Saturday, September 29, 2007

Francophone blogs...they're beautiful!

Hello Everyone,

As I've mentioned before, I have a particular fondness for Louise's blog from Montreal. Tonight I decided to follow her links to other bloggers and I've discovered that there's a whole host of beautiful polymer clay blogs in French. However, you don't need to understand French to be able to look at the photos.

A good starting point is Parole de Pate/. It appears to be sort of like Polymer Clay Daily except in French and points to interesting artwork. If you click on the Index General on the left where the links are, you'll end up at a whole host of tutorials, including an incredibly simple (much more simple than my technique) cane by Magali.

On the right hand side of the page is a listing of blogs and oh my goodness, you can really get lost for hours in that page. Many of us Canadian clay bloggers are new at this, but the French have been participating for years

The Hidden Magic technique seems to be a theme at the moment and there is some beautiful work by a couple of artists including this bracelet from Marie Pier/

and these samples from Pluie de Perles.

And, I probably spent an hour on just looking at the images. I tend towards a blue palette but I'm not generally keen on florals. However, I loved the work on the website, particularly this image. She uses a lot of different techniques and it's easy to get lost in the photos.

So go out and play with the Francophone side of things. I've only captured a small portion of it, but there are literally dozens of websites to explore.



P.S. I apologize for the choppiness of the photos and paragraphs. I haven't yet figured out how to do these things smoothly.

Learning about Blog Features - Technorati

This morning I'm relaxing and playing with Blogger. It mentioned some of the Blogging communities that are out there to join. This posting is about Technorati. Right now I'm following instructions on it which are telling me to create a blog and paste the following code:

Technorati Profile

From what I can tell, Technorati allows you to get your blog out there to more people and it also has a feature that allows you to be notified when your favourite blogs are updated. The website gives instructions on how to add a button that allows you to be notified whenever I update my blog. I've added it here but don't know how to add it to the rest of my page.

Add to Technorati Favorites

We'll see. I have a few more things to play with so there may be multiple not-very-exciting posts today.



We finally have a dishwasher!!

This is just a short post and has nothing to do with clay though has a lot to do with my general mood.

In January this year our still-under-warrantee dishwasher started spewing water all over the floor. Three attempts to repair, at least 45 phone calls, many of which weren't returned and one letter to the president of the manufacturer, we finally have a replacement dishwasher installed. It's been a long and extremely frustrating process. If it hadn't been a top of the line dishwasher we probably would have just spent the money to buy a new one.

Our new dishwasher has blue LED lights on the inside that glow when you open the dishwasher. Not sure of the purpose but they make a cool night light in the kitchen. We've also been trying to figure out whether they turn off when we close the door (we feel like cartoon cavemen seeing a refrigerator for the first time).

What I learned from this process is that I should have started documenting as soon as we called the repair guy in the first time. I also believed everyone I spoke with but it turns out I shouldn't have.

But, since I hate, hate, hate doing dishes (it's a toss up on whether I hate sanding or dishes more, but I can avoid sanding), now that I have a dishwasher my mood has improved considerably and that's always a good thing.



Sunday, September 23, 2007

Snowflake cane samples

Hello Everyone,

My class was switched to this month so I've been creating some samples to show for class. I'm fortunate enough to have a couple of other clayers (Barb and Karen) in the neighborhood and we got together last week to see if my technique was teachable and just to play in general.

Below are some of the samples that we made. I've mentioned in previous posts about how tinting the translucent with Pinata ink causes bleeding. You can see it in bottom dark blue samples of the photo below. They're not out of focus, that's how hazy they've become in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the scrap clay that I've generated from that cane, might make some neat wave scenes or something.

While I'm not overly keen on the translucent snowflakes that I made (I think I like sharp edges rather than rounded edges in the cuts), it did make a cool ornament. I've backlit it in one photo and the other photo is front lit. I've added some shiny bits in the inside of the ornament.

And here are a couple of more samples.

I'm teaching the class this coming Sunday at our monthly Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild meeting. I'll post more photos after we're done.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

I dub thee, Marla's Method!

Hi All,

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I had been lucky to attend a class by Marla Frankenburg. I've also mentioned that I was trying to figure out how to reduce my snowflake cane.

While Marla was walking around the class I asked her if she had any advice on how to reduce stubby triangle canes (which is what you get with the snowflake cane). She thought about it for about 30 seconds and suggested that I use something flat to help out with the reducing. She'd never tried it but thought it might work.

I'm pleased to announce that I've tried it a few times and last night had the opportunity to teach it to Barb and Karen with terrific success.

