Friday, August 24, 2007

Snowflake success!

Hi Everyone,

I've been trying to figure out how to do a complicated snowflake cane the easy way. I think I've finally figured it out and I'll be teaching it in October at our guild meeting.

With this technique you generate two sets of reverse snowflakes. What gets cut out of one triangle gets put in the other. The big thing to remember is to try to match the location from one triangle to another. So, in the second photo below you can see that I've used the blade to mark the top of the Christmas tree cutter location for the second triangle.

For the bits on the side of the triangle, I'd take the cutout from the first triangle and place it on the other coloured triangle to make a mark of where the cutter should cut (i.e., take the blue slice from the blue triangle and place it on top of the uncut white triangle in the right location so that a mark forms on the white triangle. Remove the blue slice bit from the white triangle and position cutter at mark line. Cut, and switch colours).

I used six layers of the thickest setting on the pasta machine. The hardest part is the reduction of a large triangle cane but I think I've got that covered as well.

Anyhow, here's a summary. And this is the last post for at least a week and the last of the Christmas themed posting for a bit. My next posting will likely be the results from Marla Frankenburg's class that I'm taking on Sep 8 and 9 (can hardly wait!).

P.S. For those looking for a good way to reduce the triangle portion of the cane, check out my posting here: Marla's method for reducing a cane


Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Now Clean Workroom

Hi Everyone,

I haven't been doing any clay the last couple of days. Made a promise to myself that I would clean up my hobby room and have been working on and off with that as well as working on a different travel blog (blogging takes up so much time!).

I'm embarrassed to show this, but thought I should, so here's a photo of my room probably at its worst. This is bad, even for me, but generally I can work with something that's about 50% of this messy, and even more if all I'm doing is a small project. What inspires me to do a tidy purge is when I start getting frustrated because I can't find things.

As I've previously mentioned, I'm trying to figure out a new way to do a snowflake cane. I'm having a hard time with a couple of things and I thought I'd try seeing if the adage that an uncluttered space unclutters the mind. So, five or six hours later, here's what my space looks like.

So what you'll see is that the floor is clean and all working surfaces are tidy. The storage spaces are still a bit cluttered, but that's OK. What you don't see is that to the left of where the camera is pointing and along the wall that I'm standing against, is I've got three sets of shelves that store things. They're actually in pretty good shape and don't look too bad (at least for me).

And here's more of a close up of where I do the bulk of my work.

Some notes on my workroom:
  • Approximate dimensions are 12' x 12'.

  • The workbench is a Home Depot bathroom cabinet set that I think I paid <$100 for but spent several hours constructing. I've topped it off with a wooden core cheap door that I paid $15 for. I like how the door extends past the edges to provide storage areas underneath.

  • To the left of the workbench is my portable clay kits. They're generally empty and most of the tools are stored elsewhere.

  • I put the floor in myself. It's the industrial tile that you see in schools and other buildings. Cost was about $1.10/square foot. It was a pain to use the cement (very sticky and gets everywhere) but I was really happy with the floor afterwards. My advice when laying this type of floor is not to try to make all the square corners match each other. Instead, off-set each row (like a layer of bricks rather than bathroom tile) - much easier. I use a large paint spatula (you can see it on the left of the bench) to scrape up the bits of clay that fall to the floor. The nice thing about the floor is that the tiles are variegated and don't show the dirt very well at all.

  • My pasta machine is a Mona Kissel adapted 180 mm Atlas. I love it.

  • I store my unfinished Bottles of Hope on top of the toaster oven. I'm so very good at making the bottle portion and then not being able to figure out how to do a nice lid. The ones on top are ones that I didn't like the lid and decided to finish later (some of them have been sitting there for two years so at some time I'll have to decide what to do with them).

  • The bar stool is just the perfect height. I can sit on it, semi-sit on it, or lean against it to work with the clay.

  • The table in the middle of the floor is a two stage workshelf (i.e., you assemble one portion, then another, then put the two together) that I simply didn't mount on top of each other. Instead I put them side by side, tie-wrapped them together, and placed a layer of melamine on top of for the work surface. I can move the unit around the workroom if I want. I haven't figured out how to mount the melamine to the shelves, so it can be a bit rickety.

And that's it for this posting. I'll be doing other things next week but should be back to post in a few weeks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stained Glass Snowflake

Hi Everyone,

This week is snowflake themed. I have a couple of ideas for snowflake canes, but I've decided that I can't start on them until I finish my sister's wedding gift. She's always wanted a stained glass snowflake from me, but they're a lot of work and not particularly fun, so I told her she wouldn't get one until she got married.

