Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review 1: Soldering Made Simple

Part of my Christmas package included several books, one of which was “Soldering Made Simple. Easy techniques for the kitchen-table jeweler” by Joe Silvera, publication date of 2010 by Kalmbach Books. This book is just what I was looking for in that it focuses on easy to find small torches. I have to admit I’m afraid of using the larger torches so maybe if I start small I can move up as my confidence grows.

The book is beautifully photographed with 111 pages of easy to understand and follow directions. There are 12 jewelry projects that demonstrate various techniques including making head pins, decorative balls, making and soldering jump rings, attaching bails, dapping, and much more. The projects are projects I would enjoy making and wearing. With instructions so clear, I’m sure I could complete the projects while learning new techniques.
One of my goals has been to add metal to my polymer clay jewelry and this book will help me do that. If you have a chance to buy, borrow or check ths book out from the library, do so. I think you’ll find this to be a great resource.

New Year Goals and Plans

A new year, a birthday in a few days and time to set goals and make plans.  As usual, my goals for the year are maybe more ambitious than they should be but I've got work to do.  The major themes for the year will be Health, Home and Art.  Since this blog is about the art, here are my specific goals for the year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frittered Away

Yikes!  The time I've frittered away (def:  waste little by little) since I last blogged on June 26.  I have been busy though.  Travelling extensively for work with little time for the studio gave me plenty of excuses.  I've committed to myself to get my studio in prime order so that I can back to art making.  So, down to the basement studio to clean out, clean up and move on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Published in Polymer Café Magazine - August 2010

A few months ago I submitted an idea for an article in Polymer Café magazine. I’ve been reading the magazine for quite a while and enjoying it greatly. The bracelets I submitted are a series I did using sculptural elements and glass cabochons from the floral department of a craft store. What a thrill to see the article. I think it turned out great. Some of the pictures I took, some were taken by my husband and daughter. Great work.

The cover shot of the mask is by Ann Kruglak, also a Mile Hile Polymer Clay Guild member. Several of our members have been featured in the magazine. Lots of talent in that group.

I’ve got some more ideas for submissions, which I’m preparing to send in now. Crossing my fingers for future publications.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Blog Layout

I've been working on improving my photographs and invested in Photoshop Elements 8 so that I could edit my photos. Using my old photos, I've been practicing with the features of Elements and playing with changing the background of old photos, cropping, as well as using sharpen and color correction. These older photos of my polymer clay pieces were used to create a collage and I’m using that collage as my banner. You can see my new blog now; below is my old blog. I'll keep working on this of course but I've learned a lot so far.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Image Transfers and Wire Work

I’ve practiced a lot with various techniques for transfers. This week I tried a technique with inkjet prints that are coated with liquid polymer clay and then cured with a heat gun. I used a quality photo paper but did not really like the results. I found it difficult to use this technique for the type of projects I use transfers for which are usually domed pieces. The transfer did not have the flexibility I really like and need. To finish my projects I reverted to a tried and true technique which is a laser toner print burnished to the clay and then spritzed with water to release the paper. The paper rubs off easily, can be used for domed pieces and seems to work the best for me with very predictable results. You need the color laser printer though so the downside is the cost of toner.

Here are my results. I call my pieces “My Romantic Dream”. There is a collage of a woman, a tasteful nude and flowers in the background that I created from 3 to 4 images. The flowers don’t really come out because the bezel window is somewhat small. I used my newly developed wire working skills from the Santa Fe Bead Fest to frame one piece and create a bail for the other.

I’m going to keep working on this to perfect the pendants.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bead Fest Santa Fe - Back to the Everyday

I'm back from Bead Fest Santa Fe and it was a dream come true. I've wanted to incorporate metals with my polymer clay work for some time now so taking several metalsmithing courses has really added to my repertoire. I also met lots of great people. By the way, Santa Fe is beautiful and we spent 5 glorious days there. On the 3d day it snowed 6 inches and was icy and snow blown for the better part of a day and a half. All melted though by the second day after the storm. It’s kind of felt like Denver in that regard. Here’s a picture of my coursework. There were lots of firsts for me - etching and coloring metal, riveting, ring and bail making, fold forming, riveting, hammering and heat treating metals and precious metal clay charms and earrings. Wow!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bead Fest Santa Fe

Tomorrow my husband and I take off for Santa Fe,  about 6 hours from Denver.  I'll be attending the Santa Fe Bead Fest and taking several workshops.  Since I'd like to add more metals to my work, I'll be taking metalsmithing, precious metal clay and etching classes.  I'm looking forward to incorporating these techniques in my jewelry making. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fabulous Findngs from Unexpected Sources

I'm always on the lookout for findings to use in my jewelry designs and, of course, can find them in the usual places - craft and hobby stores.  What about interesting, unique, one of a kind findings?  I haven't sewn for a very long time - at least 20 years - but lately I've been looking in the sewing and button sections of fabric stores and have found some great stuff to use as findings.  You can alter and repurpose what you find with ink, polymer clay, wire, and paint.  Here's a collection of my latest finds - snaps and hooks.

