Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Hanging Around…A simple tutorial - Part 1

Hopefully you've gathered your supplies, cut your pvc pipe to length and sanded down the edges if they were not already nice and straight. I use a compound miter saw to cut mine so they are usually nice and smooth but you can use a hacksaw or even a cutting wheel on a dremel. I just love power tools!

To get started, condition a block of white clay. My preferred brand of polymer clay is Premo, however I find their new bright white hard to work with so I mix it half and half with Sculpey III to get the consistency that I like. Condition to the point where you can fold your clay in half and it does not crack along the fold. Don't cut the conditioning part of the process short. Not only does this conditioning increase the flexibility, it strengthens the clay.

You'll probably have more than you need for the inner plug but we'll just add it to the mix when we make "stucco".

Condition enough scrap clay to make a sheet at the thickest setting of your pasta machine large enough to cover one end of the pipe.

Plug the pipe:

I started with a 3 and ½ inch length of 3 inch pvc (plumbing) pipe. To close up one end, I make a two-layer plug. First condition enough white clay at the thickest setting for the inner plug and enough scrap clay at the thickest setting for the outer plug. I use white clay for the inner plug since you can see it but the outer plug can be scrap since it is completely covered.

Sit the pipe on the white clay and mark the inside of the pipe with a needle tool.  (Picture 2)

Remove the pipe and cut out a plug just very slightly larger than the marked line for a snug fit. Flip the white inner plug over and lay it on scrap clay run at the thickest setting. Lightly press together to bond the two layers of clay. I like to add a little bit of texture here just for interest. (Picture 3)

Then sit the pipe back over it. You may have to put slight pressure on it if you cut your inner plug too big but you want it to be snug. Use your craft knife to trim around the pipe, then use your thumbs to round the clay at the edge of the pipe. (Picture 4) If you have gaps between the inner plug and the pipe, use a ball stylus to push the clay over to fill the gap. Bake for a minimum of 30 minutes. You don't have to cure it completely but you do want it strong enough that it won't break when you cover the bottom.

Let's lay some brick:
The clay for the brick wall that peeks through the stucco is a custom mix of some random reds mixed with copper. If you can leave some streaks and marbling in while you are conditioning, this is even more realistic. When you have the color you want, run a sheet at a middle thickness [I used #4 on my pasta machine] and cut some small rectangles. I have a small geometric stamp that I used that is about 2 inches by 3/4 inch so that's how big I cut my rectangles. [If you don't have a stamp, you can use a texture mat or a needle tool to impress lines when we get to that step. For right now we're just positioning the brick patches.] (Picture 5)

Brush some Genesis medium on the area where you want the brick patches to be and press it on. You probably don't have to do this since the polymer clay sticks pretty well to the pvc pipe but I just like to make sure everything stays put. You can use liquid polymer clay instead of Genesis. (Picture 6)

The brick patches should be placed randomly around the pipe.

Use your thumbs to spread and smooth the edges. (Picture 7)

Now for the stucco:

The stucco is also a custom mix. I used the rest of the white that I conditioned for the inner plug, then added about half a block each of Premo and Sculpey III white to half a block of ecru and just a pinch of copper. You are wanting a very light sand color.  Add the copper sparingly as you condition. You want to keep your stucco light but adding the copper gives the color warmth and helps to keep the colors of the brick and the stucco harmonious. [We will be using copper again when we make the gecko and I have copper in my kaleidoscope cane so it helps everything to blend if you have a touch of it in your stucco mix.]

Once you have your stucco clay conditioned, run it through the pasta machine on a mid-thick setting [I use #4 on mine]. Tear several strips with rough edges and pat it on above, below and on each end of each brick patch. (Picture 8)

Use a bit of artistic license here to create a look of the stucco crumbling away by varying the angles – you do not want a square!
Once you have your brick patches bordered, tear larger pieces and fill in the rest of the wall area.

