Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Time for a deep breath – finally!

The mad Christmas rush is over! It was fun, exciting, exhilarating, frustrating, and very tiring all rolled into a relatively neat package. But as December comes to an end, for at least a very few days, I can relax and think about what I want to concentrate on in the new year. I have several things that have been on the back burner during the holiday rush and I’ll be sharing those adventures with all of you as they unfold. In the meantime, here are a couple of my latest projects.

The Copper Butterfly necklace is done using a custom mixed coppery colored clay with hand-formed and hammered copper bale. The top and bottom sections get a bit of extra glitz with the addition of copper leaf, then three translucent “ghost” canes are used to build the design. I love the effect that the ghost canes have because other than the outlines, there’s just a soft shadow after the translucent clay is cured.

Every month the PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy) has a challenge designed to push our creativity. This month’s challenge was butterflies so I tried my hand at making a “ghost” butterfly cane. Since I am pretty much a butterfly person, this was right up my alley! I actually made half a butterfly, then when you cut two slices, you just flip one over and you have a perfectly symmetrical butterfly! A few beads and a bit of copper wire for the antennae and you’re good to go! The larger beads are also polymer clay, hand formed, then impressed with a texture plate. A copper glaze was brushed on then wiped off, leaving the shiny copper in the indentions.

The Dragonfly Pendant necklace was made for one of my sisters for Christmas. She’s a dragonfly person to about the same degree that I’m a butterfly person so we’re always finding things for each other. The dragonfly’s wings are actually the leaf cane pulled into a longer piece and layered. This pendant is much more dimensional than the butterfly pendant. The beads and wire complete the body of the dragonfly.

I'll close this post with good wishes for a safe and happy New Years Eve and Day.  I'll be bringing the new year in with friends at an all-night clay-in!  FUN!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My hand sculpted Here's My Heart pendants are featured in a treasury

Thanks to Laurel for including my fun hand sculpted Here's My Heart pendants in her Hearts for the Holidays treasury. 

First row: Roses on Music Sheet by NKDesigns; Tangerine Blossoms by Jaelsjewels; my Holiday Plaid Set; Bliss Heart by StudioBijou - whoops, that one is sold.

Second row: Special from Irismishly; Here's My Heart from Ashpaints; ExtraLarge Heart from BreathtakingBeadzz; this one is sold, but click here for a lovely surprise from another member.

Third row: Green Faux Cloisonne from Peggygsjewelry; My Passionate Heart from bijouxhibou; Polymer Clay Heart from rivervalleydesign; Red Floral Heart from RozPetalzstudio.

Fourth row: Silver Heart from teric55; Klimt Cane Heart from Creativeartcenter; Polymer Clay Book Thong from nkdesigns; and Emerald Love Heart from jaelsjewels.

As much as I love polymer clay, I am still amazed at the variety of what can be created with this marvelous artists' medium.    Ya'll be sure to check out everybody's shop.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm featured in TWO Etsy Treasuries!

It is always a thrill to see one of my pieces selected to be a part of an Etsy treasury.  Both of these treasuries were created by two of my fellow PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy) members and I would like to thank them for including me.  Be sure to check out their Etsy stores to see what they have available.  And just a bit of encouragement - any purchases from participating PCAGOE member shops before midnight Eastern time on December 12 will qualify you for a drawing for three great stockings filled with polymer clay items created by our members and a gift certificate which can be used in any participating member's Etsy shop.

The first treasury - called Rough Yet Refined - includes various items that use texture in the design.  Alison E. Kurek  included one of my Victorian Lady focal beads.  Here's the link in case you want to check it out: http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list.php?room_id=99519

The second treasury - called Stocking Stuffers Under 30 - includes a variety of gift items for, you guessed it - under $30!  This treasury was put together by Tonya of Tonya's Treasures and includes one of my inspirational signs.  Here's the link to that treasury in case you want to check it out.  http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list.php?room_id=99518

Both of these treasuries are only open for two days so they will be gone by Saturday. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow in Mississippi - twice in one year!

I was at a party Friday night with some of my high school classmates who I’ve not seen in a LOT of years when one of them announced – “It’s snowing!!!” Now remember, I’m in central Mississippi! Snow is NOT a common occurrence – in fact, I made the statement in a blog post a while back that the only way I was going to get snowflakes was to make my own! We had a snowstorm in late February or early March of this year with about 5 inches where I live so it was really surprising to get one this early.

We drove home in the snow only to discover that power at my house was off – apparently the recent “upgrades” to our infrastructure didn’t include snow gear! Oh well, it was pretty… but I had things to do! I had a couple of cool designs running around in my head and I really wanted to get my hands into my clay. Fortunately the power came back on around midnight so I had time to play before I had to go to bed.

Then I had to get up Saturday morning and drive to Vicksburg. Here’s a picture of what I had to dig off my car before I could leave. Now I understand that this is barely a good dusting to some of you living further north, but we’re not used to this stuff!

Our guild had signed up to participate in a arts and crafts fair in an historic building in downtown Vicksburg. It was a beautiful old building and Holly Days in Vicksburg was a success for the Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild, which I am Secretary/Webmaster for. This was one of our fund raising activities and we are well on our way to paying the traveling costs for the artist for our first weekend retreat. By raising funds in this way, we can keep the cost down for members and guests. The nationally known polymer clay artist who is coming in April made pendants for each of our officers last December and we were so impressed that we decided she was definitely on the top of the list of people we wanted to have come teach. And let me tell you, folks, that’s a mighty impressive list! We’re hoping to be able to host two retreats a year, one in the spring and one in the fall.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Come to Holly Days Arts & Crafts Show in Vicksburg, Mississippi Saturday, December 5th

Tomorrow I will be participating – as a part of the Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild (CMSPCG) – in the first craft fair that I’ve done in YEARS! We have several guild members who live in Vicksburg and participated in this event last year. CMSPCG will be using this as a fund raiser for our first ever weekend retreat in April. Funds raised at this even will go into our Bring A Polymer Clay Artist to Mississippi fund. The first of what we hope will be a twice a year event is scheduled for late April. More on that later when get the final details worked out.
Holly Days is held in an historic old building in downtown Vicksburg. The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation’s purpose is “Preserving the history, culture and architecture of this area and providing all citizens with the opportunity to experience cultural, artistic & educational enrichment.” Many of the members of the CMSPCG donated items to be sold so there is a great variety which will be available. Drop by and see…

Here are a few of the things that I donated just to give you an idea:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vote for your favorite Seasonal entry and be eligible to win one of 5 prizes!

Every month the members of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE) have a "challenge" designed to spark our creativity and add a new dimension to our body of work. The theme for this month’s challenge is simply Seasonal. PCAGOE members were challenged to create something that spoke to them of the season – whether that season was winter, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza.

We've got 21 great entries this month and they run the gamut from classic to oh-so-cute. To see all of the entries, go to PCAGOE.com, click on the link to vote for your favorite and to see the prizes that are going to be sent to five randomly drawn lucky voters. Voting begins on December 1 and runs through midnight EST, on December 7. Come join in the fun!

