Monday, August 31, 2009

A Bevy of Beautiful Bottles on Behalf of Bianca

Maybe a bit of overkill on the alliteration...

Hi Everyone,

For some reason, Lea White from New Zealand has been following my blog and has posted comments and made reference to my blog. She found me through Sharon but has decided to stay and visit and hopes to get into claying at some point when her life settles down.

I say for some reason because Lea's life was turned upside down in 2007 when her four year old daughter, Bianca, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Since then her life has revolved around getting her daughter well. And it's been successful. Bianca will soon be finishing treatment (yea!).

My mother is planning on making a Bottle of Hope for Bianca and sending it to New Zealand, and instead of sending another bottle to Bianca, I've offered to make some bottles on behalf of Bianca to go to Toronto Sick Kids. Bianca's mother told me that Bianca likes purple and pink and is a girly girl and would like the bottles to have those colours in them. Bianca took a look at my Monsters and she particularly liked the bottle that one of the women at work made last week with all the clay swirls. I made something similar and it's the middle one in the photo.

So here are some girly girl bottles. My friend, Janice, made the flowers (it's safe to say that anything perfect published on my blog is probably a Janice creation), I, of course, made the monsters. Bianca got a preview of the bottles and says they're perfect. Nice to be able to bring a smile to a child's face.

I'm sure there will be several children who will appreciate Bianca's input into their bottles.

If you get a chance, stop by and visit Lea's blogs. She's a beautiful writer. I've been a lurker on her blog off and on for probably the last year.

Since New Zealand is probably number one on my places to visit (now that I've seen Easter Island), I look forward to meeting the Whites some time in the next few years. Just another example of how the blogosphere brings people together in ways that weren't previously possible. I'm always amazed at how small the world is becoming and how nice it is to be able to make friends through this tool.



Another smile...

Hi All,

I finally did some caning a couple of weeks ago - wanted to try caning with a skinner blend. A Happy Face was an easy choice.

Rolled the skinner blend into a plug and then added the eyes and the mouth. Here are the results. The cane changes colour as you cut through it.

Lessons learned is that make the end colours wider than your middle colours, because you lose the ends to the reduction process (at least I do). I had some nice green and yellow on the ends but I lost a lot of that and ended up with more pink cane than I wanted.

I also should have reduced the faces more before making the rectangular cane with them. They're about 3/8 inches tall. Reducing the rectangular cane is more difficult to keep the faces even.

But the cane is suitable for Bottles of Hope. Here's one.



Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Hug for Janice...

Hi Everyone,

Janice fell in love with one of my Monsters - she thought he looked sort of like an abominable snow man. She asked me to make her one, but to make it in white.

Janice is an incredibly generous woman, and freely gives of her friendship, craft supplies, and time. She has been one of my strongest support beams whenever I needed it and ALWAYS took my side, regardless of how ridiculous I'd get. I consider myself proud to have her as a friend.

Unfortunately Janice has been going through a bit of a rough time at the moment.

So when she asked me to make her a Monster I decided to get creative. Back in April, on our way to Morrisburg we stopped at a Dollar Store. They had these cheesy plastic rings that lit up with LED lights. I liked how compact they were and thought I should be able do do something in clay with them. I've wanted to make Janice something special with the lights for months but haven't come up with an idea that I liked.

Then Janice asked for the Monster. I didn't think it was appropriate to give her a Bottle of Hope since they're specific in my mind for cancer patients and Janice doesn't have cancer. And I wanted to incorporate the light.

I punctured a hole in the monster and then covered the front of the hole with a clear glass slide that I added translucent clay and flakes (another use for tinted flakes!). I put the lights in the back through the hole. I left the hole open in the back so that the lights with the batteries can be removed, but camouflaged the hole with some feather boa stuff.

When you push the button on the back the belly now lights up.

So here's a hug for Janice so that all she has to do is press a button and a smile will come to her face. It's just a small payment for all that she's done for me.



Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lumiere Lids...

Hi All,

It's no secret that one thing that prevents me from making lots and lots of Bottles of Hope is having to do lids. They're not fun. One of the neat things about the Monster series is that the lids don't need to be fancy.

For years I've had some Lumiere Paints that I didn't know how to use very well. I've tried them on a few things but was never really happy with them. The other day I decided that some of the lids for the Monsters could be decorated simply with colour. So I made a few by simply dipping the lids into alcohol inks or colouring with pens. I wasn't very happy with that so I decided to try Lumiere Paints for the lids today. I simply pour a puddle of paint, dip the lid and let dry. It works easier if I hold the lid by the part that goes in the bottle with a pair of scissors. Then I can place it on the counter without too much fuss.

It works great! And now my Monsters have colour coordinated lids. I also have a few other bottles that I can use these on.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Monster Madness Part 2

Hi Everyone,

Here are the second set of Monsters that we made at work the other day. Aren't they wonderful?

