Saturday, March 29, 2008

I love Judy Belcher's Tessellated Cane technique...

Hi Everyone,

I'm still playing with Judy Belcher's tessellated canes. The first of these images are from the clays I used in the chickadee cane without adding the background (you can see the chickadee breast, tail feathers, and leaf cane). These are by far my favourite - I love the colours and how they came out. I'm going to make some earrings with these and try to save the rest for my project. There's not much though - less than an inch of each of these canes. I'll have to slice thinly.

As I was rooting around my clay supplies I came across some scraps from landscape canes that I had done earlier. I did a bit of my scrap clay technique and combined it with Judy's technique and these were the result. The colours are quite pretty. Not sure if they'll go with my project or if I'll use them as earrings or what.

And this last set is the scrap from the scrap of the chickadee cane. The canes are small, only about an inch or so long. They'll go with the project since they've got enough brown in them that they might link the bear claws to the chickadee and other canes.

If you're at all interested in learning the technique, Judy Belcher alludes to it in her book (she uses all of 3 sentences to describe it - good luck with figuring it out from there) and she does a nice video of it on her DVD. It's pretty easy to figure out how to make the central core but it's what she does after that that makes all the difference. You can buy her DVD through a number of different sources. Judy's site is for those that want more information.

That's it for now,


Friday, March 28, 2008

My big-headed chickadee cane

Hi Everyone,

I've spent a few hours working on my chickadee cane. I'm not sure whether I'm happy with it - I had some problems that I'll discuss below. Once again, my inspiration was a stained glass pattern. I've decided that canes are prettiest when they've got skinner blends to I tried to incorporate some into this cane. I started out creating the main framework to the cane - you can see the approximate dimensions in the photo.
Then it was on trying to determine what background would be best. I'm trying to marry the trillium cane and the Canada goose canes that I did earlier so it seemed like I needed some green and blue in the background. But, this time I got smart and sliced off a bit of the chickadee and a bit of my tentative background, baked them separately and then put them onto each other.

I took a tip from Judith Belcher's video and looked through my binoculars in a reverse direction to see how it would look in a smaller scale. Judith uses other equipment than binoculars but the result is the same and I hope I'm not giving away secrets by spelling this out. I also considered a tan background, which also would have looked nice, but this background allowed me to use up some scrap clay. The head looks a little big here but that's only because when I sliced a bit off the chickadee I didn't get much of the head and I had to cut off a sliver more for the head. I didn't realize that this was more prophetic than I expected.
So then it was on to constructing the cane. I do like creating a full background and then cutting out the bits to surround the main cane - it's a bit easier for me to visualize and get the effect that I want, though it does generate some waste clay.

Once I cut everything out I started to reduce it. I was impatient and didn't let it rest before reducing, but the main cane and the background had been constructed previously so it wasn't too bad. HOWEVER, I had incorporated some scrap clay into the black of the chickadee. I knew that it was a bit stiffer than the other clays going into it, but I didn't think it would be as much of a problem as it turned out to be. The black in the chickadee did NOT move very much at all and I ended up generating a whack of scrap clay as the rest of the cane moved around it. At one point I was tempted to cut the cane open and remove the black and put new stuff in it was so bad.

I've never had such a difference in clay in caning before. It was terrible and I got very frustrated. Normally I'm a patient reducer. But, finally I was able to reduce and the results are shown in the photo - the head is bigger than I would like, hence the title of the blog. I now have the two bottom sizes in about six inches of length each. The other is just a slice to show what it looked like mid reduction. I'm kinda thinking that I'll combine the two smaller ones together when I put my project together. We'll see.

And, of course, there are Judy Belcher's/tessellated canes that were made with the cutouts and remainders from the blends. These make me think of Ireland and tartans for some reason or other. I have other tessellated canes that I made from more of the scrap and I'll post those later.

I still have the mystic bear that I want to finish and then I'll have to step back and see about the final design of the project.

And, for those of you following the saga of my night light - I broke it as I was showing Leigh how to put it onto the light gently. All that happened was that I snapped off a piece that I had glued on and it didn't actually break the nightlight portion of it. But, I've obviously got to figure out a better way of attaching the support to the shade.

That's it for now.



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I deleted a comment today...

Hi Everyone,

Just letting you know that I had to delete a comment today. It showed up shortly after I posted my last posting and it said something along the lines of "please go hear". When you click on the "hear" it takes you to what looks like an official Microsoft site and says that you can get a 30 day free trial. Then things start to happen with all sorts of windows popping up that make you think your computer is about to be clobbered. It would be very easy to have this program install on your computer. My father had it happen to him and someone at work has had it happen as well. It's apparently quite nasty and not easy to remove.

My advice is to hold the cursor over any link that you see in anyone's comments. If it doesn't look like it's going to take you where you think it's going to (i.e., someone else's blog, etsy, or flickr site), don't click on the link.