She got married in July (one of the 07/07/07) brides and I was hoping to finish it before her wedding. I made the mistake of picking up the soldering iron from the soldering iron tip and had second degree burns on my fingers so I didn't finish it then. Since then I've been procrastinating on working on it, but today I've finished it.

Here it is.

The pattern is from a book called "The magic of snowflakes" and the more I look at the book, the more I think I can do something with this in canes. Maybe I'll experiment a bit. Actually, I have several stained glass books that would lend themselves to canes. Can you imagine a cane that looked like this?

But, before I tackle snowflakes, I really should spend time cleaning up my hobby room.



Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Wedding Cake information

Hi Everyone,

I've received a couple of e-mails asking for more details on a few things.

I used watchmaker's cases for the cakes. They're great, they come in various sizes and were perfect for stacking. I purchased mine through Lee Valley Tools. They run about $0.50 each so they don't break the bank.

The link to the watchmaker's case is here:,43326.

For those of you that don't know Lee Valley Tools, it's a fantastic place to look for ideas, textures, tools, etc. They've got a lot of wierd stuff that you'd never think to look for.

The table top photo shop was purchased at Hammacher Schlemmer (another great place to see unusual items, but really glorified toys). It includes the light diffusers, two lights, carrying case, and a small tripod. I was really pleased with the lighting when I took it outside to photograph the cake and will try to use it more often.

The link to the photo shoot contraption is here:

While we're on the topic of Hammacher Schlemmer, (but this has nothing to do with clay), we're going to be buying the "Smart Thermocule Fabric Blanket", which according to the description is "ideal for couples and their varying body temperatures as it will adjust to each sleeper's individual micro-climate". I'll let you know how it works when we finally get around to ordering one.

For those in Canada that don't want to risk paying duty to have the photo shop shipped, also sells it.

And lastly, I received a fantastic suggestion from Marie Redmond who wondered what it would be like to do the cake with the ultralight clay. I think that's a great idea! It would be more like working with the actual fondant.

And that's the blog for today.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Wedding Cake replica

Hello again,

As I mentioned in my first post, I've been working on a miniature wedding cake as a souvenir for my Mom who makes wedding cakes for friends and family. I helped make the drapes in the original wedding cake which worked out well for making the drapes in the minature. Due to time and space constraints (Mom made the cake in a hotel room and we got some wierd looks in the elevator carrying up a borrowed Kitchen Maid mixer), Mom pre-purchased the lilies, though she is fully capable of making her own.

Here is a side by side comparison (I still haven't figured out how to do a nice job on inserting photos in blogger). My clay cake is just under 5 inches tall.

Some construction notes:
  • I used a combination of Kato pearl, white, and translucent for the exterior. I've decided that white is a real pain to work with, impossible to not get stuff in.

  • The decorative piping on the middle layer of the cake was accomplished using a toothpick and liquid Sculpey. I tried making thin ribbons of clay and doing it, but it took way too long and I wasn't happy with the effect. Took just over an hour to do the icing detail with the liquid clay and I surprised myself by not smudging it as I was working with it. I'm not entirely sure that I'm happy with it at the moment, the liquid clay seems to be yellowing after the baking (it was nice when it came out of the oven) or picking up a grey tinge (almost looks dirty). I'll go over it with a baby wipe and see if that has any effect.

  • I tried sculpting a dove cake topper. Not pretty. The real cake topper was a last minute add-on since we ran out of time with the original cake to make a lily topper. So, on the miniature, I made a lily topper.

  • Yes, the little balls around the bottom edges are all hand made. I'm fortunate that I have a clayer friend (Janice VanBeek - see her article on kimono dolls in the latest Polymer Cafe) who kept me company while I made them and put them on the cake.

  • I'm still having a hard time getting the divider balls between the bottom and middle layers to stick. Weld bond doesn't seem to work and the clay isn't holding them as well. I'll experiment a bit more.

  • One of the lilies on the top border broke a small bit of the edge off (sob!). I've been debating on whether to pull it off and risk damaging more of the cake (since it appears to be stuck firmly to the relatively fragile drape) or leave it on. It's not hugely noticeable and when I put the cake topper on the cake I purposely oriented it so that the broken lily is to the back of the cake topper.

  • There are probably about 10-20 hours in the cake. I was very much a perfectionist and would tear off anything I wasn't happy with. I took A LOT of time to make the edges smooth.

Here is the cake deconstructed.

By the way, I took the photos using the portable table top photo studio that my husband bought me last year for Christmas. I was too lazy to set up yesterday's ornament shot with it but should have.

