Sunday, December 14, 2008

Arizona Day 3, it's all about Canyon de Chelly

Hi Everyone,

On day 3 of our Arizona trip we went to Canyon de Chelly. When people think of Arizona and canyons they tend to think of the Grand Canyon. Canyon de Chelly (CdC) is of the lesser known canyons that was a wonderful treat for us. This was probably my favourite part of the trip.

I've had to narrow down our over 100 photos of this area to five since that appears to be all I can post on each blog entry. Not an easy choice. So here they are and the photos don't do it justice. Most of the canyon is seen from the top and there are two drives that you can do, the north and south rim. We were fortunate to have been able to do both of them.

CdC doesn't draw the crowds that some of the more famous tourist spots of Arizona does. That was fine by us and we spent a lot of time with many of the overlooks to ourselves. There's something hypnotic about the place. Many of the ruins are placed up in the cliffs and it's so easy to get lost in pondering what life might have been like back then.

We had the afternoon on Day 3 and we did the South Rim drive the hike down to White House Trail which ended up being easier than it sounded and more beautiful than we expected. CdC is about a 5 hour drive from Phoenix and 3 hours from Flagstaff.

If you're interested in Canyon de Chelly (which you should be if you're even remotely in the area), below are some websites with additional information. If you look at the Wikipedia link you'll see a photo by Ansel Adams. One of ours is close to that photo (though, of course, not near as beautiful).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy 100th blog posting to me...

This entry is my 100th blog entry. I've been trying to figure out something special for such a momentous (to me at least) event, but I've been so busy with work that it's all slipping through the cracks.

However, a few weeks ago I was very fortunate to take a class from one of our guild members, Jacey. She taught four of us to make miniature cakes. These are all true to scale (I believe 1/8th). I am not a detail person at all and thought for sure that I would not be able to do any of them once I had seen what miniature actually meant. I had been thinking miniature = 3 inches or so, not the less than 1 inch wide that we ended up doing.

But Jacey is a beautiful, patient, and wonderful teacher and I actually was able to make the little tiny roses that you can see in the chocolate valentine cakes. It was a great way to spend the day. We all came away thrilled with our cakes and some of mine have become magnets and pins at people's cubicles at work.

And cakes are a good way to celebrate my 100th blog entry.



P.S. Work might actually maybe possibly be slowing down a wee bit and I hope to get back into more blogging in the next couple of weeks or so.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Arizona Road Trip Day 2, Globe to Holbrook

Hi Everyone,

As mentioned previously, we recently completed a road trip through Arizona. Lots of driving, lots of beautiful scenery. These next photos are from our Day 2, Globe to Holbrook. We chose this route because we wanted to do the scenic drive through Salt River Canyon.
The first montage of photos is from the drive through the canyon. Lots of twisty windy roads, lots of switchbacks. A few pull-out opportunities. We're very glad we added this to the itinerary as the scenery was stunning.

And apparently a little dangerous. The red circle in the second photo is actually a car pancaked on a cliff. Not sure what the story was there or how long the car had been there. Sobering though.

We spent several hours at the Petrified Forest I had been there as a kid and remember being disappointed that it wasn't a real forest. Instead it's a bunch of fallen logs that are 225 million years old. Many lookouts and many opportunities to gawk.

If you'd like to see more photos, there's a beautiful 10 minute video that I stumbled upon on YouTube. It's : here.

We had to stop as a herd of pronghorn antelope took their time crossing the road. Good photo opportunity.

On the way out of the park we stopped at the side of the road and watched a spectacular sunset. It was hard to narrow down the images to just one, but I think this is my favourite. It turns out that it was our best sunset of the trip.

And, of course, we had to stay at the Wigwam Hotel in Holbrook. These are concrete wigwams that hold a single room and washroom. No neighbour noise, just the rumble of the trains behind the hotel. With the chill in the evening and the morning we slept very well.

Day 2 was wonderful but just a precursor to Day 3. It was hard trying to narrow down the photos for the blog. Eventually we'll get them on Flickr or something, but for now, here's just a taste of our second day.



Friday, November 21, 2008

Arizona Trip Day 1, Phoenix to Globe

Hi Everyone,

It's crazy busy these days as I try to finish up a few projects at work, get ornaments ready for the Clayamies Christmas swap, and a whole host of other things. I have finally sorted through my 1000+ photos of our 12 day trip to Arizona and thought I would post some of my favourites from each day.

It's not necessarily going to be pretty because I find I can't predict the layout of the photos with Blogspot and it's the quickest way to chew up blogging time. So instead, I'll just sort of throw them out for people to look at and not worry about how the text flows around them.