By this time the ladies were more at ease with the clay and the creativity really started to come out. There was a fair bit of giggling and oohing and aahing. The Monsters are imbued with humour and affection, good traits for those enduring cancer treatments.

We worked on Monsters for about 2.5 hours. It wasn't quite enough time to complete two sets of Monsters. I had to bring them home and give them a final bake and had to add the embellishments. It's the baking time that is the limiting factor. That, and the fatigue of concentrating and learning something new after a full day of work.

It was a lot of fun. I would do it again.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Monster Madness Part 1...

Hi Everyone,

Last night I had the privilege of teaching eight wonderful women at work how to make Monsters. Some of them were interested because they're the crafty type and all were interested because they like the concept of Bottles of Hope, and particularly donating to Toronto Sick Kids.

I started the class with an overview of clay and the supplies that I had brought. I showed them all the embellishments that were available and told them that there were no rules and that all of the Monsters would be loved.

When polled, typically most of the women liked the simple Monster that I had done here. Since all he involved was some twisting of clay, I thought I would start with him. He's pictured in the back row in the middle. Our wonderful interpretations are surrounding him.

Most of the women hadn't touched clay since they were wee ones so this was a new adventure. There was a lot of concentrating and smiling going on as people shaped their clay and added embellishments. Some were happy with their efforts and others less so. But all smiled once they saw their creations out of the oven and with the googly eyes applied, because that's when the personalities of the monsters really start to come out.

Many used Bev's stamps for the words, which you can buy at Shades of Clay (exclusive retailer!)

I'm very impressed with their first efforts and was equally very happy with their second efforts, which will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

One of the women is a card maker and this morning a beautiful handmade card was given to me signed by all the women who participated last night. I'm truly touched. I had a wonderful time and feel lucky to be in a work environment where I get to deal with amazing people on a daily basis. There will be 20 very happy children because of the efforts and generosity of these very special ladies.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts and prayers to the ethers, please....

Hi Everyone,

A while back I wrote about Renee and her family's trials with cancer. For her 25 year old nephew, I made Hector, the Mexican Cancer Killing Bastard, and you can see his photo here.

It turns out that Sheldon, the nephew is making medical history and not in a good way. What they thought was a good type of cancer has now been diagnosed as a type of cancer that's only been documented once before in the world. In a month the tumours have grown from 2.5 cm to 12.5 cm.

Yesterday Sheldon got told that he has maybe two months to live.

His mother is also battling cancer. And, of course, Renee has been terminal for the last three years.

I am surprised by how deeply impacted I am with this. Each month I make Bottles of Hope and our guild has been donating Bottles for years. I have made Bottles for other friends of friends and have only helped make one Bottle for someone that I've actually known. It's not like this is an alien concept to me. But this one has me in tears.

Please feel free to visit Renee's blog and if you've got a moment, send a thought out to the ether to their family. I'm not sure what that thought should be, so I'll leave it to people's wisdom and comfort levels.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Natasha Bottles

Hi Everyone,

While processing scrap clay I thought I'd see whether they would make good Natasha images.
Here are three Bottles of Hope that I've made. Each of the images represents a different side of the bottle.



Monday, August 24, 2009

How to make Monsters

Hi Everyone,

I have to type instructions for my class on Wednesday so I thought I would show how I make my monsters.

1. Start with a plug of clay flattened to about 1/2 inch thick and about 2.5 inches tall with about 2 inches wide (these are guidelines, you can make it any size you want). You want enough to be able to see a head above the bottle, but you can stretch it while you're working on it so just about any size will do.

You can use scrap clay as is, or you can cover the clay with a thin veneer of colour or mokume gane or whatever you want.

Shape the head to whatever you would like. You can have horns, a cone head, a squat head like in the examples here, or tentacles.

2. Cut the shapes of the arms. This is an L-shape cut. I've found it easiest to start with a razor blade and simply press the blade into the clay about 1/4 inch in from each side, and then cutting again near where the feet are. See the photo since a picture is much easier to understand. I like using a tile to help push the blade into the clay. Turn the piece over and finish cutting if required, but usually a gentle pull will do.

3. Cut out the leg piece. I use part of a cookie cutter to do this. Try to centre it.

4. Shape the arms and body to give it a slightly rounded look. If you're working with something with a veneer, you can pinch the clay in to hide the scrap clay beneath.

5. Now you're ready for texturing if you want. A needle tool or toothpicks work well for fur. You can also use Philips screwdriver heads, Allen wrenches, or anything else that you like. Texture the front.

Before you turn the monster over for more texturing, take some time to press the bottle firmly into the monster's front. Important note, which I didn't figure out until too late, if you're going to put stuff in the bottle, make sure you give enough room between the head and the top of the bottle to be able to add the lid.

Once that's done, turn the monster over and texture the back, the sides, and under the arms. Gently run your fingers over the monster to remove the little scruffy bits that occur with toothpick or needle tool texturing.

6. If you want, you can apply PearlEx or whatever powders you like to work with. A little goes a long way. You can make them monochrome or multicoloured. If you apply the PearlEx before the texturing it can sometimes give a richer colour and better coverage.

