm in size, (except the grass, which is narrower and longer than that), around 45 colors, and took between 20-30 hours to complete.  The entire piece is 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. 

Not much to say here about how it was made, either.  Tiny square strands of color, a very sharp craft knife, a sheet of background clay, and lots of hours logged on Netflix.  It was all done in raw clay and I stressed every minute that one of the little kids would get a hold of it and destroy all of my hard work. 

Anyway, there it is.  I hope if you actually made it all the way through this post that it didn't bore you too much and that you gleaned something useful and/or informative from it.

Next time, I will show off my daughters' work...