The first day we flew from Toronto to Phoenix, rented our Pontiac G6 (an excellent car for two people doing a road trip with twisty windy roads, but not so good if you've got too many suitcases, which we didn't) and drove to Boyce Thompson Arboretum, about 55 miles outside of Phoenix. Both my husband and I are birders and wanted to see if there was anything in November there. A few new birds and lots of interesting scenery. Here are some of the pictures from the arboretum.

We probably spent two to three hours at the arboretum. Weather in late October was comfortable in pants and t-shirt but started to drop as the sun started to set. The photo on the left had an interesting sign, I'm sure it's a very effective way of keeping people on the trail. If you click on the photo you can see that it says "Rattlesnakes only". Needless to say neither one of us explored beyond where we were supposed to.

We had three geocaching travel bugs with us that wanted to go south. We enjoy helping travel bugs in their journeys and part of that is taking photos of them at interesting places. I took the picture in front of the boojum tree just because I liked the name and the appearance of the tree. The tree in the photo is only about two feet tall.

This last photo is of a gila monster. He (she?) is about two feet long and apparently we should consider ourselves lucky to have seen one. Gila monsters are one of two venemous types of lizards in the world (I'll let you look up the other one). This one was quite sedate and ambled away from the path at it's own pace.

We spent the night at a grungy hotel (it looked OK from the outside) in Globe, which was about another hour from the Aboretum. We loved the arboretum and would like to see it in a different season.

And that was Day 1. Next up, Globe to Holbrook and Petrified Forest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We're back from 12 glorious days in Arizona...

Hi Everyone,

I haven't posted recently because we've been travelling Arizona for the last 12 days. It's been a wonderful trip and over the next while I'm going to preempt my usual clay talk for sights and impressions of the trip.

I did finally succumb at the Grand Canyon and bought a small beautiful piece by Jon Anderson. It's one of his buffalo and you can see a similar one here, even though we didn't see buffalo in Arizona. I'm thrilled with it!

Our itinerary (I'll add links later):

Day 1 - Toronto to Phoenix, visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum and overnight in Globe
Day 2 - Globe to Holbrook with visit to Petrified Forest and overnight in Wigwam Inn
Day 3 - Holbrook to Canyon de Chelly
Day 4 - Canyon de Chelly to 4 Corners and Monument Valley
Day 5 - Monument Valley to Winslow where we stood on a corner (Eagles song) and stayed in the Howard Hughes Suite of La Posada Inn
Day 6 - Winslow, Arizona to Grand Canyon South Rim
Day 7 - Grand Canyon to Flagstaff via Wupatki and Sunset Crater
Day 8 - Flagstaff to Sedona
Day 9 - Sedona, hiking for the most part
Day 10 - Sedona to Phoenix via Montezuma's Well
Day 11 - NASCAR race where unfortunately Carl Edwards didn't win
Day 12 - Phoenix to Toronto

More to come. We took over 1000 photos but most of them are triplicates as we played with exposures and settings. We took three geocaching travel bugs with us and have many photos of them in their travels as well.

I'll try to start posting soon.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If you're in the Toronto area, come meet Shades of Clay this weekend

Hi Everyone,

I've made it no secret that my favourite clay store is the online store It's run by our guild's past president, Marg Scott. Here's your opportunity to meet Marg and to peruse her supplies in person if you're in the Toronto area this weekend.

This coming weekend Marg (and her store) will be at the CreativFestival in Toronto. This annual event covers 200,000sq' of vendors, exhibitions, demos, book signings, make 'n takes, fashion shows and so much more. There are over 300 workshops held in conjuction with the festival. Workshops start October 15th; vendor sale starts October 17th and runs through to the 19th.

Along with many other guild members I'll be helping out at her booth. I'll be there on Sunday. While this may make me sound generous, it's not. I'm getting the better end of the deal as far as I'm concerned because she's paying booth staff with store credit! I think I've already spent my credit several times over in my head.

So come out and meet Marg and maybe meet some of the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay guild members (and maybe join the guild).

You can get more information here:



Thursday, October 9, 2008

How my husband helps cure cancer in his spare time...

This blog entry is written by my husband about a hobby that you can participate in just by leaving your computer on. Please click on the links if you're interested in the topic, they provide much more information than I can provide here. It's very safe, much safer than opening e-mails. Feel free to leave comments if you want more information.

From my husband, Joe.

Almost a year ago I read an article about collaborative computing (definitely read the article in the link). Since then my spare computer that I rebuilt has run almost continuously, processing other people’s data. That’s the idea behind collaborative computing. I allow organizations such as CERN, LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and Ontario Cancer Institute to use my computer to process the huge amounts of data their scientific endeavors create. Projects range from examining chess moves to looking for aliens with hundreds of ideas in between. All of this is controlled using a program called BOINC. If you go here, you can read more about BOINC and how to get involved in collaborative computing.

