Sunday, May 13, 2018

Making Fantasy Flowers with Carol Simmons

The colorful flowers on the left are a few of the posies I made at a recent 3-day workshop with Carol Simmons.  I have always wanted to take one of her classes, and I was delighted to find out that she was offering her Fantasy Flower class nearby in Massachusetts.  Carol has a wealth of ideas derived from many years of experience. We learned about her method for developing Skinner blends, and used those blends to create a wide variety of canes.  She demonstrated several ideas for types of cane designs, then we constructed our own.  In order to assemble the canes into flowers, we needed to cut uniform petals.  I don't know about you, but cutting thin, even slices is a challenge, and trying to get 5 or 6 exactly the same is almost impossible when cutting free-hand. Happily, Carol brought with her the cane slicer she designed, and we were able to cut our own petals.  The machine is amazing - multiple canes can be sliced at the same time, and the slices can be thick or incredibly thin, but always uniform.  We all went home with lots of slices from our canes.  Enclosed in plastic page protectors, the slices will keep shape and flexibility for quite a while.  So, as I fiddle and play with the cane slices, I will eventually have enough to make one of the Fantasy Flowers that Carol creates so beautifully.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Solid Bangles in Patchwork Design

Recently, I taught a workshop in which the participants learned to make bracelets without armatures. This requires a few layers of polymer and multiple bakings, but it also is a way to guarantee the resulting bracelet fits the wearer perfectly, and is not going to accidentally come off.  We used extruders to create the various designs on the bracelets.  The result is a sort of rustic and fun patchwork of shapes and designs.  On these two samples, I used a solid color to line the inside.  However, it would be possible to use any decorative sheet the artist desires, creating an internal "surprise".

Monday, April 9, 2018

Foldover Bead Necklace with Extrusions

Here is a fun little necklace I just finished.  The polymer beads are simple circles, with a design on one side, solid color on the other, then gently folded so they don't quite meet.  This allows the colors from both sides to show and keeps open a channel for beading wire.
One experiment I tried for the patterned side was to shave slices off an extruded tube, place the strips side-by-side on a backing sheet, and then compress them in the pasta machine.  I really liked the resulting inconsistent striped look.
 Here is a closeup of one bead.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Extruded "Rounds"

I love extrusions.  I think my favorite part is the fact that while the outside of the extrusion looks so plain as it leaves the extruder, the inside hides wonderful surprises.  I have recently been playing with some thin extruded snakes, using them to create some fun and colorful round beads.  Of course, I couldn't stop at one bead or one color-way, so here are photos of a couple of necklaces I made.  There is also a bracelet also out of extruded snakes, but with a bit more dimension. The orange and purple necklaces have been rolled by hand and smoothed. Separating the beads with spacer beads or pearls helps highlight the dot design.

Notice that the beads in the bracelet have not been smoothed.  Rather they are composed of individual sections of the extruded snake. This adds dimension and depth.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sutton Slice Necklace

Recently, I taught a lesson on the Sutton slice, a process that allows the polymer artist to create bas-relief images much like cameos and wedgewood. Of course, when I teach I usually make a sample as a demonstration so students get to see the steps and the finished product. This simple little black pendant with antique gold leaves is the piece I made.  I used a head pin with a ball end imbedded in the top to create the loop for the chain.  What I discovered after baking was that the ball end prevents the wire from coming out, but it allows the pendant to swivel on the ball.  This would allow me to put a design on each side and make the pendant reversible - even while being worn!  Fun idea.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Bit More Mokume Gane

I have a couple more pieces I made recently while on the mokume gane kick, and wanted to share them here.  This first set is made using a polymer clay stack of alternating colors, pressed with various objects, then sliced thin.  I really liked the sea blue-green color I custom-mixed and the way the design turned out.  I decided to leave the matte finish.  One of the polymer colors I used was the black glitter accents from Premo! and the sparkle and shine from that color contrasts really nicely with the matte of the blue-green and cream colors I mixed.

This second set was made a bit differently.  I rolled out the layers of clay so they were quite thin, then pressed a rubber stamp into the clay.  I only needed to shave off a thin layer of the clay to reveal the design from the stamp impression.  This method only produces one sheet of design, but it allows the user to make an impression that imitates the picture or design on a rubber stamp.  In this case, I wanted a high shine, so I covered the baked pieces with Magic Gloss for that extra depth and shine.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mokume Gane Demo

I really, really like the effects one can achieve with the mokume gane technique.  Actually, there have been several different iterations of mokume gane in polymer, so I should, perhaps, refer to it as the mokume gane "concept." Recently, the Westerly Artist's Gallery held a demonstration of various art techniques, and I demonstrated mokume gane in polymer.

The first photo, to the right, shows the polymer stack from which the sheet slices came, and a pendant and earrings made from those slices.