Here is a sample of what's available for Christmas at Harrison Hollow Designs.  Be sure to check out my Etsy store at http://ashpaints.etsy.com/ or my Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/harrisonhollowdesigns/

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stockings and Other Goodies

A couple of days ago I posted a message about the Great Stocking Give-A-Way sponsored by the members of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE). Here is a slideshow showing the three stockings and the goodies that will be included!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Ready for Black Friday

Not sure why they call it Black Friday -- maybe it is because the sales start before daylight! Not for me, though. I don't like crowds!!! I'll be helping my sister paint a backdrop for my niece's wedding on Friday and getting together with friends on Saturday. The backdrop is to go behind the table where the wedding cake will be at the reception and will cover up some industrial looking windows.

But for all of you folks who are looking for sales and bargains, Etsy - Your place to buy and sell all things handmade - is have a special HOLIDAY SALE and I've chosen to participate in it. If you have been wanting something from my shop but putting it off, now is the time to buy. The prices listed shown are still full price, but I'm offering a 20% savings on every item purchased between now and November 30th. You can either send me an email about what you are wanting to purchase and I'll send you a revised Paypal invoice, or you can pay the full bill using the Etsy Paypal payment system and I'll refund the 20% to you. Also for any orders totalling over $50, I'll pay for the shipping. So come on over to http://ashpaints.etsy.com and see what catches your eye. Allow an extra 5 days for personalization.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great Stocking Give-A-Way

You can win a great holiday stocking filled with beautiful items made for you by some of the talented members of PCAGOE plus a gift certificate from the members of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy.

For each item that you purchase from one of our participating members’ Etsy stores from Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009 until midnight Eastern Standard Time on December 12, 2009, your name goes into a drawing for one of three great stockings filled with beautifully handcrafted polymer clay items plus a gift certificate good for merchandise in any participating member’s Etsy store – all provided by the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy. Just go to Etsy and search for PCAGOE Team or click on the PCAGOE logo above. Some of the participating members are listed below:


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Limited time offer on brand new Tutorial

As I've been mentioning for a while now, I've been working on a tutorial for my Hollow Dome Christmas Ornaments. I'm delighted to announce that it's finally ready! This tutorial takes you through the steps of modifying a base structure, through creating the hollow core, to decorating that hollow core. While I've written it with ornaments in mind, you could use a smaller base structure and make a pendant or pin instead. This is a great way to use up any "scrap clay" that you have as well as all those canes and stacks that you've made.

The tutorial steps you through three designs in addition to building the core and includes a additional "inspiration" pictures. There are over 40 pictures and 13 pages. Plus, of course, you have me pretty handy by email to answer any questions you might have.

The great thing about this design is how light weight it is while still looking substantial.

I will be listing this tutorial for $8.00 in my Etsy store tonight but, as promised, for anybody who emails me direct before December 1st to order and mentions the blog, you will get this brand new tutorial for $6.00 as a thank you for your support and encouragement. My email address is arlene.harrison(at)gmail.com or you can send a paypal payment to harrisonhollow(at)windstream.net.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sharing ideas

I've been working on the tutorial that I mentioned to you earlier this week and it has occurred to me just how much I learned and all the different places I've gotten inspiration since I started working with polymer clay. I look back at some of my early work and realize just how far I've come in just a few short years and I have to thank a LOT of people for that journey. I've taken classes and don't get me wrong, classes are great and a lot of really good information is often packed in. But I've learned as much or more just from the sharing of information between other people who are learning just as I am.

Members of my local guild, Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild, has been challenging me to learn and do things well beyond what I would have ever thought I could do when first I picked up a block of clay.

Members of that guild have also encouraged me to take classes from teachers that scared the stew out of me but who all turned out to be great ladies and giving people.

Members of my online guild, Polymer Clay Artist Guild of Etsy, have shared how they do things, what works and what doesn't, where the best resources are and their monthly challenges have me trying things that I would not otherwise have tried.

Although I don't get over there as often as I would like, the Clay-Polymer Yahoo group is also a great source of help and inspiration.

And since I've started blogging, I've found a lot of you out there who share what you are doing. I have joined Cindy Lietz's online newsletter with a video every week. Worth every penny!

I am now following a number of blogs and enjoy reading about the challenges that other artists, polymer clay and other mediums, go through in pursuit of their art.

So to all of you who have shared your journey, have come along for the journey with me and enriched my life in the doing - Thank You!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hollow Domes Christmas Ornaments - special order for blog followers

A few posts back I had included a few of my new domed Christmas ornaments and had gotten some questions about them. They are hollow – making them very lightweight. They are made over a “core” which gives you a lot of flexibility in your designing. And finally, yes, if you want to make them smaller, they would make a perfect pendant! And they are an excellent use for any scrap clay you have laying around.

In response to several requests, I have put together a tutorial for the Hollow Domes Christmas Ornaments which I’ll be adding to my Etsy shop soon for $8.00 as an Adobe pdf download. For those of you who are loyal followers of my blog, I’d like to make you a special offer. If you want to pre-order this tutorial, send an email to arlene.harrison (at) gmail.com and I’ll send you a Paypal invoice for $6.00, a $2.00 savings off the Etsy shop price. Be sure to mention in your email that you read about it on my blog. The tutorial should be finished and ready for download by Friday, November 13.

Also as a special thank you, everybody who purchases this tutorial before December 1, 2009 will be entered in a drawing to win one of the Hollow Domes Christmas Ornaments featured in the tutorial.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gift Tag or Personalized Christmas Ornament?

It's been a busy week at work so I've not had much time to really think about anything else. But as the week winds down and the weekend is approaching, I'm thinking clay!

I made a personalized ornament recently and my sister said - you know what would be cool? Use the ornament as a gift tag this year, then the person who gets it can use it as an ornament next year! How's that for a gift that keeps giving?

Here's the ornament that started this train of thought. This one is for my sister Sherry who loves red and collects angels. The stamped images and letters are filled with an acrylic glaze in a copper tone.

So what do ya'll think? Is the ornament as gift tag idea is a good one? I've already made several more. One for the sister who made the suggestion! She loves dragonflies. So guess what's on her tag/ornament? Yep! That's right -- a dragonfly! Each one is just a bit different but appeals to what is special to each of them.
Hmmm..... I'm thinking about butterflies! Wouldn't that make a great tag/ornament?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vote for your Favorite Metallic Showdown and a chance at a prize!

Every month the members of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE) have a "challenge" designed to spark our creativity and add a new dimension to our body of work. The theme for this month’s challenge is Metallic Showdown. PCAGOE members were challenged to create something using metallic clays and/or metal in the design. We've got some great entries this month and they run the gamut from classic to futuristic. For a better picture and to vote for your favorite, click on the linked text below.

OK I've done my part. The rest is up to you. I invite each of you to go to PCAGOE.com, see the prizes that are going to be sent to five randomly drawn lucky voters, check out all of the entries for this month and place your vote. Voting begins on November 1 and runs through midnight EST, on November 7. Come join in the fun!

Monday, October 26, 2009

My mini-vacation and Kathleen Dustin workshop!