My personal favourite is Einstien@home through LIGO. I read a book about this project a few years ago and now I am a part of it. This daunting goal of proving Einstein’s theory about gravity waves uses kilometer long measuring devices to detect atomic size disturbances in our surroundings. To see how I’m doing, go to Boinc Account Manager (BAM).

Back to my claim though. A few months ago one of my original projects, lhc@home was nearing the end of its goal, which was to calibrate the new particle accelerator at CERN. Looking around for other projects, I decided to join the Work Community Grid. This organization allows smaller facilities that might not have the expertise or facilities to make use of collaborative computing. I believe IBM is the major supporter, with many other corporate sponsors. I decided to help in the search for cancer and for a better strain of rice.

“Using the power of World Community Grid, scientists at the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI), Princess Margaret Hospital, and the University Health Network will process the existing 86 million images of proteins that have been screened in the high-throughput crystallization pipeline at HWI. World Community Grid will run a CrystalVision program that the researchers at OCI have developed to analyze the features of individual images to determine the outcome of the crystallization screen — crystal, micro crystal, phase separation, skin, precipitate, or no change.”

A small amount of this analysis is done on my computer, but thousands of participants like me make a huge contribution to science.

That’s how I cure cancer in my spare time.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So this is a little embarrasing...before and after shots

Hi Everyone,

My father and his girlfriend are coming to visit for a week and it was time to tackle the hobby room again so that it wasn't too bad. Not that they'll be spending any time in it, but it was a good excuse to force myself into tidying.

I have an amazing tolerance for working in clutter and my work space accumulates stuff until I'm left with six square inches of surface.
Sometimes I only clean up enough to find what I'm looking for. And other times I feel the urge to completely do a re-do. Those are far between.

Fortunately, as I was thinking of cleaning, my clayer friend Janice called and said she wanted to get out of the house and could she come over. I said sure as long as she didn't mind watching me tidy.

So with good company I got quite a bit done. These are before and after photos. They're very similar to the photos I took over a year ago here.

You can see my new Hamilton Beach oven that I bought last week. So far so good with it. I'll be curious to see how much stronger Kato clay is when baking it at higher temperatures. And that's about it for now.

Janice and I spent the morning today introducing a new friend to clay. We did a mokume gane technique and Pam is thrilled. I had to leave my tin at Janice's but once I get it back I'll post photos of both Janice's and my work.

And for those that are partially living travel vicariously through our travel bug Maple Bear, I'm happy to say he accomplished another mission and got his photo taken at Oktoberfest. He's now going on a tour of Germany for a while.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Adventures with my new baking oven...

Hi Everyone,

I was lucky enough to take a wonderful class from Donna Kato a couple of weeks ago. I haven't written about it because I'm waiting to finish my pieces (though you can check out some of the photos and impressions at

In order to finish the pieces I need to buy a bigger toaster oven. Also, if you're not already aware, Donna recommends raising the temperature to cure her clay to 325F. That's a big jump from the 275F I'd been using and I know that my little toaster oven isn't up for the job.

So I looked around this last weekend. My friend, Janice, loves her Hamilton Beach oven but it turns out that the stores don't carry last year's model and the new one is almost $50 more. So as I was shopping around I came acros a Euro-Pro Bravetti Professional convection oven. It was a clearance model and marked down $60 from $160. It had a lot of features that I liked, including a pizza stone that I thought would make a perfect tile. And if it cost $160 then it must be a decent oven, right?

Brought it home and turned it on. First warning was that it took almost a half hour to reach temperature. Not so much fun. The fan is a bit louder than I would liked initially but it settled down. Seemed to hold temperature for about 15 minutes but then temperature started climbing.

Several tests later and have come to the realization that after about 40 minutes the temperature control no longer works. I have a digital thermometer with a probe that will beep upon reaching whatever temperature I set it to. Even setting the dial to 275 causes the oven to reach temperatures greater than 350. Since Donna recommends curing for an hour as the final bake and since I often forget that pieces are in the oven, I can't afford that continued increase.

So, needless to say, the oven is going back.

The Black and Decker is on sale right now at Canadian Tire for half price. I might try that one out as well and if nothing else works I'll go with the tried and true Hamilton Beach.

That's it for now,


Sunday, September 28, 2008

And now, a message from the president...

Hee hee, I never thought I'd be able to say that.

I've just become the president of the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild. Mostly by virtue of no one else volunteering and all the other non-president positions were taken.

I've been with the Guild for three years now and it's provided so much to me. I have met some amazing women (and a man, Nathan) whom I'm very honoured to call friends. I've had the opportunity to learn from the best (Donna Kato, Marla Frankenburg, Lisa Pavelka as well as our own members) and the Guild has enriched my life in many ways. So it's time to give back and help out where I can.