I may decide to tackle our wedding cake at some point. But I'm going to give it a rest for now since I still have to figure out how to make snowflake canes my way.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Santa Cane reduced

Well I finally finished reducing the Santa Cane. Overall I'm happy with him. One pleasant surprise from all this was that I could make him a short fat santa or a tall skinny santa just by changing the way I reduce him. Here's a photo. Most of the cane is spoken for by friends.

Here are some lessons learned:

  • I don't think I'll do such a large rectangular cane again. It was a very difficult reduction, one of the harder ones that I've done. I would put Santa in the centre of a circular shape next time. It may be that I didn't make the cane thick enough, I only had about 1.5 inches of thickness. I'm not done with caning yet, so maybe I'll learn something else next time.

  • I have a tendency to over-reduce canes. All of a sudden I had a fair bit of 1 inch tall cane and very little taller stuff. For me, 90% of the effort in reducing a cane is starting the reduction. I have to stop reducing canes in front of the TV.

  • I probably will not tackle such a complicated cane using the metallic (silver, gold, copper) coloured clays. The metallics seem to be very soft compared to the rest of the clay. Even though Santa is also metallic, he's not as metallic as the surrounding green metallic. It's always a problem reducing the centre relative to the outside of the clay, but this one seemed to be worse than usual.

  • I love how the beard came out. I did this by layering translucent, pearl, and white and running it through the pasta machine several times.

  • Details such as pointy hats shouldn't be placed near the edge of the cane. I completely lost the point in the hat. But, he's still cute and I don't mind.

  • One thing people won't notice, is that in order to avoid mica shift cut lines in the green background, I traced the santa shape onto a solid block of background colour, then cut out the santa shape from the centre on out. This turned out to be pretty easy to do and to put the santa back into the background I only had to stretch the background a bit. If this isn't clear, and people want a better explanation, let me know.

I've made an ornament and a magnet with him. Here's a photo of the almost complete ornament but the magnet didn't photograph well at all so you'll just have to pretend. I had a really hard time photographing the ornament but once I filled it with water, it was much easier to photograph. The background clutter is fairly typical of my workspace no matter how hard I try to keep it tidy.

I've been also working on a replica of the wedding cake that my mother made for my sister. I should have that done today or tomorrow and will post it then.



Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas

Welcome to my first posting of a blog of my hobbies. I'm very new to blogs so expect to see this site change and grow as I learn to do things.

I've currently got a few things on the go. Right now I'm trying to reduce a santa cane that I created last week when I had some free time. His original dimensions were 4" x 6" x 1" thick which makes him my biggest cane to date. Here's a photo of him prior to reducing. He's wrapped in saran wrap to protect the scanner. My inspiration for him came from a wood intarsia pattern located here: You can see that he's not like the pattern very much, but that's all part of the learning process. I really like the intarsia patterns and will likely base more cane designs on them.

I'm a caner. I love the challenge of putting the clay together like a puzzle. I normally reduce my canes by sandwiching them between two pieces of glass. It works incredibly well for canes that are less than 3" x 3" x 1" but I'm finding it didn't work well for this one. I've ended up taking the top layer of glass off and trying to reduce him. The outside clay seems to be a bit softer than the inside clay so it's proving to be a bit of a challenge. I'm being very good and patient with him at the moment. I'll reduce for 10 minutes or so and then let him rest some more and then go back. I'm fairly confident that he'll come out the way that I want him to. I think I'll probably have about 15 hours in him by the time I get him to the size that I want.

I'll be giving a tutorial at our Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild (SOPCG) meeting in October on how to create glass ornaments. Here are a couple of samples of that I made last year.

The first ornament I made for my mother. I'm showing a covered box that I made for her as well that housed the ornament. The second ornament was made for our guild Christmas gift exchange. They're basically a veneer of cane slices stuck to the glass lentil ornament and textured on the back. What you're seeing in the photos is a layer of glass, the inside of the ornament, another layer of glass, then the clay. Turn it over and you'll see the textured back.

Anyhow, this is my first posting. Feedback is welcome.

I'm also trying to figure out a fool proof way to do a snowflake cane. I've got the general idea but there are a couple of wrinkles that I haven't figured out yet, mostly related to reducing. In the mean time I'm generating a fair bit of light blue clay. It's a good thing that I like the blue palettes. If I get it right it'll also become part of the tutorial at the October class.

My other project in-progress is a miniature (4 inch tall) replica wedding cake for my Mom. She made my sister's wedding cake and I thought it would be nice for her to have a souvenir. However, I'm not looking forward to making 24 miniature calla lilies. I'll post photos along the way.

I've posted some links to some other clay bloggers on one of the side bars (I apologize if I've missed some). Their work is spectacular so feel free to click on their sites. It's a very easy way to get lost for a couple of hours. If anyone wants me to add links to their blogs, feel free to contact me and I'll add them.