These I like just as they are.
These metal hooks will get a customized look with alcohol inks.  You can use any combination of colors you need to match beads or other elements of your design.  I did coat these with a protective varnish.

These larger hooks with tiny jump rings attached I'll cover with polymer clay and a decorative cane.  Texture the sides that don't have the cane on them for a more finished look.

And here's the finding in a completed look.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Finding a Color Palette

One of the parts of the process that is sometimes the most troubling is finding a pleasing color combination.  In a workshop I took from Carol Simmons, she had a neat trick for dealing with that problem.  She had cut out pictures from magazines that had a multitude of beautiful and pleasing colors.  These pictures - they could be anyting - ads, clothing, home decorating - provide the inspiration for a wide range of color palettes and can jump start your creative process. 

Recently, for one of my projects, I searched on line for desert colors.  I found this set of pictures with the perfect colors.  I pulled from my clay stash to find similar colors.  You can see the straight out of the package colors here.  I plan to custom mix these colors to get closer in tone and saturation to my inspiration piece.  I've started my collection of scrap images to keep me inspired for years.  I also have collected paint samples from the paint section of the major home improvement stores.  When I need a bit of a push, I can take these helpful collections out, browse to my heart's content, match up against my other elements such as beads and findings and put together a wonderful palette to work from.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to Poly Clay

I enjoyed my diversion with resin and overall I am pleased with the results. I have a few resin pieces curing now and will post those when they are ready.

In the meantime, back to my primary medium - polymer clay. My "create it" list includes making bracelet and earring sets using faux techniques. First up - faux jade. So, I did some research on the colors of jade and wanted to stay focused on the more commonly seen green jade.

Overall, I still have work to do to get the color right, but adding a patina cures almost all less than perfect colors. Here's a look at the custom color mixing process.

My recipe included translucent, I used a mix of leftover translucent so I have FIMO, PREMO and KATO, and a custom green clay along with the addition of cilantro as an inclusion. You could use some grated black clay or other green color spices such as thyme, sage, etc., in flake form. I just happened to have cilantro I was willing to part with (could not tell how long it had been in the cupboard) :)

Mixed in the cilantro until it was uniformly distributed throughout the clay and added two strips of green clay to the clay/cilantro mix until it was evenly colored. 

The final mixed color seemed light to me but I thought it would darken when cured, so I didn't add any more green. So, on to creating the beads.

To create the beads, I rolled the clay on the thickest
setting of my pasta machine and used a circle cutter so I would get evenly sized beads. This tip to get similar sized beads is from one of my guild members - ah, the joys of guilds. Here's the bead-making process from start to finish. I started with the number of circles for the size of bead I was making - in this case 3 cuts from a 1" circle cutter. Next rolled in a ball, flattened (used the furniture caster in the picture as a flattening guide as it has a recess on one side) and then impressed my design. That plastic snowflake in the picture is my stamp. I find that I look everywhere for texturing tools, in this case this snowflake is from a bunch of Christmas decorations from the Dollar Store. In some of my future posts I plan to shop all types of places for unique textures - stay reading for that.

Here's a close-up of the final beads.  Once cured, the clay stayed the same light color as in the pictures which was way too light.  I had planned to add a patina but was thinking white - no way.  I needed something darker so I used burnt umber acrylic paint.  Use a heavier body, quality paint as some acrylics peel off.   Experiment with the acrylic to find the one you like. In this post I used Liquitex but often use Golden.  Once the paint dried I lightly sanded the bead with 400 grit to get as much of the patina off as I liked.  Then I heat set the paint in the oven for 5 min and finished by buffing with my Dremel to bring out some shine. This picture might be a bit dark but the burnt umber paint did the trick for me. I like the organic look.

To put the bracelet together, I used gold-plated findings from Desert Gems in Lakewood, CO. This shop has a great selection of semi-precious beads, findings, rocks and tools. The loops that join the beads for the bracelet are small eye hooks that screw in. I like these screw eye hooks when I need a bit chunkier look. The earrings I pierced prior to baking with fine bead pins which I left in during the baking time. When you use these bead pins, let the bead cool slightly, not all the way, so you can easily remove the pins.  

Finishing the bracelet and earrings had me making many wrapped loop dangles with glass beads and stones and attaching to the loops between beads. The wrapped dangles added interest, movement, texture and an additional pink color which I think compliments the green. I'm pleased with the overall organic look and feel. This set is off to be a gift. Hope you enjoyed this post - leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Experiment - Resin Casting Part 2 - Casting the Piece

Well, I have to laugh at myself.  I hope I'm not the only one who is so impatient to see their creation that they don't follow the process.  :)  After making a perfect mold in the last entry, I used Easy Cast Resin to fill the mold and waited about 12 hours instead of the required 48-72.  Needless to say I didn't get a useable bracelet but I did learn a lot about casting in resin.  Here's what I got and here's what I learned:

The first picture is the original cast.  I didn't color the resin so I could get a good idea of the color, texture, bubbles, etc.  You can see that the resin is yellow and not the crystal clear I would hope for.  I think this is due to the type of resin and I will have to experiment with other types to find the one that works best for me.  It is hard to see the detail so I highlighted the piece wth burnt umber acrylic paint to better see the details.  Overall, I was pleased with the process of creating a mold and the level of detail I could get.  I'll keep trying to see improved results.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Experiment - Resin Casting Part 1 - Making the Mold

I've been wanting to use my polymer clay jewelry as molds for casting resin jewelry so I went through my jewelry-making library and found I had a copy of Sherri Haab's book, The Art of Resin Jewelry . Sherri's book inspired me to go out and get the supplies needed to make resin bracelets including the silicone rubber compound and the resin. There are lots of types of mold makers and resins so since I'm inexperienced I'm starting with what is readily available in my local area. I usually shop Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Meiningers in the Denver area. So, first I need to make a mold of my polymer clay bracelet.

Based on Sherri's recommendation for mold making material, I purchased Smooth-On Oomoo 30 Silicone at Meiningers. You can see the bracelet I'll use to make the mold and a plastic container to serve as the mold form. This isn't one of my favorite bracelet so I'm ok if I run into a problem and have to discard the whole thing. So, here's my process:

Step 1 Gather your supplies and materials
OOMOO 30 Silicone, Rubber Gloves, Craft stir sticks. disposable plastic cups (I'm using the 3oz plastic bathroom cups - not wax!) and a larger plastic container to mix it all together.

Step 2 Prepare your original
Select the piece to be molded and a container that is larger on the sides and top, but not too large so you don't waste material. You can cut the plastic mold container down as I did to get it the right size. Practice with how you will place your piece in the mold container so you know how to position it when it's time to pour. Keep in mind that there is lots of negative space so you may want to add a polymer clay plug to take up some of the space to keep from wasting material.  Here's how I prepared my original.

To ensure a good seal between the mold container and the bracelet, I made a snake of scrap clay (it may be hard to see but it is the gold colored clay) and added it to the bottom of the original bradelet.  The clay is added to make a seal between the bracelet and the plastic lid of my mold container. This will keep the silicone from seeping under the bracelet and destroying the mold and help level the bracelet in the mold.

Next, I made a plug of scrap clay for the center of the bracelet to save on the amount of silicone rubber I would need to use. If I didn't use the plug, I'd just end up with a large part of the silicone mold with no purpose. No need to waste this stuff - it's not cheap. So now I have my original prepared to accept the silicone.

Step 3 Prepare the mold material
Use your manufacturer's instructions to mix the mold material. The OOMOO I used has two parts that are mixed in equal proportions. This is where all the plastic cups come in. I used a new 3oz cup for each part of the silicone and poured them into a third plastic bowl (with all the plastic I'm using, I shop for these at the dollar store). For the mold I'm making I used approximately 6 oz of each part of the OOMOO and had just enough! This means I used approx. 1/4 of my original purchase on the one mold.

Step 4 Pour the mold
Pour the mold material slowly to avoid bubbles and pour so you have about 1/2 inch above the top of your original mold. Here's my poured mold waiting for full curing.

Step 5 Cure the Mold
Use your manufacturer's instructions to let the mold cure.  With the mold making material I'm using it will take 6 hours to cure.

I'm off for my travels, but I'll be back in a few days to see how the mold worked and hopefully cast a piece. Let's see how it goes - there's a first time for everything.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Studio Sneak Peek

I made a list of all the things I'd like to post to my blog during the year and the first is a series of pictures and descriptions of my studio. The following picture is of my main work space.  This picture is somewhat staged -- I'm not nearly so neat -- I set this up for a future post on using color.  Anyway, I used the following colors and inspiration for a set of polymer clay bracelet beads. 

My studio is like a haven and I spend as much of my free time as I can creating in this space.  In the large, open basement of my 1969 ranch home in Lakewood, Colorado, I've carved out quite a lot of room for my tools, supplies and work tables. Here's a picture of my work table from a different angle (OK, now you see the usual state of my work table - a jumble of stuff) with one of my primary tools -- my polymer clay oven. Sometime during the year I'll upgrade the oven.

Behind my worktable are all of my tools and supplies, so you can see my bead stash, clay, wire, stringing supplies and the like.

I've set up an Etsy site and am excited to say that I've sold 3 of the 7 items I've listed. Another goal this year, in addition to keeping up this blog, is to keep my Etsy site refreshed. Here's a picture of my table top photo studio. I made the light box myself by using a plastic box covered by nylon ripstock. I just added the Ott lights so I hope they improve my pictures. I'm using a Sony Cybershop point and click. Right now that's working just fine and definitely suits my limited photo skills.

Well, more to come. Here's a list of some of the topics I'll be covering in future posts.
  • Developing a color palette the easy way
  • Unusual findings
  • Creative jewelry displays
Oh, by the way, check out my favorite polymer clay links. You'll find lots of inspiration. Happy creating.