I won't be doing the job alone by any means and I think I'm actually more of a figurehead position. We have so many other kind and wonderful people helping me out including Cathy, Laurie, Marg, Jacey, Barb, Sharon and others.

We've also abandoned the idea of a website and now have a new blog. You can see it at We got the idea from the new Montreal Guild website at

If you're in the Toronto area, please come out to a meeting (the last Sunday of every month except for April and December). All people are welcome, regardless of skill level. We're very generous with our time, patience, and knowledge. My life has truly been blessed by meeting everyone at Guild.

Oh, and as Gail correctly pointed out in the comments below, I do owe a HUGE, HUGE, GREAT BIG, thanks to Marg, the previous president and one of the founding members of the Guild. At my first meeting she took me aside, introduced me to others, and made sure I was comfortable. Marg has been instrumental at making the Guild what it is.

As an added bonus for those thinking of joining the Guild, you get a 10% discount on purchases made through Marg's on-line clay store -



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A polymer clay box I really like from Germany

Hi Everyone,

Occasionally I'll check my Sitemeter statistics to see who has been looking at my blog. I particularly like the country section. And sometimes I'll go looking for a clayer in one of the countries and see if they've got a blog or Flickr account. I've somewhat consistently had a visitor from United Arab Emirates but have so far been unsuccessful in locating that person. I tried again tonight but still can't find that person.

So then I went looking for Switzerland and somehow got sidetracked onto the German guild site which you can see here. And then I came across Anke's blog here (which has the least intuitive web address) and fell in love with her box for ATCs that she's created.

I love everything about this. The colours, the textures, the look, did I mention the colours?

I might have to get into mosaics - what a wonderful way to combine moods and emotions.

It's somehow appropriate to focus on a German artist since my travel bug Maple Bear (see the geocaching post a few posts earlier) is in Bavaria at the moment trying to get to Oktoberfest.



Gasp, groan, signing up to do 100 pushups

This is just a short note. I came across through someone else's blog that wasn't related to clay.

I have never had upper body strength but have always wanted it. But haven't had the discipline to go do it. But this website provides a way to do it with three days a week, 1/2 hour total each week.

So now I'm making it public to everyone who visits. I am committing to attempting 100 consecutive pushups. Theoretically within 6 short weeks I can be doing them (though the program admits it may take longer).

I've taken the test and I'm a pathetic level 1 (though I didn't need to take the test to figure that out).

Check out the website if you're interested.

Anyone else want to join me?



Monday, September 15, 2008

A New Guild Member Blog and Shades of Clay

Hi Everyone,

This is just a quick post to let you know that one of our Guild Members, Wendy Orlowski, has started a blog. It's been up and running for a couple of months. Wendy is a beautiful, kind, and sharing person. Her blog entries reflect that.

She's also one of the co-designers of the CaBezel molds.

You can learn more about Wendy at

Speaking of the CaBezel molds, Shades of Clay is now selling them. If you've never been to the Shades of Clay website, please do take a peek. Clayers in general seem to be generous and friendly and Marg Scott, the owner of the on-line store is no exception. She made me feel so very welcome at my first Guild meeting. The store is comprehensive with many supplies relating to clay. I buy all of my Kato Clay here. There's also a nice section on Kato Clay colour recipes.

Sign up for the Shades of Clay newsletter. Marg publishes these newsletters a few times a year, and sometimes with discounts only available to subscribers so it's worth doing.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

A gift for May and Eddy

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday we went to a wedding of my good friend, May and her now husband, Eddy. Both May and Eddy are Chinese, and though I wouldn't normally highlight someone's origins, it plays an important part in this blog. May and Eddy didn't register anywhere, the tradition is to give money. Money seemed like not enough so I had to make something to put the money in.

And, of course, a tin came to mind!

But what to use for the covering? Another Chinese friend of mine said to use red and gold as they are good luck colours in the Chinese culture. OK, so colours are set. How can I make this personal to them? I decided to use the characters from the front of their wedding invitation.

I did this with a little trepidation because I wasn't sure what the characters meant. And, of course, I didn't decide what to make until the last minute so I didn't have time to investigate and find out. But as I'm working I'm hoping I'm not creating something that brings bad luck if it shows its presence after a wedding.

Took me many, many tries to come up with something I liked. I suffer from a rest tremor (absolutely nothing serious, but sometimes frustrating) and sometimes when I try to draw things it looks a bit like an earthquake was going on at the same time. Any attempts to simply draw the characters looked terrible.

Finally I got smart and photocopied the invitation, cut out the circle with the characters, and then traced over the characters onto some raw clay. Carved out the characters and baked the circle. Then I backfilled with gold clay.