The three piece pendant on the left  was also created with sheets from this stack.  I really like this new shape form I found, and the tiered look is fun.  I covered these pieces with Magic Gloss which adds another level of depth to the design.

The last photo shows another pair of earrings, and a brass cuff bracelet. This is a very versatile technique, and would look great covering handles or other objects.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Little Holiday Votives

I like candles. Of course, it's always best when the flame can be encased in something to keep it safe and away from flammable objects. That's one of the reasons glass votives were developed.
Although watching the flame can be mesmerizing,  it's also fun to watch the glow filtered through designs or colors.  So I decided to make some small glass votives covered with translucent polymer designs.  Once you have decided on your colors ( for the votive shown here, I used translucent and white) , you need to make a small cane.  Square canes work well for matching up edges of cane slices.  However, round or irregular shapes also work, as can be seen in the example shown in this post.  Very thin slices are placed edge to edge and pressed together to create a solid covering of the glass.  I wanted a matte finish on the outside so I used some organza fabric as I smoothed the cane slices. This kept the surface slightly textured and ensured there were no fingerprints showing.  After being baked at the polymer recommended temperature, the votive is ready to use.  If a shiny surface is desired, the polymer will need to be sanded and buffed before using.

These last two photos show the votives with small electric tealights inside.  This is another option for creating light inside a votive holder, and is, of course, fireproof.  The lighter photo was taken with a light on in the room.

The final, darkest photo shows the glow from within the votive in a darkened room.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Polymer-Covered Gift Pens

Around the holidays, it's nice to have a few things at the galleries that incorporate polymer into something that would make a good gift.  This year, I decided to make some polymer covered metal twist pens.  These pens take actual ball point ink cartridges, so they can be refilled once the ink has run out and used again. I used twist pen "kits" from Boston Craftworks and from Penn State Industries.  I was pleased with the quality of the materials from both companies, and they both shipped the ordered items fairly quickly.
To cover the metal sections of the pens, I experimented with a couple of different polymer designs. There is a seam where the sheet of polymer wraps around the metal, and hiding that seam is the trickiest aspect.  I found that three options worked particularly well.  A sheet from a mokume gane stack was perfect, since you can take ultra-thin slices from the stack and place them along the seam. The seam is hidden and it just appears that the random design from the mokume gane goes all the way around. Another option is to make a striped stack. Variagated stripes, such as an Ikat stack or stripes that are random (not a specific color pattern that could show where the seam is) worked really well, and looked elegant.  Finally, a square cane that you have made will work very well - just reduce the cane to be sure it fits around the pen without needing major alteration, and it looks like the design just keeps going - around and around.  The photo shows pens covered in mokume gane (#2, 5, 7) pens covered in Ikat and stripes (#3 & 4). and one pen covered in a square cane (#6).

Sunday, December 3, 2017

New!! Pictures in Polymer

I've been thinking about trying to make pictures out of polymer, and then this idea came to me.   Of course!  I had to make pictures with flowers.  What fun!

I set my flower designs on polymer sheet backings, which I treated with textures and different color schemes.  Then the pictures were placed inside small frames.  The backs of the frames I used have stands.   In that way, these little pictures, which are about 4"x 6", will sit nicely on a counter, table or window sill.

Before I assembled my first pieces, I experimented with different methods of baking. Some of the frames were solid wood, and could handle the temps in the oven, while others had coatings or coverings on plastic bases, and these did not do well in the oven. So, in some cases I was able to bake the whole "picture" as one piece, and in other cases, I had to bake the components separately, then assemble the picture using an epoxy glue.

Scattered about on this page are my first set of "Pictures in Polymer":

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Peeking Right Through!

Here is something rather unusual.  I've made lentil beads with an opening on one side before. Making one large opening allowed me to place a charm or other item slightly inside the bead, creating a focus point within the larger bead.  This time, I decided to poke holes of varying sizes on both the front and back pieces of the lentil.  Of course, that wasn't enough, and I had to try embellishing through the holes.  The result is the pendant you see here, hung simply from a stand of purple Swarovski pearls.  It's a unique piece and should bring comments when worn.  I plan to give this concept another visit and see what I can come up with.  The smaller image below right shows the back of the pendant.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Extruded Canes Revisited

Recently, I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop on extruded canes.  It's been a while since I've worked with extrusions, and working with these canes again reminded me why I like extrusions so much.  There are lots of different extruders available, but my favorite is one by Makin's that they call the Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder.  It is very easy to use, and comes with a variety of shape discs.

These first samples were made with one of the smallest round discs, and several of the long round "snakes" made with this disc piled next to each other.  I really like the way the extruder passes colors at different speeds, creating new color combinations and designs.

I also have the 2" diameter extruder gun from Polymer Clay Express.  This is a great tool and opens a world of extrusion possibilities. The larger size allows the creation of some interesting disc shapes.  Here are a few pair of earrings made using the 2" extruder and a larger shape disc.