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 http://sopcg.blogspot.com/.)

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 http://sopcg.blogspot.com/. We got the idea from the new Montreal Guild website at http://clayguildmtl.canalblog.com/.

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 - http://shadesofclay.com/.



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 http://hundredpushups.com/ 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 http://www.theartofmyclay.blogspot.com/.

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 imagekind.com.

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 http://www.geocaching.com/ 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. Geocaching.com 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.