Lots and lots of sanding later and I was happy with the result. Then went to buff with the dremel tool attachment that I mentioned a few posts ago that I haven't shown yet, and oops! Dremel tool attachment removed the backfilled clay in a wink. Back to backfilling. More sanding. Cover with a thin coat of liquid Kato and bake onto top of tin.

Liquid Kato has a bit of haze, take heat gun to top. Oops! Clay is starting to bubble! Press down with something soft to remove bubbles and end up with small indent. Bummer, but looks OK in general and if I don't point out the errors they may not be so noticeable.

Then the debate was whether to make the medallion shiny or not. Decided that because May is a sparkly person it was the right thing to do. So, a couple of coats of Future and it looks fine (though I think I preferred it more matte).

No worries with the rest of the tin though - most of the textures are, of course, from Bev's stamps. I sprayed the entire thing with spray varathane so that the Daniel Smith's powders don't fade with time.

And here it is!

The wedding was beautiful.

And it turns out that the characters mean double happiness, so I had nothing to worry about. It's fitting in a way, I'm happy to know that the characters are significant, and I'm sure that May will be happy with the tin. So double happiness it is.

Congratulations May and Eddy, thank you for letting us be a part of your special day.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Her first steps, though cautious,

began immediately to reinforce her faith in greater possibilities.

Richard Stine.

Hi Everyone,

I've had a signed print for more than 20 years now by Richard Stine that's one of my favourite pieces of art and certainly one of my favourite sayings. This first image is the general principle (mine is a little different because it's much older) and is from

Feel free to browse the rest of his images and perhaps buy a card or two. His art is on the quirky side and there are several images that make me smile, even now, 20 years later (including Duck, Mad Woman trying to bury feelings and most of the dog ones).

I've been wanting to adapt his saying to the clay media and I'd check every so often to see if he was listed on a website somewhere to be able to contact him. This last check yielded results and I e-mailed him to ask permission to adapt his saying to clay. He's very graciously allowed me to as long as I don't do it for monetary value.

So off I went to try to design something. I spent several hours today looking for profiles of women that I could use for the design. Nothing quite fit. Then I remembered that Jode from New Hampshire (who does beautiful mosaics) had given me a tip on how to do her rainy day mosaic piece and that was to have someone photograph herself wrapped in a blanket. So, I got my husband to photograph me pretending to walk on water. Photo manipulate, scan, etc, and here's an image that I like.

Part one of the design accomplished. The next step was to decide what to do it on. And, of course, a tin came to mind. I did the lettering using my metal typeset letters that I bought a few years ago from Don Black's Linotype store (which, if you're in the Toronto area, is a very interesting place to see). It was slow to do - I actually started backwards with the period after possibilities and then worked my towards the "Her". I wanted to make sure that I had enough room for all the words. It wasn't too bad, only made a couple of minor mistakes that were easy to fix.

Before I had a chance to muck it up too much with nicks and dents, I baked it quickly to set the words. I antiqued with a bluey white (this time I liked the antiquing).

Initially I tried cutting out my silhouette with clay, but I didn't like it. I kept going back to my black and white image that I had already cut out and then I thought, "why not use that?".

I also tried using the bathtub concept but I couldn't make anything that didn't look like a hunk of clay. So, a sailboat was much easier.

This last photo is the finished result. This is the lid to a tin. Dimensions are 5" wide (12.5 cm) by 3" tall (8 cm). All told there are about 4 hours of work in this, including the design and futzing with the photo image.

I love it.

And I'm happy to give as much credit to Richard Stine as he's willing to bear.

P.S. It turns out I didn't need to make it into a tin. I've now got the tin lid hanging in my cubicle at work.

One of my other hobbies...geocaching

Hi Everyone,

We took last weekend and spent a fair bit of it geocaching. For those that don't know what it is - it's basically a treasure hunt using a GPS. We started years ago in 2002 when there were only a few thousand caches in the world, have let it taper off, and are picking it back up again.

You can find way more information than you'll need to know about at and a great introduction is at the Wikipedia site here .

But for now, some simple interesting points:
1. There are over 800,000 geocaches in over 100 countries and on all continents
2. lists over 640,000 of these caches and is the best place to get started
3. We have found over 100 and most of those were the first year that we cached
4. One of my favourite things about caching is that it takes you to places you never expect to see. Even in your home area.

But really, the point of this blog is to talk about my Travel Bug, Maple Bear. The geocaching website allows you to purchase dog tags that are then affixed to items. These items may or may not be assigned a task. Geocachers pick them up from one cache and put them into another where they are then picked up by other geocachers and so on and so on. The bug is tracked through the website. People sometimes take photos of them in the various locations.

Maple Bear's history is here. He's currently in Germany and I haven't yet set a new goal for him.

He was released in 2002 and has been on the road for 7 years (though three or four of those were spent in someone's moving boxes).

