Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Polymer Clay Tutorial - Sort of... Well, maybe more of a making of... Or something like that...

I know, I know, I promised two months ago that I would stop taking such long breaks from blogging.  Well, life always seems to get in the way.  We are currently getting ready to move back to Utah and my studio is buried in mess.  So I haven't clayed since - well - since my last tutorial two months ago.

However, I was digging around in my files the other day and I came across these pictures I took about 5 years ago of an experimental project I did.  I wanted to make a bowl but use the inside of a form instead of the outside.  Well, you'll see.

First of all, I had just bought "The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques" by Donna Kato and was dying to try out some of the canes in the book.  But I wanted to make them into something so I decided to do a coordinating set of canes (for the first time).

And here they are.  I seem to have a thing for green and purple but I think they turned out rather nice.  (If you look close, you can see on the bigger purple and green one where one of my younger kids sliced a chunk off of the cane.  I stuck it back together but it never quite lined up right on that end.) I tried to get a mix of simple and more complex canes.

Top row: zebra leaf, checkerboard, jellyroll, purple stripe.
Bottom row: bullseye, zigzag, big shapeshift, little shapeshift, black and white stripe, green blend
My bowl was 9 or so inches across and the reason I wanted to use the inside instead of the outside of the bowl was because of the ridges on the outside.  I couldn't find a bowl that had an outside that I liked for the inside of my clay bowl.

Anyway, I started with 4 slices of the jellyroll cane.  All of my slices were about 1/8 inch thick.  I squared up one side with the tapered part in the middle and put them together in the middle of the bottom of the bowl.

Next I added 4 slices from the larger shapeshift cane.  I'm pretty sure I had to remove two of those after I took the picture so I could straighten the outer edge of two of the jellyrolls.

After that, I started taking fewer pictures so the changes aren't as gradual.  Sometimes it's a pain to stop and take pictures every two or three minutes, especially when I never intended to share them with anyone else.

So, the next one shows that I added some slices from the zebra leaf cane (Donna calls it a shapeshift cane in her book - I like my name for it) between the shapeshift canes.  I also added some solid green triangles and some slices from the green blend to fill in the circle.

I remember struggling some with the next bit.  I didn't want to end up with just rows of cane slices but I think making the bottom such a nice circle kind of forced me into it.  So you can see where I added slices from both striped canes, the jellyroll and the zigzag canes.  Then I filled in gaps with the checkerboard, shapeshift, and half-slices of the bullseye and zebra leaf canes.  I also filled in with some solid white rectangles.  I'm not sure what I was thinking with the shaping of that top row.  I really don't like it now and I'm not sure I liked it then, either, especially since I ended up trimming all of the corners to make a continuous line around the top.

For the border, I used back-to-back jellyroll slices and diagonal half-slices of the bullseye and shapeshift canes.  It kind of gave the bowl a squarish feel.

Anyway, up to this point the bowl really wasn't too bad but I shortly figured out why you want to form shapes like this on the outside of the form instead of the inside.

I pressed all of the air bubbles out of the bowl, looking through the glass to see where they were.  Then I used my fingers to press out as many of the seams as possible.  Not an easy task on that shape.  If your clay is on a convex surface (outside of the bowl) you can use your acrylic roller to roll out the seams.  You can't do that on a concave (inside of the bowl) surface.  Shaving the raised part with a curved tissue blade wouldn't work here, either.  Hmm, didn't think of that.  I did the best I could with my fingers and decided I'd just sand the thing down after it was baked.

Um, yeah.  I was fairly new to sanding polymer clay back then and I really had no idea how much sanding it would take.  It would have taken a lot.  If I had bothered to finish the bowl.  I kind of wish I had but it got manhandled (thoroughly) by small children and broken.  I still have a few of the pieces around here somewhere.

Anyway, I learned another lesson the hard way.  Maybe sometime I'll try another bowl and do it on the outside of my form but for now, I'll just chalk it up to experience.