It's been a week since I came back from my mini-vacation in Florida with three other members of the Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild. We were in Florida to attend a weekend workshop with none other than Kathleen Dustin! These are the only two pieces that I have completed so far but I have several more in the works. This is so much fun and every piece is a surprise in the making!

My mini-vacation started on Wednesday when I met up with Annette and Myra, two of our guild members (and sisters, by the way) at the Jackson airport and flew to Orlando. We were picked up by Joyce, our guild President, who has a beach house not too far from Orlando. After taking several "scenic detours" to find the workshop location and the hotel where we would be staying, we headed for the beach. Lots of fun and laughter!

Thursday was spent lolling around. For those of you not familiar with that term, lolling is a good ole' Southern term that means just being lazy, relaxing at the beach, sitting on the deck and drinking margaritas as the sun went down. Then we headed into Orlando and our hotel.

Friday was a great day. We met Kathleen and admired her work. Then she put us to work!!! I was so afraid that what she would be teaching us was way over my head, but she broke it down with great demos and a good pace. She made sure that everybody was following along on each step before she went on to the next. But she did emphasize that this was not a class for beginners, that at least an intermediate knowledge of working with clay was pretty important to be successful. Just as important as the actual techniques was the wealth of information Kathleen shared on the basics of design and how they applied to her method. We worked through the process of the first two layers on Friday before going to Olive Garden for fun, food and wine!

Saturday started with my least favorite word – SANDING! Everybody in my guild knows how I feel about sanding. I do my very best to get everything as smooth as possible before I put it in the oven. Unfortunately, that will not work with this technique! I had to sand, and sand, and sand some more. Then check for gaps, fill them in with translucent, cure and sand even more. Then finally, I got to buff! Kathleen told us that if we did the sanding correctly, then the buffing just made our pieces shine. I was so pleased with the glow and you really could see "into" the piece!!!

In the midst of all this sanding, we also learned Kathleen's technique for doing transfers. This alone was worth the trip! I've tried transfers before and got sad, faded-out results so I was thrilled to learn how she does her transfers. She also taught us a cool new stack called lamella and some interesting things to do with simple stripes. The lamella stack was made of red gold leaf and translucent and just shimmers when sanded and buffed. Too cool!

I love the fact that every time Kathleen called us up to her table for a demo, she had on a different necklace. This was great because they actually look different on a person than just laying on a black cloth on a table. She had a beautiful variety and some rather unique items too. Her purses were to die for! But my favorite had to be the necklaces made with the end of a skinner blend roll! Be sure to check out her gallery.

Class wound down about 4:00 p.m. and Annette and Myra headed out for a visit with their niece while Joyce and I headed back to the beach… and more margaritas!

Sunday was a wonderfully quiet peaceful day – although just a touch chilly! The cold front that the Floridians had been expecting arrived with a fair amount of wind! A great day to relax with a good book and a glass of tea. Then Monday I had to fly back home and back to work! Vacation was over and the real world was once more intruding!

All I can say about the workshop is that if you ever get an opportunity to take a class with Kathleen Dustin, go for it! It was a wonderfully inspiring weekend and my mind is still spinning with ideas of how to incorporate these techniques into my designs.

I'd also like to take a minute to thank all the wonderful ladies of the Orlando Polymer Clay Guild. Everything - well almost, anyway - ran smoothly and they made us crazy Mississippi ladies feel right at home!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Texture Sticks -- my favorite handmade clay tool – and it's all made with scrap clay!

Somebody asked me recently what I do with my scrap clay. My first question was – what scrap clay? because until you bake it you can continue to reuse polymer clay. But then I got to thinking about the question and I guess I have to say that my favorite thing to make with scrap clay - once it becomes really muddy - are handmade tools - and my favorite handmade tools are my texture sticks. Which, of course, led to the question "What's a texture stick?"

Last fall our guild taught an Introduction to Polymer Clay class at a local community center and one of the items we wanted to make was a Santa. We were debating on how to add texture to his beard and hat because this is so much easier for beginners than trying to get all of the fingerprints smoothed out. When I made the prototype, I had used two different texture sheets but to include them in the supply kit would run up the cost for the class. We wanted the students to have everything that they would need to go home and make another Santa. So what to do???

I remembered seeing an article on PolymerClayWeb about making your own texture tools using buttons and other things around the house. I took that a step further by cutting ½ inch round swirly textured disks (for Santa's beard) and ½ inch round disks of different textures (for Santa's hat). These were then laid on tiles and baked just long enough to firm them up – about 10 minutes. The reason that I did this was so that when you attach them to the "sticks" you don't want to mess up the texture.

Now for the sticks – I rolled a log of scrap clay approximately ½ inch around and cut it in 2 inch sections to make the sticks. I put a drop of liquid polymer clay on the back of a "beard" texture circle and pressed it on one end of the "stick". I repeated the process with one of the "hat" texture circles and pressed it on the other end of the "stick". On both ends, the raw clay was pulled up and blended with the slightly baked clay for a smooth transition. When they were all finished, they went back in the preheated oven for 1 hour at my normal clay baking temperature. After allowing them to cool, I hit the edges with a fairly course sandpaper to knock down the harsh edge and they were ready to go in the class kits! This was a lot of fun because several of us got together for a clay play day and made these so every class participant could have one.

Since I love to add texture to my pieces, I figured these texture sticks would be somewhat useful but I had no idea just how useful! I have since made many, many more with different textures on each end. They fit nicely in a box on my work table and I don't have to dig through a whole drawer of texture sheets to find what I want. Also I can use these in relatively small areas where the full texture sheet is a bit cumbersome. See all the texture on the snowflake? All done with a couple of these texture sticks! They are great when you need just a little bit of something -- and all made with scrap clay! In the slideshow above, a texture stick has been used to texture every piece in one way or the other.

A computer tip for dark backgrounds

I get a computer newsletter from WorldStart.com several times a week and they periodically have some great tips. One that I ran across recently had to do with web pages and blogs that don't have enough contrast between a dark background and the text -- which makes it hard for some of us to read! This was a super simple solution - don't know why I didn't think of it myself! But here is a clip from the newsletter:

Q: I hate it when I visit a web site and it has dark text on a dark
background. Is there an easy way to make these kinds of sites readable?

A: We've all seen and example of this before, I'm sure. Whether by way of poor web design or just a background image that didn't load correctly, dark text on a dark background is simply impossible to read!

Well, next time you find yourself in this position simply hit, CTRL-A. All the text on the website will be selected (highlighted). The selection color is normally blue with white text. Much easier to read than, say, a dark red on a black background. This works with some email programs too!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm featured today in The Beading Gem's Journal!

I am so excited! I got an email this morning from Pearl at The Beading Gem's Journal telling me that she is featuring my Etsy shop on her email newsletter today! She had asked a while back about doing a give-away and I was honored to be asked and agreed immediately! I figured I'd get a quick mention with a link to my shop, but Pearl has done a great job. She is actually doing a 3 part give-away called Pen to Paper. If ya'll don't already subscribe to her email newsletter, be sure to check it out! It's one of my "must reads" and always has good information.

