Monday, June 30, 2008

A Kathleen Dustin class I didn't get to take

Hi Everyone,

Kathleen Dustin (see her websites here and here) was here a few weeks ago to teach our guild her amazing technique. Unfortunately, due to work committments, I wasn't able to take the class. My local clayer friends were able to take the class and enjoyed gloating their luck to me as apparently she's an amazing and wonderful teacher (aren't all clayers?).

Kathleen focussed on technique and from the photos I saw, everyone came away with beautiful beads that they can make into pendants. All of them were absolutely wonderful.

My friends showed me their beads and it inspired me to play and make my own creations. Both my friends were careful not to divulge too much out of respect for Kathleen and I won't post anything about the creation other than to say that it was nice to finally achieve the translucency that I'd been wanting to see. The cane overlays were made from canes when we tried to reverse engineer Kathleen's technique before she came to teach the class, as well as one that we made after Marla Frankenburg's class.

My surprises on these were that the gold dots in the green portion of the reddish sample (are you following?) ended up giving this piece a watermelon feel since the gold dots went black. Also, you can see the brown flowers in the centre of this piece - that's due to overheating though I doubt that anyone would notice unless I pointed it out. The reddish piece is the first piece that I created, the blue one is when I went back to my typical colour patterns and was the second piece.

I forgot to put my penny on for scale. These pieces are about 2 inches long at their longest.

The one thing I will say since it's common knowledge is that there is a lot of sanding involved to finish the pieces. I haven't sanded these ones yet and since we all know how I feel about sanding, it's unlikely that I will.

Kathleen uses a lot of black for contrast in her images - I don't care for black and I was surprised at how Marla Frankenburgish these felt to me once I had created them. Obviously though, given the beauty of Kathleen's work I am missing out by not using black. I'll have to give that more consideration.

It was fun to try and I might make a few earrings out of the technique. But it's a lot of work.

I still have a lot of other things to post. Unfortunately it's still crazy at work and I just get moments where I can do this.

Next up (possibly), Cindy Leitz, Polymer Clay Tutor has given me an idea (though she doesn't know it yet) that I'm trying with the Pinata Tinted flakes. I found Cindy's site through one of the comments she left on my blog. Please go read her Polymer Clay tutor blog - it's got all sorts of information and I was quite relieved to find out her scented ideas didn't extend to the title of her blog from last week.



Saturday, June 21, 2008

Playing with Pinata Ink tinted flakes

Hi Everyone,

As promised, here are my mistakes when playing with the Pinata inks and liquid clay. These were the same flakes that I created a few entries before, except for the dark blue ones which I created by adding more Pinata Blue.

I used Bev and Wendy's bezel makers for the frames (which I'll write about in a bit), added some Kato sauce and the flakes, then baked. They were a bit murky so I took the heat gun to them.

First lesson is that translucent doesn't handle the heat gun very well. The frames are burned other than the white one above. I'm still having issues with the pinata inks migrating into the Kato sauce. And I get A LOT of air bubbles. Since I was just playing with these I wasn't worried too much with it - I baked the first layer, then heat gunned it, then added another thin layer while the clay was still warm, didn't bake, but heat gunned. This is not the most successful way to do things - the Kato sauce almost congeals if you put it on a surface that's way too hot, and is difficult to work with.

I took a slightly different approach to the white bezel on the upper left. I think it was Dotty McMillan who wrote that she's not heat gunning, simpling jacking up the oven temperature to get the clay to cure clear. I'm happy to say that this technique does work, though I still get a lot of air bubbles and the ink migrating into the liquid clay.

These particular flakes melt if you put them into the heat gun for too long without a protective layer of clay. It might make an interesting effect - I'll play around a bit for that

I'll try the ranger inks to see if they're any better, I really don't know how to control the bleeding. Right now I have my metallic Rangers but I don't have any colours. I do have a 50% off coupon for Michaels that will work perfectly for that though.



Sunday, June 8, 2008

Some things make me smile...

Hi Everyone,

This is just a short post that I can't take credit for. In case you're not a regular of the francophone blogs, here's a photo of Vivi's latest accidental creation. I think we can all relate to having these types of moments, whether it's turning the toaster oven to 375 instead of 275 or forgetting to put the lid on something prior to shaking.