He started off in Canada and then went and visited the US for a while, then off to Australia, then to England, and now Germany. He's so far travelled over 27,000 miles in his journeys and is currently looking for another mission.

Photos of him are scattered here on the blog. If you look closely you can see that he's had his photo taken with a koala in Australia and at Monument Valley in Utah. This last photo is of the pins that he's collected and was taken at James Herriott's house in the Yorkshire Dales in England. He's currently being watched by 11 people. This means that they get an e-mail every time he's moved around.

I'm quite willing to send him to meet another clayer. Any European clayers that are also geocachers? Drop me a line and let me know.

And if you don't have a GPS, you can do something called letterboxes. We haven't done any of those yet.

So go ahead and type in your city at the Search for Geocaches box and see how many are near you. You may be surprised to discover a whole new hobby. And, of course, being outdoors is always a good thing for inspiration.



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My new journal

Hi Everyone,

I've decided to start keeping a journal again and we went out to buy me a simple journal this weekend. I didn't care what it looked like since I knew I would be covering it.

The attached photo shows the journal though I'm having extreme technical difficulties and can't get the photo oriented properly. If I save it in the orientation that looks right, it rotates it 90 so it's on its side. If I save it rotated the wrong way it puts it up the wrong way and doesn't rotate it. I've not seen this before, and I've futzed with it for a good 10 minutes and give up. So tilt your head and look at the photo if you wish.

My thoughts on this - originally it wasn't antiqued and I really liked it. But, I also decided that it might look good antiqued. I applied a dusty grey paint to it for antique. I don't like it as much at all though I kinda like the used and worn feel it has. So I've scraped off as much as I can. My next step is to try a Mr. Clean Magic eraser to it. I'll also sand it some more and then borrow someone's buffer to see if I can bring it up. If that doesn't work maybe I'll give it a shiny silver antiquing or a dark blue antiquing.

There are times when I really want plaquing with translucent and others when I don't. This time I did and I didn't get it at all! And I purposely conditioned, didn't care about air bubbles, the whole set that's supposed to make it plaque, and...nothing!

I do like my colour choices and the overall layout. I consider it a good job when my husband says "wow, I like that", and he did.

I didn't worry too much about the back - I used up an old swatch of mokume gane that has some glow in the dark in it. It's amazing, same setting on the oven, no plaquing on the front side but the back side burned a bit and plaqued like crazy. I'll sand that down at some point, maybe.

And that's it. I just wish I could figure out how to re-orient the photo. I even tried other photos and they still want to come out sideways. There's nothing in the code that I can see that's making it go this way.



Monday, August 11, 2008

Oooh, aaah, Casa Blanca Beads...

Hi Everyone,

A while back on one of the Polymer Clay newsgroups someone mentioned that they were addicted to Casa Blanca Beads. As soon as I found out that Desiree had provided instructions, I knew that I had to try them. If you haven't already seen Desiree's website, please check her out here. She was one of the first websites I found once I started claying semi-seriously and has been a favourite for a while (along with another favourite, Beady Eyed Brat). Her tutorials are wonderful (as well as the rest of her website). This first photo is an image from her website on the Casa Blanca Beads.

I know that some of the photos on my blog look like my objects are monster size. Not sure why I can't get scale and I took these without my usual coin as a marker. This next photo is a compilation of the bits and pieces. The largest lentil bead in the image is about the size of a quarter, or maybe a wee bit bigger. The beads are just over an inch long. This image is all the Casa Blanca Beads, some of the scrap, some lentil beads, and the earrings that I'm playing with. More on those later.

This is definitely something I'll have to try again. I have a few tips for those that are trying Desiree's technique.

I am incompetent when it comes to drilling holes through beads, particularly if I'm supposed to have the hole go from one pointy edge to another. So in this case I put the bead piercing wire thingy (the bead holders that you get when you purchase the Amaco beading sets) through the clay first, before I made my cut. Then I put the blade on the clay in the way that I thought that I wanted to cut it and made a slight indent. Remove the wire, cut, replace wire, do next indent mark, remove wire, cut... you see what I mean. At the end of it I was just slightly off from the points but no more than I would be if I had tried to do it after baking. Of course, I didn't figure this step out until I was down to my second to last bead.