Here's a picture of the pen that I'll be giving away as a part of this promotion.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I was reading an email this morning from a friend in Denver who said it was snowing! In October! Now those of you who live in the more northerly areas can't appreciate this, but for this Mississippi girl, snow is a phenonomen! We just don't see much of it. We did have a snow storm earlier this year, either January or February, can't remember right now -- that actually put enough snow on the ground for my grandkids to make a snowman. Here in the deep south, it's shirt-sleeve weather quite often until the end of the year! So the only way to guarantee snow for Christmas is to make it yourself! So, this year I'm making mirrowed snowflakes.

These are so much fun to make and the addition of the mirror in the middle just adds to the sparkle. Small teardrop beads add just a touch of color -- and yes, more sparkle! Some of the snowflakes are left snowy white, while I'm antiquing others using an aging glaze to bring out the details. If you want to send a bit of snow to one of your friends who, like me, are snow deprived, here's the perfect solution. You can order direct from me at arlene.harrison(at)gmail.com and specify the color (white or antiqued) and the bead color or check out what's available in my Etsy store.

I'm thinking about posting a tutorial on how to do these snowflakes to the blog. Anyone interested?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And more thoughts of Christmas!

Doesn't this Rolly Polly Santa make you think of the traveling gnome! He is one of my favorite ornaments to make for the Christmas Holidays. He is formed around a small glass Christmas ornament then everything is added including short stubby feet to stand on. Isn't he adorable? You can find him and many other great Christmas ornaments in my Etsy store.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just two more days to vote - and you may win!!!

Be sure to go to the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE) website before midnight EST, October 8th, and vote on the October challenge. The members of PCAGOE were challenged to interpret their favorite art or artist in polymer clay. We have nine entries this month and it's very interesting to see how each polymer clay artist too their inspiration from another artist's work to create a piece in polymer clay!

The really great thing about this too is that five - yes FIVE - of the people who vote will be eligible to win a prize package from PCAGOE! Check here for pictures of the prizes which will be sent out this month.

In the meantime, here's one of the new items I'm working on for Christmas. These domed ornaments are hollow (except for some crumpled up alumiumum foil) so they are lightweight. The backs are flat so they would be great as a package decoration, on a wreath or acutally on your Christmas tree. I have a few listed in my Etsy store and will be adding more as they develop.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PCAGOE Monthly Challenge - It's time to vote

Every month the members of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE) have a "challenge" designed to spark our creativity and add a new dimension to our body of work. The theme for this month’s challenge is Favorite Artist/Artwork. PCAGOE members were challenged to create something from a favorite artist, or a favorite painting or illustration. They may have been inspired by the colors in their favorite painting to create an entry piece, or may have tried to duplicate their favorite painting in clay, or depict something from the life of their favorite artist. We've got some great entries this month. For a better picture, click on the linked text below.

OK I've done my part. The rest is up to you. I invite each of you to go to PCAGOE.com, see the prizes that are going to be sent to five randomly drawn lucky voters, check out all of the entries for this month and place your vote. Voting begins on October 1 and runs through midnight EST, on October 8. Come join in the fun!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Beginning to think about Christmas Gifts

September 25!!! Three months from today we'll be celebrating Christmas and my goal this year is a handmade Christmas. I've been thinking a lot lately about the people that I want to give a small "token" type gift to this year – nothing extravagant – just something to let them know that I am thinking of them and appreciate all they do for me. I'll bet you have some of those people in your life too!

One of the things that I've made that seem to be pretty universal are my pen holders. These are made using pvc pipe as the internal structure, then I can go as wild and crazy as I want to based on who I am making them for. These are a few that I have in my studio now and that are available through my Etsy store.

The fun thing with these pen holders is that they are basically a blank canvas that I can play on. The Pumpkin Pen Holder is actually one of the first designs that I made several years ago, but I have requests for them every fall. The Mosaic Images Pen Holder is a new design this year and I had a blast making it. The Sea Breezes Pen Holder is another favorite although I made this one without the flamingo that usually graces the sandy beach and palm trees. I'll be adding more as time allows so be sure to check the Etsy store and Picturetrail sites.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's officially Autumn but you can't tell it in Mississippi!

Oh how I envy those of you who live in areas of the country where the leaves turn colors in the fall. We have a very few trees in our area that "show their colors" but mostly we just go from green to brown and time to rake!

But that doesn't keep me from thinking and designing in fall colors! At our local guild meeting last Saturday, one of our members closed the meeting with a demo about making leaves. I was so inspired that I made my own fall leaves using a skinner blend that ran from copper on one side to a glorious golden yellow on the other side. I used a large leaf cutter to create a background leaf, then layered a hammered copper bale with smaller leaves, acorns and copper swirls. Then I made two sets of leaves to go with it, either as earrings or strung on a necklace. These will be listed on my Etsy site soon.

While I was on the hammered copper bale kick, I created what I'm calling my Copper Layered Retro Pendant. This was inspired by a video on You-Tube by Barbara McGuire that shows how she uses hammered copper pendant bales. I had already been working with hammered copper for a while now thanks to help from Cindy Leitz but Barbara's video took me in a whole new direction with it. I'm loving this! I made a retro extruder cane, then used the scrap from that to create a cool marbled effect, then combined the two! I used the rest of the scrap to make matching beads. I am so on a roll! These too will be available on my Etsy site soon.

So to those of you whose trees show off in the fall – enjoy! and think about those of us in the south who are still sweltering in the 80's and 90's surrounded by green leaves!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I normally don't blatantly advertise in my blog but my studio is overflowing! It's time to clear out the old and bring in the new in preparation for the holiday season. I love the fall holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and I love to create for those holidays but I'm running out of room in my stockroom, so some things have to go!


Either pay automatically and I'll refund your 25% by PayPal, or send an email to arlene.harrison(at) gmail.com to request a revised invoice. There may not be PayPal buttons on all of the Picturetrail items but I'm working on getting that taken care of.

As I have time, I'm photographing and adding items to all store sections. A sampling of the items that I have available are included in the slideship below. Check out both my Etsy site and my Picturetrail site for a full listing.

*** This would be a great time to buy plant pokes
for your gardening friends

*** beads for your creative friends or for you to create for your friends

*** or how about a refillable decorative pen?

*** Do you do an ornament exchange at work? At church? Check out the Christmas Ornaments section.

*** How about the person on your gift list who has to wear a badge to work. Check out the Reel Jewelry section.

*** Picture frames make a great gift too. The small 3x5 frames I offer are the perfect size to fit a favorite store's gift card.

*** Be sure to check the Miscellaneous section on a regular basis. You just never know what you'll run across in there! And all at 25% off through October 1, 2009!

Friday, September 11, 2009

PCAGOE Color Challenge – I tied for THIRD Place!

In addition to my membership in my local guild – Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild – I am a member of the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy. Every month we have a challenge for the members. Our challenge for last month was Color Combinations and the membership voted on the colors.