I've now added some safety features to the comments. Not sure how effective they'll be. I hope no one was hurt by the comment showing up on my blog. I think I removed it within an hour of it being loaded.


More Tessellations...

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick posting. I had my claying friends, Janice and Karen, over a couple of weekends ago and we played with Judy Belcher's
tessellated cane technique. None of us were impressed with the start of our canes - they just looked awful as you can see on the right in this photo. Two of us were using Kato clay and one of us used Premo.

But, of course, the final versions looked amazing and we were all thrilled with our canes. Colour choice really dictates the mood of the canes. I really do like this method but you do have to buy the video to figure out how it's done.

Next up, my chickadee cane that I'm working on for my project.



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ponsawan Bottles of Hope

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I dinked around with clay pretty much all day. I started playing with Bottles of Hope fashioned after Ponsawan's design which you can see here. These are a lot of fun to make and can come together pretty quickly. I'm still playing with the technique.

So far I use two different circle cutters for the base. One happens to coincidentally match the diameter of the bottle and then the other one is just slightly wider. I put the smaller circle of clay against the bottle bottom and then the larger circle of clay beneath that. That forms a nice lip to wrap the base canes around. I bake the two bottles separately (one thing you don't see in the photos is that I stamp the top and bottom with the words "love" and "hope").

Once they're baked I fill them with small pre-baked cane circles and then wrap the centre piece with more clay. I fill in the area beneath the lip of the bottle with a bit of clay to give it more support. I'm still working on perfecting the centre piece. One thing I've been worried about is if the air in the bottles will expand and cause the centre piece to bubble out or explode. So I've been putting air holes in the centres. You can see it in the happy face one.

For the small cane circles, if I have enough of the cane I'll reduce it to about 1/8 of an inch or so, bake it, then slice it while it's warm. You can see the bright blue bits in the bottles, those are the letter canes that I did a long time ago that spell out the word "hope".

I have a hard time finishing edges - when I try to make them disappear I often make it look worse by smearing the edges. I now tend to leave them in and let them be part of the quirkiness of the bottle. For bigger projects I tend to be fussier.

Ponsawan is going through an incredibly rough time at the moment. These bottles will be going to cancer patients who are also going through rough times. I hope that Ponsawan can get a small measure of peace knowing that her ideas are helping others even as she needs to focus all her energy on her daughter's recovery.



Friday, March 21, 2008

If at first you don't succeed... finally nightlight success!

Hi Everyone,

Today is finish up assorted projects in clay day and I finally decided to tackle the nightlight again. Thank you to Susan Turney who suggested I drape it over a form to bake. Scrounged around and all I could come up with was one of our mismatched drinking glasses.

You can view Susan's work here. She does the most amazing vessels and running through her >300 photos is incredibly inspirational - so many other things that I want to try after seeing her site. I'd love to see some of her vessels in person.

There's one wee little crack under one of the clouds, but it's right at an edge that you won't normally see. Leigh, my pregnant friend, has been laughing at my trials. I told her I had to abandon the project for a week or so just so that while I was working on it I wouldn't accidentally be filling it with curses. I figure the little crack can serve as a metaphor for something or other.

Not a lot of plaquing. I didn't antique the words in the clouds - you can only really see them when the light is turned on.

I'm a little concerned at how fragile it appears to be. I can always do another one but at this rate it would have been quicker to make the afghan.

I want to also give credit for the stained glass pattern. I got it out of the book "Northern Lights" by the Artists of Glassmith Studios, 1988 (wow, it's 20 years old).

And that is that for the nightlight. Nice to have it done.

I've been playing with the hourglass Bottles of Hope that I posted about earlier. I'll have three samples up shortly. They're great fun and take me about an hour to do but I haven't got it down to production line yet.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Slovenia Connection...introducing Ursa!

Hi Everyone,

After posting about a clayer in Slovenia, Ursa, a different clayer from Slovenia, came forward and introduced herself. She has a Flickr website here that's full of beautiful clay necklaces, beads, and earrings. I like how she gives a twist to her pendants - the photo on the left looks like it's been treated that way and it makes me want to play with the technique.

I also very much like her colour pallette, particularly the warm reds and her summer colours and she's inspired me to play with translucents more - the finish on her work is wonderful.

I continue to be amazed at both the talent that's out there and even more by how much easier it's getting to find every day. The Internet truly is amazing.

Thank you, Ursa, for introducing yourself. Your work is beautiful and I'm honoured to meet you,


Monday, March 17, 2008

The Slovenia Connection

Hi Everyone,

I've consistently had a site visitor from Slovenia. Today I finally got curious and decided to try to find this person. Googled "Slovenia polymer clay" and the very first hit that I got was Roberta M's blog and her beautiful work. I'm not sure if she's my regular visitor but I found it fascinating that it's so easy to link up with other clayers around the world.