Hopefully you can learn something from my experience as well.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Polymer Clay Tutorial: Petal Easter Egg

This egg is easy and a lot of fun to make.  You can use any kind of leaf-shaped cane that you want and in as many colors as you choose.  I usually make these over a plastic egg covered in mud and baked (click here to see how to do that) but you can use a blown-out real egg if you'd prefer.

1 or more leaf canes or leaf-shaped canes, 1/2 to 3/4 inch the long way
1 prepared plastic or real egg
liquid clay or white glue

tissue blade

So here are my five canes.  I made these a long time ago for another project and I'm hoping that I have enough left to do the whole egg!  I've got pink, light green, pale blue, white, and light yellow.

Start by cutting off 10 or 15 slices of each cane to get you started.  Try to get them pretty much the same thickness (2mm or so).  Squash the sides of the point together a little to give them some shape.  Spread some liquid clay or white glue on the narrow end of the egg.  For the first row, I like to kind of bend each of the petals almost in half.  Then I space them evenly in a flower shape on top of the egg with the points together.  After they are all even on there, I bend the sides out so they fill in the tip of the egg pretty much solid and flatten the round ends of the slices to the egg.

Now I add a row of petals with their points overlapping the seam between the other petals.

Then I add petals between those and start another row.  They will almost never line up perfectly, so just keep adding petals and filling in the gaps so there is no mud showing through.

This is what it will look like from the top:
(Sorry it turned out so blurry, hopefully you get the idea anyway.)
Keep adding more rows of cane slices with liquid clay or white glue under them...

From the top again...

When you get the egg covered about halfway, stop and bake it.  I put my egg on a round metal cutter and put it in a pie tin for baking.  This way, you can work on the second half without squashing the slices of the first half.

(Sorry about the photos for the rest of this... one of my kids messed with my camera settings and I didn't realize it until it was too late.)
Now spread some more liquid clay or white glue and keep adding cane slices.

I'm almost done adding slices.  Try to end with the last one in the middle of the bottom of the egg.

Here's all of the cane slices on there.

Now, you can either leave it like that and make a stand for your egg or you can do what I do and make it self-standing.  Set it on your work surface, make sure it's level and press down to flatten the bottom.

Now that bottom slice is pressed into the rest.

Since the bottom is flat, I don't need to prop it to bake the egg.  I just put it on a kleenex in the pan and cure it.

And there you are!  (Once again, lousy picture but you get the idea!)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I've Been Working On: More Necklaces and Fairy Trees

Once again, most of this is stuff I made before the craft fair back in November.  The exception is the first image of the dragonfly tiles.  The big one was commissioned by a lady at that craft fair.  She wanted me to make a tile that would match the dragonfly tattoo she had on her leg.  I took a photo and made this from the photo.  So this piece was actually made more recently than the others.  It took me longer than expected to finish the piece so I made the two little dragonfly tiles by way of apology.  She was very pleased with them.

Dragonfly tiles - 4x4 inches and 2x2 inches.  Teal and green
pearl clay on black background.  SOLD

Klimpt Tile Necklaces - One tile hanging on a ball chain in
choice of four colors: teal, pink, purple, mustard.  7/8-inch
tile on an 18-inch chain.  $5.00

Butterfly Tile Necklace - Five 7/8-inch by 5/8-inch purple
butterfly tile beads on a 20-inch silver chain woven with
purple ribbon and black glass beads.  $15

Mokume Gane Disk Necklace - 5 (3/8-inch) round tiles
and 1 (2 1/4-inch) round tile on a silver (18-inch) chain.
Purple, blue, green translucent clay with silver foil.  $20

Green Feather Necklace - Nine 1/2-inch by 1 1/8-inch green
feathers on an 18-inch silver chain.  $18

Striped Cube Bead Necklace - Thirty-one 3/8-inch cube beads
strung alternately with black glass beads.  22 1/2 inches long.