As you can see from the picture with the color wheel, we picked some interesting colors! In addition to the three colors selected - 1) Blue-Violet, 2) Blue-Green and 3) Yellow-Orange, you could add your choice of one more color.
The first step in the challenge was to mix the colors to match the colorwheel. Polymer clay comes in a wide range of colors right out of the package but to get these particular shades, you had to do a bit of mixing. Then you had to decide what color to add. I chose white and was able to pull a cane from my new borderless canes collection that fit the yellow-orange color beautifully. I used the blue-green for my leaves and made flowers with the blue-violet. I then took the white, mixed it with some of the blue-violet and blue-green to make a really nice marbled background. The addition of texture finished the look. I initially had planned to cover a picture frame but I had used the last one I had on hand, so I grabbed a small tin. Worked great!

Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought so because it tied for 3rd place in the monthly challenge. These votes come from around the world and are not just our guild members! YEA! This is the first time my challenge piece has placed so I'm thrilled. Plus the fact that somebody saw it on Flickr, contacted me and purchased it! It should be in it's new home in New Jersey by now!

Our challenge for this month is a design based on a painting by a favorite artist…

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My No-Labor Day Celebration

I've been running so hard and fast lately that the 3 day holiday weekend snuck up on me! Somebody asked me last Thursday if I had big plans for Labor Day. My response was that I planned to do "Absolutely NOTHING!" Which in my lingo means I had no commitments, no where that I had to be at any given time except church on Sunday. If I had been a really dedicated home owner, I would have taken the long weekend to get some things done around the house that need to be done… and I'll admit, I did do just a bit of yard work because it was so nice and just a touch of cool in the air – which for Mississippi in early September is very rare – but the muse just kept pulling me right back to the studio!

I'm on a bead kick and recently ran across a cool tutorial that used a technique similar to the rolled paper beads that have been around for years. But these beads are made with polymer clay. Too cool! There are actually two different types of polymer clay beads in this tutorial but the rolled paper style starts on page 4.

I used a flower cane that I had made a while back using the play-doh method on a gold clay background with a few leaf cane slices mixed in. I rolled them on a small knitting needle, then cured them. Once they are out of the oven and cooled, they went into the rock tumbler overnight. This gives them a satiny smooth finish. But I wanted a bit more shine, so I took them to my workshop for a good buffing.
Then I decided they needed a companion bead, so I made round millefoiri beads using the same gold background, green leaf cane slices and pink flowers. When I first started making beads, I used a bead roller to make all of my beads but with hints and tips from a number of people, I now hand roll every bead. This works much better because the cane slices don't distort as much as when you use a roller.

On Labor Day, I celebrated by making more pumpkin tea-lites and another pumpkin pencil holder. I made a faux raku pencil holder in a new design that involves some sculpting, some stamping, some faux tiles and metallic acrylic glazes.

Then it was back to beads. At our guild meeting last month, we learned how to make faux ivory. I used some of the faux ivory to make a long oval bead and embellished each end with fairly thick leaf and flower canes to make what I'm calling a dimensional millefoiri focal bead. I used more faux ivory to roll companion beads then added very thin slices of the leaf and flower canes. The soft peach flower cane was one that I made to decorate a picture frame and lotion bottle for my niece who just had a little baby girl! (See my post from August 21, 2009) I used the cane ends to make a marbled peach set too. All of these will be posted to my JustBeads.com site soon.
My last experiment was faux cinnebar. I cut some two-hole square beads that will eventually become a stretch bracelet and baked them on two matching small knitting needles. Got to love those little knitting needles. They are so handy for so many things!

So my Labor Day celebration was a No-Labor Day and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

August Goals report and September Goals Plus A Winner!

September got here faster than it should have! One day I'm working on finishing up summer beads and the next day fall is here! Where did August go???

Regardless, September IS here and its time to check on my August goals to see how I did and set some goals for September in good Modish Biz Tips Monthly Goals Challenge form. To do this I need to give some serious thought to what I want to accomplish during the month of September to help my online business grow. If you are trying to "grow" your business, this might be something you want to think about doing! There is a positive vibe to setting goals down in writing and publishing them to all your followers to read and hold you to.

So – for the month of August my goals were:

One – finalize design for this year's special Christmas ornament

Back to the comment I made about writing down and publishing goals… Monday night --- the very LAST day of August --- I made myself sit down at my work table and spend several hours trying different ideas for my special Christmas ornament because I did NOT want to admit to all of you that I had procrastinated yet again! The prototype looks good except for the face. I discovered that Premo beige all by itself does not bake to a pretty skin color so I'll be mixing my own skin tone for the next try. I did get all the kinks worked out so it should progress fairly quickly now that I've got the design part done. I'll post a picture as soon as I get one that I'm happy with.

Two – get better photo area set up so I can get consistently good pictures

Completed!!! Again thanks to Lynda of Diva Designs who sent me a link to an article about setting up an inexpensive lightbox and how to correctly position your lights for best results.
Three – locate a source for earring display cards or design my own

This remains on my started but incomplete. I know what I want but I just haven't gotten it done… imagine that!
Four – get everything I have completed posted to Etsy, Artfire and Picturetrail sites

Another item that will move on to my September list. I did get a lot posted and have gotten a decent response. But there is still so much to do and so little time -- particularly since I'm still working fulltime. As I mentioned in my mid-month report, I've started listing some of my loose polymer clay beads and pendants at JustBeads.com I've even had my first sale there already!
Now for September, my goals are:

(1) To complete the design for my angel ornament and get a few variations made, photographed and on the various websites.
(2) Improve my online selling ability by taking the http://harrisonhollowdesigns.blogspot.com/2009/08/check-out-online-class-multiple-streams.html Multiple Streams of Income course that I mentioned here on my blog early in August. I signed up for it today.
(3) Update my Etsy, Artfire, JustBeads and Picturetrail sites for the holidays – which is actually a continuation of #4 from August.
(4) Get better at posting on Facebook and research more about Twitter and how it will help my business grow.
Now for those of you who have been following allowing and making comments and/or suggestions during the month of August, I promised a drawing for a handcrafted polymer clay pen. And the winner is Mignon at Jewelry By Mignon http://jewelrybymignon.blogspot.com/. Mignon, please send your snail mail address to me at Arlene.harrison(at)gmail.com and I'll get your handmade pen on its way to you! By the way, what's your favorite color?

I'm going to have the same offer for the month of September. Leave a comment or make a suggestion and you'll be entered into a drawing for your own custom made polymer clay pen – along with instructions on how to change out the cartridge when the ink runs out – because I just know you're going to want to use this pen all the time!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yea! I'm featured on Audrey's blog!

In my surfing about the internet, I ran across this really cool website that features different artists and artforms with a give-away attached to it. I checked it out -- and won a couple of the give-aways -- and signed up to participate. Today is the first day of the blog post about me and my studio and it will run for a week! At the end of the article is a list of things that you can do to qualify to win this beautiful pen made using my layered canes technique. Come on over and check it out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Interpretation of the Exotic Flower Kaleidoscope cane

Those of you who have been following along with me on my polymer clay journey already know that my first love with all things polymer clay was caning. It just totally amazed me that a series of very simple steps could come together and make a beautiful cane that could be reduced to any number of sizes and used until the last smidgen is gone. That is a very cool concept!