And, because one of the great things about clayers is the constant tribute to others who inspire us, I'm happy to thank her and to name this Marla's Method. It's a limited technique for now because it only really applies to triangle canes that are too short to reduce easily using the typical pull and stretch method, but I'm sure people can adapt it (maybe to a hexagonal cane to keep the edges?).

Here it is:
Position your clay triangle against the edge of your tile (for whatever reason the photos make it look like I've got a beveled tile, but I don't).

Use a glass coaster or some other flat stiff piece and position it against the side of the triangle (see images).

Push down with your hands (in the photo there's only one hand, but that's because I was using the other to take the photo) and give it a bit of a wiggle as you push.

After a few seconds, remove the coaster, and rotate the triangle such that the surface in contact with the bottom is in contact with the coaster and the surface that was in contact with the coaster is now free (on the left in the photos). Repeat and rotate.

You're likely stronger pushing with one of your hands than the other, so every so often pick the cane up and rotate it 180. For example, in this series of photos the cane face that's showing in the photos would now become the cane face away from the photo (clear?). You'll see what I mean when you try it out.

Eventually the triangle cane will be long enough that you can start to use the stretch and pull method for typical triangle canes. What's really cool about it is that none of us had very much end distortion at all.

And that's it - the Marla Method!

Oh, and by the way, the blue is translucent tinted with Pinata Ink. Don't do that! The Pinata ink starts to bleed in the cane and all the sharp edges become somewhat blurred. I'm leaving them as experiments to see how long it takes to generate just a pure blue cane.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mica Shift and Translucent Clay

Hello Everyone,

I read in Donna Kato's book that translucent clay helps deepen the effect of mica shifting. I have a whole pile of conditioned translucent clay from last week's Marla Class so I thought I'd do a quick experiment. Below is a photo of three pieces of Kato silver clay. The oval piece has no translucent, the heart has one part translucent to two parts silver, and the triangle is one part translucent to one part silver. These were baked, sanded, and buffed a bit.
To me, the differences are subtle. I do think that triangle came out a bit more faded, probably too much translucent. The winner in my mind is the heart and the only reason is that it didn't seem to smear as much while cutting the clay. The translucent seemed to help "grease" the clay a bit and make it a bit more resilient to distortion.

I should probably try some of the other metallics, but I really, really, really hate sanding. I think I'll take Donna's word for it and use one part translucent to two parts metallic.

Short and sweet entry today. My next entry will likely be on a snowflake thing I've come up with. Turns out Pinata ink used to colour raw clay really starts to migrate through the clay to other colours. I'm running an experiment right now with some clay to be able to show the effects.



Friday, September 14, 2007

For those looking for a smile - Louise's Blog

Hello Everyone,

It'll be a few days before I get any more claying done so I thought I'd point you in the direction of a friend's blog, Louise from Montreal.

I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of years ago at Morrisburg (an annual joint three day clay session between the Montreal Guild and the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild) and we've kept in touch and formed a mutual admiration for each other. She does some amazing cane work as you can see if you look at the figure on the right in the first photo under her Sep 5 entry. The skeleton costume is a cane!!

Her blog is in French so it may be a challenge for some to read it, but her photos are wonderful. You can also get the page translated using, make sure to translate the page from French to English. It's a bit like reading a translation of a translation but it's quite charming to read with its stilted words.

The smile comes in from looking at photos of her creations, particularly her Bottles of Hope.

The photos posted on this blog are from her Bottles of Hope photo album "Bouteilles" which you can find by scrolling down the right side of her blog to her photo albums. I love the charm and artistry that goes into her creations. I'm sure that the recipients of her bottles are able to smile when they look at them.

Hope you enjoy them!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Today's topic - site statistics

Hello Everyone,

Recently due to Vio's enthusiasm for promoting Canadians within Clayamies there has been a flurry of activity as our talented Clayamies create blogs. Many of us are newbies to blogging and are just trying it out. This posting is for the blog newbies.

This weekend I was speaking with Marg Scott from Shades of Clay and she asked me if I had been tracking any statistics on my blog. I said that I hadn't and that I'd figure out how to do that when I had a chance. Apparently those that host actual websites get access to all kinds of information including which websites they were at previously and which websites they went to afterwards.

Fortunately, is very easy to use, and within a few minutes of searching I had my answer on how to track basic statistics. I'll save people some work and you can find the link to the answer here here.

I signed up with Site Meter - sort of arbitrarily, after looking at a few of the choices that were available. The instructions from Site Meter (and any of the other sites that I visited) were really clear and concise. It took me longer to choose the statistics web site than it did to install it. Once I chose Site Meter it was probably 5-10 minutes start to finish to having it on my blog and that included the registration process.