Her current entries are about how to make stamps from rubber erasers. This photo is from her website. She's also got some interesting links including one whose title alone made me click on it and then I spent the next few minutes laughing out loud.

So, Roberta, if that's you visiting my site on a regular basis, thanks so much because I never would have found your site without looking for you. I've added you to my links and will become a regular visitor. And even if it's not you, I'm still further ahead for having done the search.



A Trio of Trilliums

Hi Everyone,

I followed through on my promise and made 9 Bottles of Hope yesterday. Here are three of them (the other six look the same) nestled in our mountain of snow outside (it seemed fitting). What I didn't take was a photo of the tops of them - they're simply the small trillium from previous posting on top of the lid.

This next photo is the reduced cane. The original started about 2.5 inches tall and I've reduced the smallest one to about a half inch. I got smart this time in reducing and cut the cane in half each time I thought it was a size that I liked. So I've got a few inches of stuff that's just over an inch tall and many more inches of the smaller stuff. Letting it sit overnight made it stick to the reducing glass that I use and I ended up with hardly any waste. I'm thrilled with the cane, though I know that others would probably consider it a bit busy.

The packing of the canes with the smaller snakes gave some interesting effects to the petals - made the petals wobble a bit which adds to the realism. It's something to consider though if I ever want a straight edge - it's probably not the way that I would do it for those situations.

And, of course, with the scrap clay I have to try the tesselation technique from Judy Belcher. Here are the four canes that came out of the round that you see here. They're pretty neat, too. I don't know if you can see the detail, but the bottom right kinda looks like white sunglass frames and the coloured bits inside the sunglass frames really looks like eyes in a couple of them.

The trillium canes do not match my previous project canes (blues and browns) so I've got to figure out some transition canes that will bring the colours together. I think I can do that with a chickadee cane as I continue with the northern theme. Or maybe the mystic bear one that I'm still designing.

And that's the trillium cane.

Next up, I've still got the nightlight to figure out. The woman is going off on mat leave in a couple of weeks so that's probably my highest priority.



A wonderful Bottle of Hope and some sad news...

Hi Everyone,

I've been browsing the clay websites and came across Polymer Clay by Silastones by Ponsawan. I quickly scrolled through to look at the photos and then realized that the last couple of entries dealt with a family tragedy. Apparently her daughter is in a coma after being hit by a drunk driver. While I don't know Ponsawan and am just learning about her work, my heart does go out to her and her family during this time.

Speaking of hearts, here is a photo of her bottle of hope (you can go directly to that link here) that won one of the categories from the Amaco challenge. I am looking forward to trying one of these bottles. I like the idea of tumbling hearts. I did a letter canes a long time ago with the letters of the word "hope" and I'll use those instead of the hearts in my playing with the style.

So it's a mixed blog entry - incredible beauty mixed with some sorrow. I spent quite a bit of time on her site and love her style. I hope she can at least get a small glimmer of happiness knowing that her artwork is appreciated by many.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Next project - Trillium cane

Hi Everyone,

I'v spent the last six hours making a trillium cane that I've been designing in my head for a while. I've had several sources of inspiration for this cane. This photo is from one of our Bruce Trail hikes

I also saw an artist on one of the daily blogs who has a unique way of packing canes and I've been wanting to try her technique for a while. Unfortunately I've lost the link and have spent an hour trying to find the site. I thought it came out of polymerclaydaily but I don't see it. If anyone has a link to her site, please let me know since I'd really like to give her credit.

I went looking for stained glass patterns on trilliums and came across this wonderful site which provided me with some nice trillium options. One of the patterns features Delph Glass' streamer glass (see photo on right) and I used that pallette and pattern as well

So, add it all up, and a trillium cane is born. I haven't reduced it yet, I'm actually being good and letting it sit overnight. If you look closely in the cane you'll see a smaller trillium on the upper left.

The cane is about 2.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches wide, and just over 2 inches thick so it's not as big as it apparently looks in the photo.

While I was packing it I got nervous and wasn't sure how it would come out. So I cut some out just of the trilliums. I'm not sure how I'll use those yet - probably decorate some bottles of hope, particularly now that I know that I'm happy with the cane.

I've made the related tessellated canes with the scrap clay and I'll post photos of those later.

For now I'm patting myself on the back. The cane is a nice antidote to the mounds of snow that we've still got hanging around.



Sunday, March 9, 2008

Darn, darn, drat, drat...again...

No photos for this post. Spent the afternoon trying another nightlight for my friend. It came together really well. Here's what I did different:

Used Fimo soft translucent - I'm going to try to use up my stash of non Kato clay for things that don't involve caning now that Kato has gone softer. Fimo appears to be a little less translucent than the Kato at a setting of 4 on my pasta machine.

