Monday, June 28, 2010

Sea Breezes Faux Agate Jewelry

Things have been slow in the Harrison Hollow Designs studio as the demands of summer take precedence. But I did get some work done this past weekend – thanks to a great tutorial from another blog that I follow. Cindy Lietz's blog in and of itself offers a wealth of information but when you subscriber to her website for a very minimal $9.99 for three months, you also get color mixes and weekly video tutorials. It is well worth every penny to be able to actually see how she does some of the techniques and how she uses the beads in projects after they are made. Pretty cool!

But back to my project. A couple of weeks ago the Friday weekly video was on how to make a faux agate. This caught my attention right away because my aunt is a rockhound and has cut, ground and polished many a rock into beautiful jewelry elements. I particularly like agate because it naturally occurs in so many beautiful colors and with layers of other colors running through it. The picture here is my interpretation in a cool aqua blue with subtle purple and white run through. The color takes my mind to the beach, with the crystal blue water lapping in gentle waves while I sip a cold margarita! 

The depth of the faux agate comes from the use of translucent clay while the color is determined by a layer of translucent clay with an inclusion of glitter or mica powders. Once it is cured, the sanding begins. I begin my sanding at 320 grit on most projects and work slowly through progressively finer grits up to 1000 grit for the final sanding. Then the faux agate is buffed to really bring out the shine.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Just a reminder about the SUPER SUMMER SALE going on in my Etsy shop.  Here are some of the items that have been marked for sale only during the month of JUNE.  I'll be adding more as we get closer to month's end.  On July 1 everything will go back to its original pricing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Favorite Bead Drilling Jig

One of the most difficult parts of making polymer clay beads is piercing or drilling a hole through them.  I don't even want to count the number of beautiful beads that have gone into the trash can because of an inaccurate drilling!  Talk about stealing my joy!!!

I tried piercing before hand and my beautiful beads got distorted -- no matter how careful I was.  I tried holding the bead in pliers and drilling.  I even tried putting the bead in a vice and drilling.  As my skill with making the beads increased, so did my search to find a solution to the hole piercing/drilling problem.  After all, a bead without a whole is just a round lump of clay!!!  Not totally useless, but close.

Then, while looking for a burr cup to round the ends of my wire, I ran across the Centerline Pearl Drill Jig!

This is just the coolest thing!  The plastic on the base and on the end of the screw are both cupped so that a round bead fits in nicely.  It holds the bead in place and centered so that you can then use your dremel to drill the hole. Nice, straight, clean!  No beads flying across the room.  No drilled fingers! 

It is designed to work with a tiny, tiny drill bit, however I enlarged the hole enough that the size bit that I prefer for drilling my holes fits through nicely. With the tiny, tiny drill bit that would go through the jig when I first got it, I was forced to drill again after the initial hole was drilled. I hate doing anything twice that I don't have to.

I found this lovely little tool at  For the record, I do not work for nor am I affiliated in any way with  I'm just delighted to have found a solution to my drilling problem.  Now when I have a fairly good supply of beads that have been tumbled, I can relax in my recliner with a towel, a box with the undrilled beads, a box to put the drilled beads in, my cool little jig and my dremel.  Add to that a good Gaithers Homecoming dvd and I'm set!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Disaster strikes at Harrison Hollow Designs

This has been an interesting week. Earlier this week I was debating whether to make canes with translucent packing or borderless canes.  The picture to the left shows a couple of variations on a fairly simple cane.

Then I decided that I would try my hand at writing a tutorial so last night I set my camera up by my worktable to take step-by-step pictures to go along with the written instructions. I got through the first couple of steps when the phone rang. Then disaster struck!

While getting up from my worktable to answer the phone, I tripped over the tripod leg sending it flying. I caught myself and managed to avoid falling only to discover that my camera was now in several pieces. The bottom part of the camera – where it screwed onto the tripod – was still attached to the tripod. The camera was all the way across the room with the batteries and the memory card scattered around it. That should tell you just how old this digital camera is – it still uses AA batteries for power! But regardless, it did work before it tried to fly – and took pretty good pictures to boot!

I gathered the parts and pieces and attempted to put it back together but without success – and believe me I TRIED! I hate to get part of the way into a project and have to stop and wait. Patience is definitely NOT my strong point!