Can you imagine? This could so easily be me...I'd be sitting in some other room, starting to smell the bread baking, thinking how wonderful it would be in a few minutes to have a freshly baked croissant, maybe even making a cup of hot chocolate...only to open up the oven to that! It sure would turn the mood around, but in a fun way after the initial shock wore off.

Vivi's website is a wonderful mix of clay, photos of life things, and whimsy. Check her out at

Enjoy. I'm going to go rummage in the kitchen for something that looks as tasty as these do.



Tutorial - How-to with a dremel tool and magic eraser

Hi Everyone,

Today's post is long with a lot of detours as I point out various bits and pieces. At Morrisburg a while back I did a tutorial on how to make the Michael Buessler beads and how I sand them. While people ooh-aahhed over the beads by far the most enthusiasm was for how I sanded them. I will post a bit on the beads later but here's how I go about my sanding (though there's a twist that I tried today that I didn't teach at Morrisburg).

What you need:
- dremel tool with assorted collets and drill bits
- drywall sandpaper
- 180 grit wet/dry sandpaper
- Mr. Clean magic eraser

If you have a dremel tool one of the most useful accessories is the dremel collet set which allows you to use various drill bit sizes. You can see a picture of the kit here here. The kits are cheap, particularly at this website since I paid more than 2x that at our local home depot.

The first step is to put the bead on the drill bit. When I make the beads I start with a hole in them, but if you don't have a hole, just drill a bit through - it's actually desirable to have the bit snug in the bead. It'll loosen up and I'll get to that in a bit.

Put some damp paper towel or rag underneath some drywall sandpaper. The damp paper towel keeps a lot of the dust down. For those that are concerned about clay dust, you may want to wear a dust mask during this portion. Couple of points: if the damp is too damp, you'll end up generating a nice spray of fine clay bits all over anything in the area. If it's too dry you'll end up generating more dust. Lay the drywall sandpaper on top.

I can't take credit for the drywall sandpaper idea, Cathy M from Guild taught us the value of this tool, and she got it from someone who got it from someone who got it from one of the clay greats...

You can see in the first section of the photo below (click on the photo to get a bigger image, I can't figure out how to make it larger in the blog) that I've roughly shaped the bead into a cylinder, but there are a lot of sharp edges on it. The bead is fully baked at this point.

If you're curious as to how I got the first three images together as one image, I brought them into Microsoft PowerPoint, grouped them, then clicked on the grouping and exported as jpeg.

IMPORTANT!!! Before touching the dremel tool to the sandpaper, make sure that you've got your speed set to the lowest speed. I didn't on one of the beads and I bent the mandrel that the bead was sitting on and the bead went flying off across the room. Which brings me to another MORE IMPORTANT point - wear protective eye covering since unusual things can and will happen.

OK, enough detour, back to the lesson. Turn on the machine and press it against the drywall paper. It should start to smooth out as you can see in the middle photo.

Sometimes what will happen is that the drill bit will go all the way through the bead and the bead will start spinning on the bit rather than the bit spinning the bead. This is OK, it just makes the process a bit slower. I'm not sure why it happens, on some beads it does and some it doesn't. For whatever reason the red beads that I made do this more than some of the other colours. If I get frustrated I'll move to a larger drill bit and that will last a while. I'm tempted to try to bake the bit into the clay and see what happens with that (though that's how I bent the mandrel). There's some trial and error here. Feel free to try to push down harder on the edges to give a more tapered bead (I'll show that in a different posting) and to flip the bead on the bit. You can also start experimenting with speeds, but go slow!

Eventually (in my photos it was about three - five minutes) you'll get the bead smooth as in the third part of the first photo. Now you're ready to move onto the sanding sponge. This is a sanding sponge that's 180 grit that I bought in the paint department of our hardware store. I dampen the sponge and hold the tool to the sponge. At this point there's quite a bit of spinning of the bead and it doesn't take any pressure at all to make the bead stop spinning while the bit continues. Adding more water seems to help. You'll generate a bit of clay sludge on the sandpaper - that's actually useful because it serves as a finer grinding surface and helps with the polishing. Once you've got it as smooth as you think you can get it (you want the big scratches removed from the first sanding), you're ready to move onto the next step. The sanding sponge if everything goes well takes maybe a couple of minutes tops. But, if you're futzing with the bead because it's so slippery on the bit then it'll take longer.