Use your fingers to blend the edges relatively smooth, but don't obsess over it. We're going to be adding texture later. Remember to cover the bottom and wrap the stucco clay over the top edge. I don't cover the inside of my pencil cups. We'll clean up the inside edge after we add texture.  (Picture 10)

We'll stop here today and continue the tutorial next post. Check back next post to see how we make the red/copper mix look like bricks and all that white/ecru/copper clay look like stucco.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Hanging Around…Coming Soon - A simple tutorial

 When you think "southwestern" what images come to mind? I see painted deserts, cactus, adobe brick walls and stucco buildings baking in the hot summer sun. And of course, geckos!

As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I am a member of the PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy). One of the fun things that the members can participate in is a monthly challenge. I usually try to participate simply because it forces me to think outside of the box and create something based on the theme for that month. Well, as you may have already guessed, this month's theme is Southwestern. Each individual artist develops his/her entry based on whatever says southwestern to them. Some interpret it by color, others by a faux stone such as turquoise, others with scenes depicting southwestern culture.

My interpretation is a pencil cup which I've named "Just Hanging Around". I've created a faux stucco wall that has crumbled here and there, allowing the adobe brick understructure of the wall to show through. To this faux wall I've added faux tiles made from slices of a kaleidoscope cane in southwestern colors. And finally I added a fat gecko hanging out on the wall enjoying the sunshine!

I've had several people ask me how I make the pencil cups so I thought this would be a good one to use for a tutorial.  It will be in three parts to keep each post from running too long.  You should have all the clay supplies you need for this project - white, ecru, copper clay and about a block's worth of scrap clay in orange and red tones -- on hand already. You will also need a kalidescope cane in southwestern colors.

The only unusual things you will need is a piece of 3 inch across pvc plumbing pipe cut to about 3 1/2 inches tall and some burnt umber, red and white acrylic paint to add shadows and highlights.  If the top and bottom of your pvc pipe is not flat and even, sand it on some course sand paper until it is even on the top and the bottom.  And hold onto that course sandpaper.  We'll need it later for texture.

So gather your supplies and check back.  We'll start by laying some adobe bricks!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Harrison Hollow Designs is growing and expanding!

As many of you know, I'm in the count down for early retirement.  I'm shooting for June, 2012 so that's less than a year and a half left to go.  As a part of that process, I've been looking at ways to expand my online presence.  One of the things I was looking at already was changing my Artfire account from basic to pro which means that I would have a lot more tools and benefits available to me as a shop owner. 

Needless to say, I was delighted today to receive an email from Artfire with a fabulous offer for me to upgrade my basic account to a Pro account for just $5.95 a month FOR LIFE!  Based on the fact that I was already considering doing this at a cost of $15.95 a month, this is a no-brainer!  I've just signed up to be an Artfire Pro! The same offer is available to any Artfire basic account holder or anybody who just wants to join in the fun.  There is no long-term commitment since they clearly state that you can cancel your membership after just one month!  But why would you? 

This charge is all that you pay for an Artfire Pro account and there are tons of perks... TONS!! There are no listing fees and no "off the top" fees when an items sells. No matter how many items you list or how much you sell. If you've used any of the other handmade sites, you know there's a bill that comes at the end of the month and you just never know how much it is going to be until you get it! I pay more than $5.95 a month just for my Etsy listing fees!!!

They are getting ready to exit Beta and want to do so with a Bang! Their normal monthly subscription fee is $15.95 and even this is a good deal but $5.95....well, I just couldn't pass it up! This special deal is contingent upon a minimum of 20,000 participants signing up.....and they are well on their way! This opting in period is open for an undisclosed period of time and they have set the maximum number of available spots to 50,000 so I would check it out ASAP!

Here is a link to the details

Now don't get me wrong, I don't intend to close my Etsy shop, this is just a part of growing and expanding my business and an excellent way to get more exposure and more sales!

Another great thing about Artfire is that if you already have an Etsy shop, they will automatically upload your items to Google Base on ArtFire! You don't have to reload everything! If you are selling your art and spending way too much money you should check this out!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm in TWO Etsy Treasuries today!

How exciting is that!  It is always such a joy when people who don't know me personally or even by email find and like one of my pieces enough to include them in an Etsy Treasury!  Here are the links if you would like to check them out:

Golden Sunshine - includes my Golden Egg Trinket Box in the top row!