But I've had two stumbling blocks. There are two kinds of canes that I want to make but for one reason or the other (fear of failure being right up there on the list!!!) I haven't attempted – a rose cane and a kaleidoscope cane. I still have a mental block on the rose cane but I did finally give a kaleidoscope cane a try. It's not perfect, but I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

In my wandering around the internet, I ran across the blog of a lovely young woman named Rebekah who does polymer clay pictures. She has some very detailed tutorials on her site, Tree Wings Studio, and one was for an exotic flower which she used on a vase. I followed her instructions and here you see the results. Thank you Rebekah for a great tutorial and an inspiring blog.

I used mine for three different kinds of beads. The largest piece, a focal bead, is a slice from the cane at the point that I cut the first piece off. It measures about 1 inch square and is pierced on the diagonal. I used gold leaf around the outside edge to give it a more "finished" look. I set the 1 inch square section to the side and reduced the remaining cane down to about half of that, or 1/2 inch and come some more slices off. I used a piercing pen to pierce the square beads across the middle. I also finished the edges of these with gold leaf. Then I used a scrap clay core and covered them with thin slices and rolled then into round beads. I have a selection of these available at JustBeads.com. Just click on the JustBeads.com banner in the upper right hand corner.

Now if I can just wrap my mind around that rose cane….

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Color In Motion or How NOT to clean the studio!

It's been a good week at Harrison Hollow Design studios! I started out Saturday morning cleaning my studio. I got a fair amount done just by putting away tools, cookie cutters, stamps, mica powders, bead rollers and various other "stuff" that had gathered on my work table. Then I decided I needed to go through some of the bits and pieces of clay that seem to grow at an alarming rate when I get in "create" mode and tame them into "color families".

That was going pretty good until I thought to myself, all these bits and pieces would make some cool "Jupiter Beads" like Cindy Leitz showed us how to do a while back. So three hours later….

I still had a relatively cluttered studio, but I had made some really cool beads that I'm calling "Color in Motion". This is the second set of these that I've made and I've got to say, I just love the surprise element and beautiful blends that you get by extruding scrap clay and wrapping it around core beads. I don't have a picture of the ones I made Saturday loaded yet, but this is some that were listed on JustBeads.com and sold! Just too cool!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I've found the Perfect Wedding, Baby Shower, Birthday, Graduation Gift!

I guess I'm just getting old and cranky! For the last several years, I've decided that trying to find the "perfect" gift for each and every person on my gift list is a royal pain! Don't get me wrong, for those people that are really special to me, I do go the extra mile to give a really special gift. In fact most of the people that that are special EXPECT something handmade from me – even put in specific requests with a little hint on the end – remember I've got a birthday coming up!!! Love it!

But let's be real! I get invitations to baby showers, wedding showers, graduations, birthdays and all other manner of celebrations. Some of these folks I barely know, but I work with, go to church with, are friends with their "people". So some sort of gift is pretty much required. So what to do????

I solved the problem by giving the gift that is perfect for the baby shower, the wedding shower, the graduate and yes, even the birthday! I give a gift card. Lame? Yes, but it is the perfect fit, it does not matter if you get two just alike and nobody really cares what color it is! Still lame you say? Well….. the presentation makes all the difference!

I discovered a nice small picture frame that perfectly fits a gift card and can withstand the curing process for polymer clay. I cover the basic black frame with an appropriate design, cure the frame and do any finishing details. Once the card is inserted into the frame, add a bit of tissue and drop in a gift bag and wa-lah! the perfectly presented gift card. Plus once it's gone, the frame can be reused for the purpose originally intended. How great is that!!!

The picture shown here is for my nephew and niece-in-law who is going to have a little girl in September. The colors for her nursery are peach and soft jade green so I used those colors in combination with a blue sky and white clouds to create a great presentation for the gift card to the big box store closest to her in Virginia where they are stationed. I also covered a lotion bottle to match. She was very pleased and it took a minute or two before she realized that there was more to the gift than was initially apparent. A nice bonus!

This is something that I'm thinking about offering in my Etsy store. I'd have some that were pretty generic but would also take custom orders. What do ya'll think? It is something that would appeal to the masses?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August Goals - Mid-Month "How I'm Doing" Report

I've been following the Modish Biz Tips blog for a while and decided to take up their challenge this month. I just got my mid-month reminder to review and report on how I'm doing so far. Let's take a look at the goals I set up at the first of the month and how much I've accomplished (or not) so far.

So – for the month of August the goals that I listed were:

One – finalize design for this year's special Christmas ornament
Started but incomplete - So far all the ideas are still traveling back and forth between my head and my drawing pad. I can see what I want in my mind's eye but I just have not made the time to do this, but in my defense my "spare" time has been tied up by outside influences for the last several weekends. Can't fuss too much, though, one Saturday was a baby shower for a favorite niece-in-law and another our monthly polymer clay guild meeting which is always a blast and which feeds my clay cravings! We learned how to make faux ivory at this meeting, so I'm now seeing some ivory angel ornaments… Here are a few of the beads I've made with my faux ivory and some of the borderless flower canes that I've been making using the play-doh method of packing that I blogged about last month.

Two – get better photo area set up so I can get consistently good pictures
Completed!!! This one I can actually say has been done, thanks in very large part to the advise of an online friend and fellow polymer clay artist, Lynda of Diva Designs. She sent me a link to an article about setting up an inexpensive lightbox and how to correctly position your lights for best results. As it turns out, I had everything I needed to modify my current setup on hand and now I'm much more satisfied with my pictures and spend a lot less time on the computer "cleaning up" the photos before I can post them. I'm also able to get better clarity by changing a couple of the settings on my camera. A very big Thank You goes out to Lynda.

Three – locate a source for earring display cards or design my own
Started but incomplete. I've decided to design my own cards and have researched several options online. I can do some of the research during slow times here at work but the actual hands-on stuff has to be done at home. I'm also researching various printing services to use once I get my design finalized. I'm just not excited about the results I've gotten from using stock business cards so I'm wanting to locate a source where I can send a digital image and have them print, cut, punch two tiny holes and fold. Again it's just finding the time to actually sit down at the computer and spend a bit of quality time. Any suggestions on who ya'll have used that were good but still relatively inexpensive?

Four – get everything I have completed posted to Etsy, Artfire and Picturetrail sites
Started but incomplete – I've got most of my pictures taken now, thanks to my online friend Lynda. Even have them cropped, resized, saved on my hard drive and ready to upload. Maybe I'll get some of that done this weekend. Plus I added a new site to the list. Based on a recommendation from one of my bead customers, I've started listing some of my loose polymer clay beads and pendants at JustBeads.com I'll try it for a while and see if anything comes of it. I figure any exposure of my work is good… right?

Even though I haven't completed everything on my list, I have found that writing down my goals for the month has made me take them a bit more seriously – thank you, Modish Biz Tips, for providing both an excellent resource and a gentle push to get things moving. In checking my calendar, it looks like I have two more weekends in August. Hopefully the report on September 1 will show more completed goals!