This next step is where I differed from what I taught at Morrisburg. I've been seeing things on the Internet alluding to the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers being good as clay tools(if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can go see it here) though I haven't seen anything concrete (I haven't been looking too hard). So I thought I'd try this today. Tore a piece off one of the ones that I had, dampened it and tried running the bead on it. Beauty!!! It took away all of the fine scratches with no problems and I was ready to move onto the buffing.

At this point my bead is way too loose on the bit to make it useful for buffing. I switched to one of my other dremel tool attachments. I'm a complete newbie when it comes to the dremel tool. My husband gave me one for Christmas and I've been experimenting with it on and off. So this piece looked like it might work on the bead. But, as you can see after a couple of minutes buffing, the bead broke because one of the slices separated. No big deal unless you're making a matched pair, just remove the slice and put the bead back on. I played around on a variety of surfaces with the buffing. A shop towel paper towel seems to work just as well as anything.

And here's the finished buffed piece. All told, it's probably 10 minutes of polishing, but no scraped fingernails, and no futzing for many minutes before baking the bead trying to get a perfect cylinder.

Hope this helps. If anyone else discovers some modifications to what I've said here that make things even easier, I'd love to hear about them.



Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pinata inks and plastic flakes...

Hi Everyone,

I had an idea pop into my mind the other day which was to wonder what would happen if I added Pinata alcohol inks to those iridescent flakes that you can buy in craft and paper stores. Donna Kato uses the flakes in her tutorial for a faux opal here. So I played with adding a drop of Pinata Inks to about a tablespoon of the flakes and here are the results. I've put them on a thin layer of Liquid Kato and in the photo they're not baked. But, you get the idea. We had a lot of fun looking at the colours at Guild last week.

One of the neat things with the flakes is that the iridescence takes on whatever hue you add to them. So when you add the blue, it looks like the iridescence is to the blue side. But adding red brings the iridescence to the red side.

I'm sure others have come up with the same idea so apologies if anyone thinks I've taken their technique - one of those synchronous things.

I haven't done anything worth showing with them yet (though I do have a few mistakes to post later) - but so far the colours from the inks don't appear to bleed into the liquid clay. I did learn that if I applied the heat gun to them too long the flakes start to melt into the liquid clay and the effect is quite interesting. Once I play a bit more I'll post some photos.

In the mean time, if anyone wants to send me links to their photos with these flakes I'd be more than happy to post them here on my blog.



What a switch - clay tools for hardware tasks...

Hi Everyone,

I thought I'd post about a "reverse inspiration" I had. Our front door was accidentally covered in the wrong kind of paint last year and we've been watching it flake off over the course of the winter. So we've decided to strip it.

Here is a photo of the door after a lot of stripping has been done. The main part was pretty easy and now we're down to the fiddly trim to do as you can see in the photo.

Yesterday as I was working on it and whethering wouldn't it be easier to buy a new door (it is, but apparently we've got a very good quality door so it would be expensive), I was down to using my fingernails to do the tiny details. I was thinking to myself that I need a small version of a paint scraper.

And then the light bulb went off - I have clay tools that work as metal fingernails! Brought up these two tools and was as thrilled as I could be under the circumstances (which are that I still have to strip the door).
Here's the detail on the door after I've gone at it with the tools. I still use my fingernails but the clay thingies are very helpful. And we've still got a long way to go, all told it'll take probably 20 hours to finish the door.

We were going to call the original painter back to do it but since he didn't do a great job to start we decided it wasn't worth it.

While I promise not to post too many home renovation tasks here, I just loved how it's normally I'm in hardware stoors getting inspiration for clay but this time it's using clay tools for inspiration on how to make a hardware task easier.

That's it for now, next up - pinata inks and plastic flakes.