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:

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!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Here, there, everywhere!

I am feeling so honored! Yesterday Alice, Polymer Clay Etc., had my Business Card Cases that I made after watching her video. I had some of the cases on hand because of a previous attempt but they were collecting dust. Thanks to Alice's video, I realized that I was doing wrong. Thanks Alice!

Now I was already feeling pretty special at this point, then I got an request for an interview from Jewelz, Jewelz Creatives. She did a great job and I am just tickled that she thought of me!

And to make my day absolutely perfect, I got a message from Eugena, Eugena Creations, that she had posted pictures of the bracelets I had made using her tutorial on her blog today. I can definitely recommend her tutorials to anybody who wants to stretch their skills. She gives great instructions with plenty of pictures.

Well, I guess I need to get off this computer and go play with some clay! I've got a new project on my worktable that calling me....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just bangling around!

I’ve never been much of a bangle bracelet gal, but I’m well on my way to changing that thanks to several creative people who have been inspiring me recently! I tried making a bangle bracelet early in my polymer clay journey and it was – how to put this tactful??? – less than successful! Actually is was pretty awful so it went the way of many of my early projects.

(((NOTE TO NEW CLAYERS: Hold on to some of your early works so you can see how far you’ve come!)))

So my general response to people who ask if I make bracelets has been “not yet”. (I never say no because I just never know what’s going to catch my attention or my imagination!)

I’ve admired other artists’ work on bracelets but nothing that really inspired me to try my hand at it until I ran across Alice Stroppel’s blog about using her face canes on bracelet blanks. Then I found a thread on PCAGOE talking about using bracelet blanks to make gorgeous bracelets. So the search was on for bracelet blanks which led me to Melanie West’s website. I ordered a few aluminum cuff type bracelet blanks and a few brass channel bracelets. I read through Melanie’s “how to” on covering the larger blanks and anxiously awaited the package from Melanie. I can definitely give her a thumbs up for her customer service. I received the package very quickly! Now what to do with them…..

At the June meeting of the Central Mississippi Polymer Clay Guild, we learned how to make faux abalone. We used some gold clay in the stack so it was perfect for the brass channel bracelet blank. The biggest problem I ran into was getting everything smooth. I’m thinking next time around, I’ll add some texture just to keep those little imperfections from jumping out. Of course, I’m probably the only one who sees them! I love the rolled edges on these bracelet blanks. It gives the bracelet a more “finished” look. Now I’m on the search for wider bracelet blanks with the rolled edged channels. I’ve emailed Melanie but if anybody knows where I can find wider blanks with the nice finished rolled edges, please leave a comment below or email me. In the meantime, I have an idea bouncing around in my head… now where did I put that extruder? I'm not as happy with the aluminum blanks. They are difficult for me to get a clean professional finish on the inside of the bracelet. I know, nobody really sees the inside of the bracelet, but I like for it to look nice too.

Oh and did I mention, Eugena, Eugena's Creations, just announced that she is developing a tutorial for a bangle bracelet. I’m just being FORCED (big grin) to make bracelets… See why I never say no!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, I procrastinated long enough and Eugena got her tutorial finished and for sale on her Etsy site. I ordered it, tried it and here are the results! None look exactly like Eugenia’s but that’s the joy of polymer clay. Once you get the basics, everything else is your own creativity. Thanks Eugena for a great tutorial.

This is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much fun! And every one is different! One thing I really like about this technique is that the size of the bracelet can be changed just by using a larger or smaller “armature”. My youngest sister has very small hands and most bangle bracelets just slide off of her. You’ll have to check with Eugena to see what she uses! In the meantime, I’m thinking about canes again… bet some of my flower canes would make gorgeous bangle bracelets.

One thing that I did learn the hard way is to make sure your oven is cooking at the temperature you think it is!!! Why do I mention this, you ask? Because the first two bracelets I made cracked on the inside. What's going on?

I go back and re-read Eugenia's tutorial to make sure that I've done everything correctly. Her directions were very clear and specific and it appears that I have stuck pretty close to her directions so I start checking the other variables -- the ones in MY studio! Apparently the last thing I had baked was a pendant and beads using alcohol inks and gold leaf on black clay with a thin layer of translucent on top-- and anytime I use translucent, I turn the oven down just a bit AND cover with aluminum, just as a precaution. I've scorched my share of translucent as I've learned!

Long story short, I readjusted the dial back to where it needed to be to get the strength in the clay and made another bracelet. Excellent results if I do say so myself. Mine doesn't look exactly like Eugenia's but I'm pleased with it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Need a break from the heat?

I had someone comment that you know you’re from Mississippi when you know what the term “hot enough to melt molasses” means! July in Mississippi gives that phrase special meaning… particularly since it’s also dry, dry, dry this year!

So what better way to take a break from the heat than to have a Christmas in July sale? Start thinking cool thoughts and then scoot over to my Etsy shop to check out what’s in the special Christmas in July section. On all ornaments and other things Christmas, I’m offering Buy One, Get One (of equal or lesser value) at Half Price. If you see something here that is not in my shop when you check, leave a comment with the name or description and how to contact you. Most of the items included here are from my 2008 Christmas Collection so the photography might not be the best. I'm learning as I go!

And as a special “thank you” for following my blog, if you convo me and include the words HHD blog (or just tell me you read the announcement in my blog), I’ll send you a revised PayPal invoice with at 10% discount on any items not in the Christmas in July section – basically anything else in the shop!

And speaking of our winter celebrations, whether it be Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza, one of the members of the PCAGOE team set up a “Happy Holidays” treasury to get us all thinking about the holidays and my poinsettia cane is included in it! This is such an honor and I can’t thank Jill at Palumbo Jewelry ( ) enough for including me. If you want to take a peek, here’s the link:

Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I’m already thinking about some new ideas for ornaments and gift items. If you want to follow along, I’ll share those with you – before they are available in my Etsy store!

What I’m working on right now is bracelets – bangle bracelets to be specific. If I get pictures taken tonight, I’ll share what I’ve done so far tomorrow. See ya’ll then!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vote for your favorite and you could win too!

The Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE TEAM) invites all our friends and colleagues to participate in our monthly challenge contest by voting for your favorite entry at our team website at between July 1 and midnight, EST of July 7, 2009. Winning entries will be announced on the website on July 8. Five lucky voters, chosen at random, will also receive beautiful polymer clay items handmade by our member artisans, which you may also view at the website. So come join in the fun. You could be a winner, too! To read more about it go here.