Desiree likes the contrast of a different colour core for the beads. You can see a bit of it at the pointy edges of her beads on the right in the image above. One of us tried that (I didn't) and didn't like the appearance. I would think that if you're using bright colours this would be a neat accent. My advice would be to try one or two rolled up like that and then the others without the core. It comes down to a personal choice.
Here is a close-up of my beads (though technically since they don't have holes in them yet they're not yet beads). I've finished them with 400, 600, and 800 grit sandpaper and then took a nifty neato dremel tool accessory that I'll write more about later once I find out what it's called to do the buffing. They've got a nice satin /semi-gloss finish to them. And buffing with a dremel tool is fun. I just wish I could figure out a sander with a dremel tool. Desiree gives the size of the plug that you're supposed to be working with. She also says that you use about 9 inches for each bead (pay attention to that instruction, I was rolling the whole strip up merrily before Karen stopped me). I think my next attempt I'll use less than the 9 inches but end up with plugs that are 1 inch tall instead of the 1.5 inches tall that mine were.

While I love earrings, the football beads are probably a bit big for what I would wear. Though maybe not, but I'm not sure that I can drill holes in them without ruining them. So I was inspired to cut them in half and use the modified pyramid shape for the earrings. I've got to square off the pointy edge of these so that the hole is more centred and I think I want to create some additional beads out of the scrap that I've got. And I've put two orientations so far with the earrings. I'm not sure if I want pointy edge up, the one earring could either look like a Christmas tree or like a person (neither of which makes me want to wear them) but I do like the look of it. I also like the look of the pointy side down. I might just make the earrings the way they are in the photo and have one be right side up and the other be upside down which would add to the funkiness of the design. Oh, and to cut the cured bead I plunked it in the oven for 10 minutes and then cut while it was still hot. Much easier.

And, wonder of wonders, I might actually be getting the hang of lentil beads. Turns out I have much more success if I do the twisty motion with the glass on a surface that's got a bit more tooth than a ceramic tile. My beads used to slip all the time. Now that I'm just doing them on my hobby table it's much easier. I've also learned that it's not necessary to apply any pressure to the bead as you're rolling them. And, I'm a counter clockwise person for whatever reason. If you're still having problems with the beads my friend, Barbara, swears that you have to do them with your tongue clenched between your teeth and sticking out of your mouth. I haven't tried that yet.

Anyhow, to make a long story short - please check out Desiree's website and enjoy this technique. I'm looking forward to playing with it some more. I will warn you that choosing colours was the most stressful part for me so I would advise you to start with colours that you like and then not worry about it too much. I love the shimmer from the mica in these beads.

Overall, a very successful endeavour - thanks so much Desiree for posting the technique. Your generosity is amazing.

Cheers everyone,


Friday, August 8, 2008

My poor little bear cane...

Hi Everyone,

Some of you may remember that I had grandiose plans on making a bear cane for my project. This first photo is the original plan. The second photo is where I got stumped. It's been sitting stumped in a margarine container since March and I started working on him again last weekend. I finally got a shape that was OK, though he looked of a cross between a buffalo and a bear. I wanted to add an interesting background and the brain cane stuck in my mind as a possibility. So last weekend I got half a brain cane wrapped around him and then ran out of clay and patience.

Today I played hooky from work (with their permission) and decided enough was enough. I was tired of the little voice that whispered "finish me" each time I went into my hobby room. So, I thought, since he's never going to go the way that I have in my mind, it's just time to finish him and see what happens with it.

And the result is....

I'm not sure - he's kinda cute in an incredibly homely way though I don't think anyone would mistake him for a bear. He fits in well with the other canes for my project (if you're new to my blog, the first project entry is here). In hindsight, adding the blue and white cane for the eye makes him a bit drunken looking and he really does look more like a cow than anything else.

For those of you in Canada, as I was reducing him I was reminded of the Bell Canada commercials with the beavers though he didn't have a tail.

Reduction went really well, I used Sandra McCaw's technique. My hands and arms are tired but I consider the price of her video even more well spent. Not much scrap clay generated.

I thought the brain cane technique would be a good way to fill in the gaps, but as with the trillium cane that I did a long while back, filling in around a smooth edge with a lumpy bumpy edge causes the smooth edge to go lumpy bumpy. You can see that in the photos in the larger cane though by the time you get to the smaller cane you don't notice it so much.

Anyhow, he's done and no more whispers from him (though there are other projects still trying to get my attention).

I think my next cane will be a landscape cane since I don't really have any of those yet and they're great fun.

Tomorrow is clay day with the gals - we're going to try Desiree's Casa Blanca Beads. If you're not part of some of the clay groups, you really should take a look at the photos and the technique that she's got. She's been one of my favourite websites for a long time and I've got her linked on the left or you can go straight from here.

Cheers everyone.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Finished Earrings

Hi Everyone,

I just thought I'd take a couple of minutes to post photos of the finished earrings. The blue ones have square sodalite beads attached to them. I haven't worn them yet. If you look closely on the glass of the blue ones you can see where I acid etched the surface.

The green ones I wore to work the other day and I loved the swingy feel they had against my neck. As I was browsing through my bead collection I came across the perfect round beads to accent the clay.