I really liked the option that you could see who visited you by country. Below is what Site Meter has generated within the two days I've had it on my site. You can see that I've been visited by Slovenia (who are you and how did you find my website?), Singapore, and a whole host of other fascinating places.

How cool is that??

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Marla Frankenburg's class!

These last two days I had the distinct honour and privilege of attending a class with 19 other people offered by Marla Frankenburg through the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild this weekend.

For those that don't know Marla's work - her specialty is translucent canes (flowers, ferns, and dots) layered over clay so that the translucency floats and disappears into the clay background. She has a technique for a matte finish that makes her clay looks special and not at all plasticky. You can see photos of her work here.

Marla is a wonderful teacher, very generous, kind, and sensitive to the class level. She didn't disappoint and I am so glad that I attended this class. I was so impressed with the way she was quick to credit others for techniques that she was showing us or had adapted from others. She's more humble than she needs to be.

We first started out the class by learning how to slice canes thinly and to apply them to clay to make pleasing shapes. We also learned tips on finishing so that it looked like we were considering the final finish (i.e., softened edges, perfect holes...).

The big bonus was that WE GOT TO USE HER CANES TO PRACTICE WITH!!! I felt like we were stealing. Most people came out with a pair of earrings. To the left is a Sucrets tin that I covered with her cane slices.

What was really interesting was that even though there were maybe a half dozen of her canes that we were playing with, all of our results looked so different depending on the background colour of the clay we chose and the combination of slices we chose. Unfortunately I don't have photos of everyone's work but everyone came out with something uniquely beautiful and there were many "oooohs" and "aaaahs" as people wandered around to admire other's work.

Then Marla got into demonstrating flowers and reeds and how variations on a theme could lend to a gazillion options. To the right is a simple reed that she created and all the variations that could be done with it. It's easy to see how this could translate into fire, wings, super-complicated looking flowers, feathers, and so on. Like all good teachers and polymer clay artists, she made it look easy.

My favourite lessons were learning how to make dots and ferns. I had always thought that ferns would be difficult and fiddley, yet she showed us how to make simplistic beautiful ones in less than an hour. You can see to the left the size of the fern that she starts out with. While we didn't get a chance to play with these in class, we all took samples home of this particular fern for inspiration and memories. I was surprised at how easy an irregular shape appeared to be to reduce.

Marla was consistent in telling us that we were smarter and better than the clay. While at times we had our doubts, it was a powerful lesson and one that helped me when I wasn't happy with what I was doing. There were many jokes about how we didn't buy the right clay since it appeared to be smarter than us

Below are samples of the different canes we made during the class. We all learned the same technique but the variation in our flowers was wonderful. What was also interesting is that many people (myself included) didn't like our flowers when they were large, but once we reduced them to quarter size or smaller, they became beautiful.

Thanks so much Marla for driving 300 miles to see us and to providing inspiration and learning like you did. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Playing with layers of liquid Kato clay

Canadian Tire had a great sale on heat guns this week so I went out and got one because I'd been wanting to play with liquid clay for a while. I love the look of dichroic glass and this seems to be one of the best ways to attempt that. I use the Kato Liquid Poly Clay (abbreviated to KLC for the rest of the posting) since others have said that it works the best.

My method of spreading KLC is pouring a dollop onto the piece and using my fingertip to spread (which is OK as long as the piece is cool).

To take the photos below I put them in the scanner. I tried using the digital camera but I got more detail with the scanner.

I learned a couple of things right off the bat that relate to heat guns.

  1. The first time you use a heat gun, you will generate enough smoke (just from the gun itself) to set off the smoke detector. It does get better.
  2. Don't plug the heat gun and the toaster oven into the same circuit - it will blow.

My first attempt is to the left. I had some amazing scrap clay that Janice had made (it was an ugly cane but creates the most beautiful sparkly slate colour clay). Dimensions of the piece are about 1.5 inches at its longest point. Layered it with KLC, baked, hit it with a heat gun. Next layer was a bit of gold foil and KLC.

After gunning, added some bits of translucent cane (the flowers and bit of silver striping). Added KLC and baked. It's the first time I've had the translucent canes go completely translucent. Amazing! Added a few more layers of KLC and one more bit of silver foil.

You can see on the left edge that I wasn't consistent in spreading the KLC to the edges. This was fixed in a later layer.

I'm most happy with this piece.