Baked it between two tiles in my calibrated oven for 40 minutes - no plaquing. Maybe baking it between the two tiles did that or maybe it was the Fimo which I didn't overly condition. Or maybe a bit of both and the oven and that it's a different time of day and that I was wearing a different shirt... plaquing is so hit or miss with me.

Cut in the antiquing lines before I baked - much easier!

Didn't bend it until after I had done everything that I wanted to it.

But, it was brittle and broke on first bend. It broke in the same place as the other one, along the balloon and down the body. So that screams design flaw to me.

Did I make too thick a slice? I used a 4 setting. Could have gone to a 5 very easily.

Oh, and I baked it between two sheets of white paper, which I also used for burnishing because I love the finish on that. But maybe I leached too much plasticizer out of it but there was no film on the paper...

Who knows.

It's time for a re-design - I'll make it a three panelled flat job the next time. But that means that I've got to come up with some kind of armature to support that. Probably easier to buy a night light that will allow me to do that.

Oh well...

Snow and more snow

Yesterday the whole East of US and Canada got hit with a massive storm. We were no exception. This is the view from our window yesterday afternoon. The camera doesn't do it justice but it's blizzarding out there. According to the news folks we've received three times more snow this year than we've had in any year in the last 30 years. This storm just piled on what had been there already.

Here's the view this morning with my husband shovelling the sidewalk. We've got some beautiful neighbors that share a driveway with us who did most of the shovelling yesterday so Joe is putting on the finishing touches but he's still been out for over an hour. We have a very small front lawn and most of the snow is from the driveway.

Normally this time of year we've got crocuses starting to come up, anemones and snow drops blooming, and more green than not. I'm ready for that to start happening.

The weather is providing inspiration for my next project cane - a trillium flower. Details next.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More Be Still...

Hello Everyone,

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been claying, just not posting. And since we're under our second winter storm watch this week, I'm hibernating with clay things. I decided a while back to try and do another "Be Still..." plaque. This first photo is from my first attempt. I was unhappy with the roller marks on the clay. A couple of people wrote me, including Marla Frankenburg, and suggested that I could eliminate the lines by brayering the clay with something.

I tried it this time and it worked beautifully! No roller marks at all. I've still got to varnish this so that the Daniel Smith powder doesn't rub off (or maybe I won't bother with varnish since it's only going to be hanging up somewhere) but I like the result.

Thanks to the clayers for their wonderful suggestions.



Darn, darn, drat, drat...

A friend of mine is getting ready to have her first child and I thought I'd do something nice and home-made for the baby. After realizing that a knit afghan would take way too long and after attempting to learn to crochet an afghan (I don't know how to crochet) I came back to clay. She had mentioned that they were planning on decorating the room in a Winnie the Pooh theme.

I remembered that I had a stained glass pattern for a Winnie the Pooh and thought that I could make it into some sort of night light. I scanned the pattern in and brought it into Microsoft Powerpoint. I had also bought a nightlight with a wire frame and used it as a template. An hour of playing later and this is the pattern.

I was finally able to use up the Pinata ink coloured clay from my failed snowflakes for the background and started cutting out the shapes. I free-form cut out clouds from the blue clay, placed them on the translucent white clay and was able to make the shapes of the clouds match almost perfectly.

For the Winnie the Pooh portion I put the template onto the clay and ran a ball point pen over the Winnie the Pooh and balloon. Once I had the pattern in the blue clay I was able to cut it out and use it for the template for the yellow and red clays.

Here's the final design and clay shape. I was so impressed with it until I realized that the legs and ears needed some definition. I'm not good at antiquing and ended up futzing around (what colour, how to antique, how thick should the lines be, etc) with it for another couple of hours until I was happy with it. Finally got the antiquing done the way I wanted it and then decided that I didn't like the cornstarch finish I had used on it (the antiquing mucked that up) so started to sand. It was coming along so well!

But, I forgot, somehow, that it's winter here and that the water I was using to sand with was cold, and it made the clay brittle. So when I went to see how I would like the light (at this point smiling happily to myself because I was so pleased with what I had created) and I tried to bend the clay to the light shape, it snapped! You can see the crack following the shape of the balloon and the bear.

Oh well, lessons learned. One thing that doesn't show up here but I'll watch out for next time is that I had put a small tile on the clay while I was baking it. It didn't cover the entire piece and the areas not covered by the tile were quite heavily plaqued. I had originally not intended to antique the words in the clouds but the ones on the right were so heavily plaqued that you couldn't see the words through the light.

So, darn, darn, drat, drat. I'll have to make up some more blue clay but I have enough red and yellow to do another one. It should go much quicker this next time.

More posts to come. I've been busy, just not posting.