And don't forget!! Those who help me along the way by posting suggestions, comments, etc. here on my blog during the month of August will be eligible for a random drawing on September 1st for a handcrafted polymer clay covered pen along with instructions on how to replace the ink cartridge when it eventually runs out of ink. Check back frequently to see what I'm up to!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beads, beads, everywhere!!! Now what do I do?

I may have mentioned before that I am NOT a beader! I love making beads and trying new techniques but I've never gotten good at putting the beads together in a creative way. I have some friends who do beautiful work and I have several prized pieces that they've designed. I was watching "Design Star" recently and the judge's remark about one of the competitors' room design was that it was "uninspired" and "conventional". That's pretty much the feeling I get when I try beading! And to be perfectly honest, I think my beads deserve more!!

So what's a girl to do when she loves to make polymer clay beads but doesn't want to jump into the jewelry market? What I did was run across an online auction option called JustBeads.com This is a site where I can sell JUST THE BEADS without trying to make something with them! Much less frustration for me and hopefully some fantastic beader will buy some of my beads and make something absolutely marvelous with them! This sounds like a win-win situation to me.

This picture is of beads I made for a recent swap. I'll be adding similar sets to the JustBeads site. My user name is Ashpaints or just click here to go there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mine is a Premio Meme blog! Lynda said so!

My good friend Lynda, of SCDiva fame, awarded me the Premio Meme Award! She tells me that I need to tell ya'll 7 facts about myself then share the award with 7 other people. Now there's a lot of stuff about me that I could share, but for the sake of the innocent, I think I'll keep those to myself! But facts about me.... Hmmm...let's see...

1. I used to be sane and sensible.
2. Now I'm to an age that I don't sweat the small stuff.
3. I am one of six siblings, the oldest of three sisters.
4. I tell everybody I'm the calm one (if you met my two sisters, you'd understand!)
5. I have two daughters, one son-in-law (and one soon-to-be, I hope), three grandkids, two dogs and two cats.
6. I like to laugh and I try to do it often.
7. I was a decorative painter for 30 years before I fell in love with polymer clay!

So now you know more about me... who shall I share this award with? How about:

Audrey, Audrey's Country Crafts, who has all sorts of cool things - including give-aways - in her blog
LANYARDLADY, one of my favorite reads when I need a giggle
Sharon, Livewire Jewelry, who is always an inspiration
Mignon, Jewelry by Mignon, who creates beautiful jewelry and whose website takes me to the beach every time I visit
Pips, from the UK, who does some really cool things with polymer clay
Rebekka, Tree Wings Studio, who does marvelous clay pictures among other things!
Christine, Stories They Tell, who shares her trials and successes

OK, Artists, the ball is in your court. Will you accept your award and share it with others?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Check out the online class Multiple Streams of Income

This course was mentioned today on one of the blogs that I follow. I've checked out her website and this sounds like something that would really be beneficial to anyone wanting to grow a business doing "what you love"! Here is the poster for this class.

If you want to know more about this great opportunity, check here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My August Goals and How YOU can help -- and perhaps win, too!

August is here and I've decided to participate in the Modish Biz Tips Monthly Goals Challenge. To do this I need to give some serious thought to what I want to accomplish during the month of August that will help my online business grow. I've been reading this blog for a while but decided it was time to get my feet wet and participate!

So – for the month of August my goals are:

One – finalize design for this year's special Christmas ornament.
Two – get better photo area set up so I can get consistently good pictures
Three – locate a source for earring display cards or design my own
Four – get everything I have completed posted to Etsy, Artfire and Picturetrail sites

September is going to be my target month for getting Christmas everything posted to my shops and sites and to best do this, I really, really need to accomplish all the goals that I've listed here for August.

Join me as I work though this month (I need encouragement, pushing, shoving and suggestions, whatever you want to share.)

For those who help me along the way by suggestions, comments, etc. posted here on my blog during the month of August, I'll have a random drawing on September 1st for a handcrafted polymer clay covered pen along with instructions on how to replace the ink cartridge when it eventually runs out of ink. Check back frequently to see what I'm up to!

Monday, August 3, 2009

And the Winner is....

Back on July 20, I added a new post to my blog talking about the technique introduced to the polymer clay world by Yonat (Art by Yonat), who credits the initial inspiration of the technique to Idit Zoota, a polymer clay artist in Israel. The link to Yonat's tutorial is in my July 20 post.

At the end of that post I invited comments and announced that a name would be drawn randomly from those leaving comments for a 2" section of one of my new borderless canes. I am pleased to announce that:

The Winner Is:

Edie who commented: I love this technique, and the smell of the playdoh takes me back 45 years to preschool- and I think that encourages the child in me to play. It works well for caning and it does amazing things to my willingness to put aside my adult mind and experiment!

Edie's name was randomly drawn (by one of my co-workers) but I really love her comment about putting aside her adult mind and experimenting! Polymer clay in all its variety does that for me!

Edie – send me your snail mail address to me at the email address in the sidebar so I can get your borderless cane in the mail to you. Thanks to everybody who commented. It's always good to know that I'm not just writing this for my own entertainment (big grin)!

Now August is here – where has the summer gone???? I'm beginning to think about Christmas and what I want to do for my special ornament this year. Two years ago I made mirrored snowflakes. Last year was the Roly Poly Santas and the Long Tall Santa ornaments. They evolved together. Nothing has really grabbed my attention yet but I'm leaning in the direction of angels. Maybe something with a drapey skirt made over some type of a cone form, but I haven't really worked out all the details in my mind yet. I can see a lot of potential for using my borderless canes in the skirts!

Have any of you tried making something like this? I want the inside of the skirt hollow – like a bell – but I need for it to be strong enough to stand on its own. Any tips, suggestions, ideas on how to make this work?

By the way, I finished the nursery set that I mentioned in my last post. The picture frame was just the right size to hold a gift card to my niece's favorite store and the lotion bottle was just plain fun! This is the first of those that I've done but I'm thinking now that I need something a bit more decorative on my desk at work…. Anyway, here's a picture of the finished project. I really like the fact that I could use the flower canes sculpturally without having to worry about cutting the translucent border off without destroying the flower!!!! I LOVE this technique, can you tell?

Friday, July 31, 2009

I think I’m having polymer clay withdrawal pains!!!!!

A fellow clay friend recently titled a blog post “Is it Friday yet?”. Her question was asked on a Monday after a very busy weekend and pointed out the fact that she needed another weekend!

Well today is Friday and I am so glad! This has been a doosie of a week with storms and a train wreck that knocked out our power on Sunday until 5:45 p.m. That wouldn’t have been too bad except that I had revival at the church I grew up in this week so Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights were devoted to that, then Wednesday night choir practice at my church. By last night, I was exhausted – mentally and physically. Then I realized that I’ve gone over a week now without touching my clay. I think I’m having polymer clay withdrawal pains!!!!!

Tomorrow is Saturday and I have absolutely NOTHING that I HAVE to do!!!! That doesn’t happen very often and I am so looking forward to it. I have several projects in my head that I want to try plus several things that need to be photographed and listed in my Etsy shop, Flikr page and Picturetrail albums. Life is just too short!