What I'm noticing with this piece as the hours go on is that there appears to be a haze forming on the top layer. I've hit it with a heat gun and it disappears but then shows up again. I'll try coating it with a bit of Future and see whether that helps.

One other thing that isn't obvious from this photo is I've somehow managed to get a couple of bits of blue glitter from the Fimo blue clay used below into the liquid layer. That clay has got to be the most persistent as far as finding its way into everything. But, that's what I get for using my finger to spread the KLC.

Another attempt involved Donna Kato's opal spread technique. It's to the right. I used her method of mixing plastic irridescent bits with KLC to oatmeal consistency and spreading them as a thin layer on tile and baking.

This piece started out as Fimo blue glitter flower shaped base layer but I couldn't get the opal layer to cut to the right shape and it just didn't work. Instead I cut the flower shape with scissors to something more free form. Added a couple of layers of KLC and it really does have the potential to look like opal.

What you don't see are the thousands of tiny air bubbles in the opalescent layer. That's part of the opaqueness that you see.

I tried modifying Donna's technique to simply spread a layer of KLC onto tile and then sprinkling the iridescent bits over that. That came out much better with very few air bubbles and I'll keep my new slab for something else.

I would have a hard time using Donna's technique on something shaped. I tried a cabochon and it wasn't even worth taking a photo of.

But, there's some potential there.

The heart attempt to the left involved Jones Tones foil on scrap clay and then stamped. Layered a bit of KLC. On the upper left and down a bit close to the left edge you can see some whitish bit - that was more of the opalescent layer from above, just a few bits of it.

Here I tried adding a bit of sangria Pinata ink after a couple of layers of KLC to increase the richness of the red. I also dabbed a bit of yellow Pinata Ink onto the foil to change some of the foil colours.

What you can sort of see is an orange opaquishness on the left side of the heart. That's the Pinata Ink reacting with the heat gun. In real life it's a fluourescent orange (the colour of eggs used for sushi) and spread much further into the KLC layer than the original drop suggested.

What I discovered here is that the opalescent layer loses its quality as soon as other layers interfere with it.

I was least happy with this piece and gave up on it pretty quickly.

The last sample that I was playing with was becoming my favourite sample until I pushed it too far (a bad habit of mine). It started off as scrap clay with a layer of silver foil which I dabbed blue and green Pinata Inks on with some Claro extender. I find the inks a little too deep so I dab off the colour with a paper towel and I can usually get the effect that I want

I used some blue and green Jones Tones foils in the layers. The foils adhere to cooled cured KLC with a little rubbing and I was most happy with that. What I learned with that is that if the piece is really hot, the foil adheres VERY quickly and in a much larger chunk than you want.

Where this piece started to go sideways was when I put too much of a green Jones Tones foil on the piece and I wanted to soften the green by adding a bit of blue Pinata Ink on it. It looked nice initially but then the blue seemed to spread and take over the cured KLC when I added another layer of KLC on top of it. I lost a lot of the depth that was in the piece before I put the ink on. I was working on these pieces concurrently and hadn't learned about the spread from the heart when I was playing with this one.

If you were to look at this piece in profile you would see that the KLC layers are as thick as the original base clay layer - there's probably about 10 thin layers of KLC.

So, those mark some attempts with playing with liquid clay. I suspect that I'll have another posting in a bit as I try to figure out how to finish off a covered container that I sealed with KLC.



Saturday, September 1, 2007

La Verendrye Canoe Trip

OK, so this has nothing really to do with clay. But, the title of my blog is Simple Inspirations and a lot of where I get my joy and muse from comes from the outdoors.

We just got back from a five day canoe trip in La Verendrye Reserve in Quebec. This year we did Circuit 16 which is 86 km of canoeing and 5 km of portaging. It's our second but not last trip to La Verendrye and we'll continue to try different routes through this park.

It was a beautiful trip and the weather generally cooperated. We only had a few hours of headwind to fuss with and one afternoon and evening of rain. We always had a sunset or sunrise and the moon was full in the evenings (though we were hardly ever up to see it).

The portages weren't too bad, even the 1.1 km portage wasn't as bad as I was afraid of (though I didn't like seeing the fresh bear tracks on that portage). The hardest part was often trying to figure out how to land or take off from the portages since peat-bog-muck-sink-up-to-your-knees seems to be common at several of the portages.

More loons than people, several bald eagles, a few otters, some bold red squirrels who flung pinecones at us, but no bears (thank goodness) or moose (disappointing). If you look close at the photo below you can see the baby rabbit huddled in the corner. He didn't seem to be too concerned about us and would only gently patter away if we got within a foot or two.