Pink Feather Necklace - Fourteen 3/4-inch by 2 1/4-inch pink
feathers on a 19-inch gold chain.  $20

Tall Summer Fairy Tree - 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches. $15

Fall Fairy Tree - 4x4 inches - $25

Fall Fairy Tree with Twisted Trunk - 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches - $15

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Polymer Clay Tutorial: Applique Easter Egg

Last week I showed you how to prepare a plastic egg for covering with clay.  This week I'm showing you just one way to decorate your prepared egg.  This is the egg I am making in the following photos:

These are some other eggs I've made with this technique:

Okay, so here we go:

pasta machine
tissue blade
various small cutters
needle tool
acrylic roller

clay - 3 or more colors of your choice
liquid clay or white glue
prepared plastic egg

Condition all of your clay colors and roll them out on a medium-thick setting on the pasta machine.  I'm using red, teal and purple.

Pick a medium-sized cutter and cut out a shape in the first color.  This piece will be the top of your egg and its shape will change quite a bit so I usually just pick a circle for this one.

Put some liquid clay or white glue over the end of the egg.  Cover a little more area than the circle will cover so the edges get sealed down well.  Place the circle over the end of the egg and cup your hand over it to form it gently into place.  Try not to squish too hard because you don't want to change the thickness of the clay sheet.  That's what keeps the sanding to a minimum later.

Pick another cutter - any shape you want.  I find the simpler shapes look best so use your judgement.  I'm using a smaller circle this time.  Make cuts in the edges of the first shape at equal intervals.  You can cut away a lot or a little - it's up to you.  I'm cutting about half-circles.  I made four cuts.  Make sure you press down all the way with the cutter and then remove the cut out pieces.

Pick a different color and use the same cutter to make the same number of shapes as the cutouts you just made.  So, four cutouts, four circles.

Use some liquid clay in the holes and place the cut out circles in there.

That's really all there is to it.  Just keep cutting out chunks from the egg and then use the same cutter to cut shapes from your clay sheets.  Liquid clay, then place the shapes.  Here I found that my diamond-shaped cutter fit perfectly between the circles, so I used that one next.

Four teal diamond shapes.

There was too much blank space in the top so I used my tiny teardrop cutter there.

Red teardrops and then the tiny circle cutter and a teal flower center.

Next I used the football shape in the background here.  I didn't need to cut much for this one.

And since the cutouts are on both sides of each of the four diamonds, I needed eight shapes.

Next I used the square at the base of all of the circles.

I placed a teal square in there and then cut another football shape between the purple ones.

Red footballs and then the purple square.  I didn't need to cut anything for the second square as there was nothing on the sides and I lined up straight sides from the two shapes.

 Next I cut a heart shape from the middle of the two squares.

And of course I had to use red for that.

I skipped photographing a few steps here but you can see where I added the teal footballs on either side of the hearts, the purple circles at the bottoms of the red footballs and red squares below the purple circles.

I did a red teardrop below the heart next and then the next one's a little different.  I used the square cutter and lined a straight side of the cutter up with the straight side of the teardrop.  Make sure you don't leave any places where there will be gaps later unless you want to go back with a tiny cutter and fill them in with other shapes.

I put purple squares in there and then added the teal diamonds.  I cut those ones so that they just fit in there without cutting the corners of the purple squares.  Next I added the red ovals.  I didn't notice the nick in that one until later.

Here's where I left the gaps between those shapes.  I used my tiny circle cutter to add black circles.

As the top of the egg got larger working toward the middle, you had to add more and/or larger shapes.  Now we're having to use fewer/smaller shapes.  I'm down to four circles here.

Purple clay and then the circle cutter again.  I used teal clay in that one and forgot to photograph it.

Since I hadn't planned on using the black and then used it to fill in the gaps a minute ago, I decided I needed to add another row of black somewhere.  This looked like a good spot.

This step is optional.  You can use your acrylic roller to roll all of the seams out of the egg or you can just roll it between your hands to help even things out.  I personally like the latter choice but I had some flaws in this egg that kind of forced me to roll out all of the seams.

 Bake it on something soft as described in the preparation tutorial as per your clay manufacturer's directions.

I made a stand by putting two thick sheets of clay together and cutting out a donut shape with two circle cutters.  Then I pressed the baked egg into the stand to indent the middle a little.  Bake it.

Now you can sand and buff or glaze the egg however you'd like.