Sunday afternoon we’re having a baby shower for my niece and I want to cover a hand lotion bottle for her in the colors of her nursery. That was one of the projects that I had planned to get done last Sunday before the power went out. Her colors are peach and mint green and I’ve made a peach flower cane already for it. I see a pretty blue sky with clouds, mint green grass with dimensional blades of grass here and there and flowers, of course! I’ll post a picture when I get it done.

In the meantime, just so ya’ll will know that I really do work with polymer clay (grin), here are a selection of the pens I’ve covered and have recently posted in my Etsy store. These are so much fun to make and such a great gift for that person who has everything!

Friday, July 24, 2009

First Play-doh - now ReadyTac!

My mind is spinning so fast I can barely keep up with it. And here I am stuck at work for two more hours! Yesterday on the way home, I ran by Hobby Lobby and picked up, among other things, a package of ReadyTac. You know, that stuff that you use to stick posters and other lightweight stuff to the walls temporarily. Feels and looks kind of like chewed bubble gum! Pleasant thought, huh? The reason I was looking for this stuff goes back to my previous post about using Play-doh to pack and reduce a flower cane.

I LOVE the idea of having the cane with no background to have to deal with but how do you avoid smooshing the bottom petals of the cane when you go to slice it? Well, as luck would have it, on one of the blogs and/or forums that I participate in, there was a recent discussion about using Blu Tac to fill in the valleys between the petals and cushion the area while you cut your slices. Then, according to this discussion, the Blu Tac would just peel right off and you could reuse it. This just seemed to be a bit too good to be true so, of course, I had to try it for myself. I checked a couple of places earlier this week and did not find anything that was called Blu Tac but saw a yellow generic package of it at Hobby Lobby and decided it was worth a try.

I'm here to tell you that it works exactly as advertised! Between the play-doh method of packing to reduce and the yellow tac to slice, I'm going to be a cane making and slicing fool!!!!! I'll post pictures when I get home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

10 Things I Learned While Playing With Play-Doh

There has been quite a bit of chatter on the various polymer clay groups and forums about using Play-doh and scrap clay to pack your canes. Here’s a link to the video just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.artbyyonat.polyclayplay.com/PlayDohVideo/PlayDohVideo.html

If you are not a caner, this won’t make a whole lot of sense to you but if you’ve ever packed a flower cane, reduced it and then tried to slice it thin enough to avoid getting a “halo” effect from the translucent clay, you will LOVE this technique. I did a demo at our guild meeting this past Saturday and our president, Joyce, made the comment that I really should have made anybody who had never packed a cane do it the old way first. Only then would they appreciate the difference!

Now – about those 10 things:

1. Play-doh does not stick to polymer clay! That’s what makes this technique work.

2. Play-doh is readily available in most big box stores and craft supply stores. I think the correct name for this clay is water soluble air-dry clay and several different companies make it. The brand I use is RoseArt from Michaels. I believe Crayola may make a version of this also but I haven’t tried it. The main thing you need to look for is “water soluble”.

3. Play-doh can be run through your pasta machine – at least the RoseArt brand can. I run it through mine on the thickest setting, then again on a thinner setting – about mid-way through the range of settings. You don’t want it too thin.

4. Play-doh is more cost effective (cheaper!) than translucent clay! After doing a lot of research on the internet about how to pack a cane to keep it from distorting, and messing up a fair amount of clay in the process, I had a light bulb moment! Why not use extruded snakes of translucent clay? No more tediously shaping each piece to fit exactly into the valley between the petal tips! Just add snakes as needed until the gap is filled, reshaping the petal as needed while you pack it. And once you reduce it down, all the snakes meld together as a translucent background. But that takes a fair amount of translucent clay and then I rather tediously trim off as much of the translucent as possible before I begin to cut slices off the cane to avoid a “halo” effect. What a waste of time and clay even though it goes into my scrap clay container.

5. Play-doh forms nicely to the contours of your flower cane. I wrap a thin sheet of Play-doh around the clay, gently pushing it down into the valleys with a small knitting needle. Make sure you don’t have any areas on the sides of the cane that are left uncovered.

6. Play-doh creates a barrier between the cane and your scrap clay. So now that I’ve wrapped the thin sheet of play-doh around my cane and shaped it to follow the valleys and peaks of the cane, I extrude snakes of scrap clay in a mid-size round and fill in the valleys. This is where having a thinner layer of the play-doh comes in handy. It’s just there to separate the cane from the scrap clay but if I leave it too thick, it is too soft to hold the elements of the cane in place. I fill in the valleys with the extruded snakes of scrap clay, making sure to reshape the petal points if needed as I go. Then I wrap the entire cane with a thick layer of scrap clay then sit it aside to “rest”. This allows all the different parts of the cane to come back to the same basic temperature – again less distortion. If the scrap clay gets too thin when I start reducing the cane, I add another layer and roll it on good and tight to make sure it bonds to the first layer of scrap clay.

7. Play-doh is water soluable. When you are ready to “peel” your cane, you can use a craft knife to cut down one side – in the valley between two petals – and peel off the scrap clay and any play-doh that is sticking to it.. How thick you have the outer layer of scrap clay affects how easily it peels off. Too thin and you may accidentally scratch part of the outside edge of the cane. Just right, it will come off like a wrapper. I rarely get it just right but I can get most of it to peel of relatively cleanly. Some of the play-doh will still be on the cane itself but all I do is drop it in water and let it sit for a while. I usually leave mine overnight. When I come back in the morning, I use a soft-bristle paint brush to gently brush out any play-doh that is left, but most of it has already dissolved – leaving you with a beautifully shaped cane with no background.

8. Play-doh can be mixed with scrap clay. On the first few canes I made using this technique, I tried to soak the scrap clay that I peeled off so I could reuse it. Frustrating to say the least. It can be done but patience is not my strong suite so that didn’t last long. I had it in my hand – ready to throw it in the garbage – but decided to see if the play-doh would affect the effectiveness of the scrap clay when used in this method. I so hate to throw anything away!!! So I tried it on a cane that I wasn’t that crazy about so that if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be too upset with myself. It worked beautifully! So now the scrap clay that I peel off the canes goes in an empty play-doh container and gets reused again and again!

9. Play-doh gets hard when it dries. I get all of the play-doh out of the valleys between the petals that I can see but I’ve missed small amounts that dried hard as a rock! Oh no! My cane is ruined! Nope. Just take a needle tool and pop it right out of there. Not a problem at all!

10. Play-doh gets hard when it dries. I know – that’s a repeat – but then again, it isn’t! If you don’t want to peel your cane right away, but you don’t want the play-doh to dry in the cane, the scrap clay wrapped around it will keep it from drying out, however, you will need to protect the exposed ends, so you might want to wrap the entire cane in plastic wrap – just to be sure. Now I haven’t tried this yet. I’m still having too much fun peeling them and being amazed!

Have any of you tried this technique yet? Do you have more tips about what works well and what doesn’t? I’d love for you to share. Leave a comment below and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for one of my borderless canes sections. Be sure to leave your name and check back on August 1st to see who won!