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.