Long story short, today I'm researching digital cameras and hope to find one within my price range tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 7, 2010

To pack or not to pack? That is the question….

The thing I like to do the most with polymer clay is to make canes. Primarily flower canes, although I do make leaf canes, specialty jellyroll canes, kaleidoscope canes and anything else that grabs my attention. But my favorite remains the flower cane.
Until about a year ago, I made my flower canes in the traditional way by packing between the petals then wrapping the entire cane with translucent clay. This works great however it does have a couple of negatives. If you want to do a dimensional piece, you have to carefully cut all the translucent away… I'm not good at that! Or if you want to use the flower cane in a multi-cane layered design, you have to slice it extremely thin or you have a "halo" around your flower. (In the heart pendant to the right, the yellow flower is borderless but the little white flowers have a translucent packing.) The translucent is just that – translucent – not clear. So you can see the edges. Oh, there were solutions to this problem. Like I said, you could slice very thin – although I rarely was able to slice thin enough to avoid the halo – or your could painstakingly trim away the translucent before you cut your slices. Again, I'm not good at that!

Then in July 2009, I ran across a post in one of my online polymer clay groups about a video by Yonat that showed how she packed her flower canes with play-doh. Yes, you read that right – play-doh – the same stuff your kids and grandkids play with! If you want to check out the technique for yourself, go to my post of 7-20-09 – Ten things I learned from playing with Play-doh This post includes the link to Yonat's video as well as how I do it which is just a little bit different. The end result of this technique is that you have a flower cane without any packing around it – but reduced to a usable size. It can be used in dimensional work where you want a fairly thick slice – or even as a stand-alone bead -- as well as sliced thin for use in layered millefoiri designs. This is, of course, now my favorite way to make flower canes.  In the example shown here, the flower on the center focal bead is dimensional while the same flower is sliced thin and applied to beads.

This brings me to the question - to pack or not to pack. I'm getting ready to revamp my Etsy shop and I'm going to include canes in my shop. What I need to decide is whether to make canes with the translucent packing or without. Most of the canes that I see for sale on the internet are packed – either with translucent or with a color -- but to me that just creates more work for the end user. I rarely use packed canes so I resist the idea of adding canes to my inventory that I won't use – I like to show examples of items made with my canes for reference – but on the other hand if the end user has never used a unpacked cane, how willing will they be to order?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Studio Remodel

Here's a quick glimpse into the chaos that I call my studio!

I've been complaining a lot lately about how life has been getting in the way of my creative time.  Part of that was caused by my need to get more organized.  Can any of you relate to that?

I've spent a fair amount of what little bit of free time I've had building wall units (shelves, pegboard) and cleaning up the resulting mess!  Have you ever noticed that before you can actually start organizing you (or at least I do) have to make a big mess moving everything out of the way so you can install the new stuff, then putting it all away in its proper place.  That's my ultimate goal -- to have a proper place for everything in the studio! Could be a life challenge at the rate I'm going but it's better than it was two weeks ago so progress is being made. 

Not everything has been put away yet - still blank space on the pegboard.  I'm a visual person so if I can't see it, I tend to forget I have it.  So hanging things on pegs works for me.

I also bought two storage units from Harbour Freight that is designed for storing screws, nuts, bolts, that sort of thing.  It works great for findings - bead caps, jump rings, eye pins, toggles, spacers, seed beads, glass beads... you know, all that stuff you have to have.  I have each drawer labeled and have them grouped in gold, silver and copper.  Works very well so far.

Now I can get back to doing what I love - creating!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time to Think Outside the Box

The Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy challenges its members every month and for June, each of our members started with the same sized blank aluminum tin, which measures 2" tall and 2.5" wide.  That was the only guideline for the challenge.  The design, color, everything else was determined by the artist.  I've got to say that we have some awesome entries!  Be sure to go to our website and check them out and vote for your top three favorites.  And check out the prizes that will be awarded to some of our voters!  It's a win-win situation!

In addition to the normal voting process, during challenge week in June, from June 1 to June 7,  these tins will be auctioned to the highest bidder, the proceeds from the bids to be donated to our team charity, Polymer Clay For A Cause, established by our fellow member Angela Anderson of ElementalDragons ( in loving memory of her daughter, Cortney, who passed away at the age of 14 after a long battle with Muscular Dystrophy.  For more information about this and to see the great selection of tins, go to the PCAGOE website.