The stamps on the back, are, of course, from Bev's stamp collection. The blue stamp is one that was made from a doodle of a clayer's friend at a conference. The writing stamp is one that I had made for me and is my wedding ceremony.

I'm still interested in playing with the technique. I'll post more as I go.



Monday, August 4, 2008

Bottles of Hope and some mourning

Hi Everyone,

Last Monday was a bit of a sad day for me as it was the first anniversary of the loss of a loved one. I took the day off work to be gentle with myself and to allow the emotions to go where they willed.

I was drawn to my clay room and spent a quiet few hours listening to Jim Croce, Don Williams, Gordon Lightfoot, (and even some Johnny Cash) and making Bottles of Hope. It's important to me that the life lost has meaning and if I can pour some of the love into acts of kindness for others in need, then I've achieved that goal.

I think all of us must go through trials at some points in our lives. I am blessed that I've got a soul-mate for a husband and through the drama of the loss I was able to reach out and find that I had good friends and family that were able to support me through it. They offered true moments of brightness in the days of darkness. There are so many people with so much less than I have and making the Bottles of Hope helps me keep it in perspective.

I took the greatest comfort from those that simply said "I'm sorry that you're going through this, it must be difficult and know that I'm here for you whenever you want to talk, cry, or otherwise be emotional". If you don't know what to say to someone, try those words first.

Anyhow, here are the photos of the creations. I basically just played around with odds and ends that I had laying around. I'm happy with them and I feel that the day was well-spent. Some of them will be suitable for men, who I think often get overlooked with the bottles.

By the way, I wasn't paying attention to what the cat was batting around and it appears that I've lost one of the lids to the Bottles of Hope. I keep forgetting that to a hungry cat everything becomes a toy and nothing is safe. Pester, pester, pester.

I know this entry is a bit personal, and apologies to anyone who is made uncomfortable by it. I've been wrestling for more than a week with whether to post it or not since I'm not looking for sympathy, but somehow it was important to mark the day in words.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

More adventures with Pinata ink tinted flakes...

Hi Everyone,

This is a very long, wordy post.

Last week Karen taught a faux dichroic class at Guild. She did an amazing job and was very generous with her supplies. Since I knew she was going to be teaching the class it put me in the mood to play with materials that simulate dichroic glass. I also came out of the class thinking the liquid spread on clear materials (Papier, faux glass, whatever you want to call them) didn't quite do it for me.

If you've been reading my posts you know that I've been experimenting with Pinata tinted flakes. A couple of posts ago (or thereabouts) I mentioned that I had tried adding Future to the flakes to see if they would seal the ink. One of the happy accidents from that was that I had placed the Future'd flakes on a glass bevel that I had laying around from my stained glass days to dry the flakes on some other surface.

When I looked at the flakes from the glass side of the bevel I was impressed with the clarity the glass offered and how amazing the flakes looked through the glass. About a week before that I had been perusing the Michaels aisles (we have one less than five minutes away) trying to decide whether I wanted Ranger inks or not. In the same aisle they had microscope slides that I guess are really popular with scrapbookers.

After Karen's class I knew that I had to experiment further. Today I went and bought the scrapbook microscope slides. I still have my stained glass supplies and I decided to cut them into smaller rectangles so that I could make earrings with them. I'm rusty with my glass cutting and I went through a couple of slides trying to get the cuts right. I'm getting better though the glass is so small it doesn't leave room for error.

The separate pieces on the photos are approximately 1 inch by 1/2 inch.

Add Pinata ink and Future to the flakes, put on glass, let dry for a bit and then bake (letting it dry a bit eliminates the rapid formation of bubbles). I discovered it was very important to trim the flakes away from the edge of the glass after they were baked as it makes the framing look a bit choppy if bits of flake stick out.

The next challenge was to figure out how to surround the glass. Clay seemed to work. But, it's important to cut the flakes down so that they're not protruding from any of the edges. The reason that there's only one of the light blue ones is that I mucked up with the attempt to put the light blue one on the clay and when I went to peel the glass off the clay a lot of the flakes stayed on the clay.

The next set that I did was the green ones. The Pinata ink is a dark brown but it really seemed to pop the emerald green on the flakes. There's some really neat effects that happen with these and it's quite hypnotic to angle the beads from side to side.

One thing with the glass is that if the glass chips during cutting or if you've sanded the glass to make it chip a bit, then you'll see the little imperfections when you make the frame. It's the main reason that I textured the clay around the glass.

The last set I made today was with dark blue Pinata ink. I think I'm going to play with these a bit more - I have some acid etch that I'd like to use on the glass surface to add more interest. And, this is just the start. I have many other ideas that I'd like to do with this.

I still have to figure out what to do with the backs and I for sure will be making earrings out of these though I can also see making collages and pins.

I'll post more photos as I go.