Scenes from Indonesia - includes my Butterflies in Flight Faux Batik necklace in the bottom row.

Be sure to check out all the items in these treasuries. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

The holiday season -- it will be here before you know it!

I know it's just the first of September but my mind has been on the upcoming holidays lately. Christmas is my favorite but Halloween and Thanksgiving fit right in there too. I've been working on prototypes of two different Christmas ornaments and should have something to show ya'll after the weekend if all goes well. I've never been particularly good at sculpting with clay but I've worked out a technique that makes it a bit easier for those of us who are "sculpture" challenged ;-)!

In the meantime, here are a couple of cute ideas from the Holidays section of my Etsy store. These cute little pumpkins are shaped around a tea-lite size candle which makes it super easy to replace when the tea-lite that comes with it burns down.

This Roly Poly Santa is made around a small glass bulb and is just so cute that you'll want a dozen!

This pencil cup is a great gift idea for the fall. It is formed around a piece of 3" pvc pipe (yes, the same pvc pipe that your water runs through!) for strength and stability. I keep one on my desk at work year round – changing them out according to the season or holiday. The one in the picture is one I made last year for Halloween and one of my co-workers felt it would suit her desk better than mine!!! Imagine that! So, while I don't have one of these in my Etsy store right now, I can make one for you to enjoy in plenty of time for Halloween – and Thanksgiving! Just drop me an email to arlene.harrison at and we'll work out the details. And stay tuned…. I'm thinking snowflakes for Christmas/Winter….

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Been playing with Faux Jade

Since I spent ALL of my Labor Day weekend helping one of my sisters redo the cabinet doors -- ALL OF THEM!!! -- in my mother's kitchen, I did not get to play with clay this weekend.  But I do have something new to share with you.  Recently Lynda Mosley, one of the members of PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy), was doing a series of faux jade beads and I decided to try my hand at it.  I didn't get anywhere near as fancy as Lynda did (her beads are to die for!) but I was pleased with my results.  What do you think?  Did I capture the "jade" look? 

For a closer look, feel free to go to my Flickr site.  You may have to click to the 3rd or 4th page.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another Early Bird Special!

Earlier this week I posted pictures of some bracelets and offered a 20% discount plus FREE shipping for anybody who mentioned my blog in an email message to me at arlene.harrison (at)  This is a special just for blog followers and Facebook friends.  Yes, you can still contact me and yes, the offer is good until 6:00 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday, September 6. 

I also promised to be adding more....
This time it's earrings....  I've been going through my bead stash putting together earring sets.  Each earring set will sell for $18.00 plus $3.00 shipping once it is listed in my Etsy shop.  If you send me an email message and state that you saw it on my blog or on Facebook, I'll offer that same 20% discount and FREE shipping. 

For these earring sets I dug into some of my more "interesting" polymer clay beads.  I love playing with canes and you can really get some unusual patterns going when you use them.  One of the great things about polymer clay is that once you make the cane, you can apply thin slices to solid colored beads and really get some unique beads that are fairly repeatable.  So if you see an earring set that you really like the beads on and would love to have a bracelet or a necklace to match, just let me know.  No two polymer clay beads are ever exactly alike, but that's what makes them special! 

The picture to the right shows a set that I've put together for one of my customers.  The beads are acrylic rather than polymer but the end result is the same.  She wanted the earring set plus something simple but elegant to hang on a silver chain that she already had. 

The pictures here are small but if you want to see larger, more detailed pictures, go to my Flickr site at  Feel free to click on through.  Most of the things that I work on find their way to Flickr before I list them in my Etsy store.

You MUST mention that you saw it on my blog and agree to be billed through Paypal to qualify for the discount and free shipping. You do not have to have a Paypal account to pay through Paypal, just a credit card. Paypal is a secure online payment system that I've used for years without any problems. If you see something that appeals to you, send an email to me at arlene.harrison (at) and I'll send you a Paypal invoice. If you would prefer not to be billed through Paypal, let me know and I'll see what we can work out.