7. Once texturing and powdering is complete, add the bottle back in and shape the arms to the bottle. You may need to re-texture parts of the arms depending on how easily the arms shape. Go gently to avoid tears.

8. Add something for the face. Several ideas have been posted. You may simply decide to add a big googly eye instead of a face and that's OK, too.

9. Add other bakeable embellishments if desired. Here's where you would add clay horns.

10. Bake according to your clay instructions for appropriate time. I bake mine standing up so that I know that they're balanced.

You may need to reposition the arms or fix some cracks after baking. These are common. Sometimes an additional embellishment is all that is needed (see the flower on the one monster).

11. Once the monster has cooled, apply a thin coat of finish to seal in the powder if you've used it.

12. After the finish has dried, you may need to glue the bottle back in place. Add googly eyes and other non-bakeable embellishments. Fill bottles with beads, flakes, and other things. Top with lids.

Tah Dah!

Enjoy. And if anyone wants to post or send me photos of their creations I'd be happy to post them here or refer to your blogs.

I will post photos after class on Wednesday night. There are going to be 10 of us so it should be fun.

And thanks to Diane Koss of Cutesey But Not Cutesey for the inspiration. Her creations and our interpretation will be making many kids at Toronto Sick Kids happy.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Mishmash of Monsters

Hi Everyone,

Several wonderful women at work will be joining me this coming week to make Bottles of Hope for Toronto Sick Kids. None of them have clayed before so I wanted a project that was easy and had no right or wrong. Here are some monsters that I'll use as a demo for class. Googly eyes are great.

It's amazing how scrap clay can be transformed using some Pearlex.

I'll post photos at the end of the week once we're done making the Monsters.

Who knows, maybe there will be more clayers in the world after this class. And if not, then there certainly will be more Bottles of Hope.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My...

OK, so maybe not lions and tigers, but we sure had bears this last weekend.

My husband and I love canoeing. It's how we met and we continue to canoe more than 20 years later. We consider ourselves seasoned canoeists. We've been trying to remember if we've ever seen a bear canoeing and maybe possibly we've seen one. This weekend we saw four of them.

We have a jinx when it comes to canoeing the French River. We gave up on it a few years ago after a series of mishaps but decided to try it again this last weekend.

The jinx persists.

Our second night we were almost asleep in our less than ideal island campsite when I heard what sounded like baby bears complaining. We look out of our tent, and sure enough, in the not too far away water, there are two bear cubs swimming. Their whining stopped shortly after they turned the corner to our island. To us, that meant that they were on our island. They were, along with Momma Bear. Long story short, we decided to leave the campsite to the bears.

A day later at one of the portages we saw this bear. He wasn't afraid of us at all, which makes us afraid of him. It's not the greatest photo (the bear is the brown lump next to the tree trunk), but it's proof that we saw him.

Turns out it's a poor berry crop this year and the bears are becoming less fearful as they forage.

I'm pretty sure we've caused another couple to divorce. On our way out of the park we met up with other canoeists coming into the park. We told them about the bear at the portage since they were going that way. The last thing we overheard was the wife saying to the husband "You forgot to tell me until this morning that there are rattlesnakes in the park and now I'm hearing about bears????".

If you'd like to read more about our weekend adventure (which includes photos of the French River and why we keep trying to go back), check out my husband's blog at



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Two years ago this week...

I started my blog.

This photo is from one of my earliest entries and is a miniature (about five inches tall) cake that I had done for my mother.

I'm not sure what I've accomplished, in the two years. I do know that I've had over 25,000 visits (at least 1000 are probably mine) and have had visitors from all over the world.

I've made new friends worldwide through this blog and I feel connected to others through this hobby. I always enjoy adding another clay blogger to the links on the left. There's so much incredible talent out there and the generosity of clayers is wonderful.

Unlike my other hobbies which seem to have about a five year attention span, I don't really seem to be slowing down on clay. I do wish I had more creatively patient time and I do want to get back into caning since that is my first love in clay.

So here's to another few years of claying and blogging.

Thanks to everyone out there. All of you (OK, maybe not the performance medication spammers) help make my blogging a pleasure. It's an honour.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

22 years ago today...

I met my husband.

We were living in Ottawa and had both been members of the Ottawa Hostelling Association which is a group that does outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and canoeing. We had never been on the same trips together though and didn't know each other.

On a Tuesday, 22 years ago we particpated in a planning meeting for the upcoming trip to Lac Vert in Quebec.

Joe and another guy decided to canoe to the trip destination on a Saturday and my father, who had been visiting, and I also went on the Saturday. The rest of the group canoed in on Friday night.

When we got to the site where everyone was, there wasn't enough room for the four of us. So the four of us camped below the cliffs on a small spit of sand.

My husband-to-be and I spent most of the night talking in front of our campfire, watching the full moon, and listening to the loons calling. Magic.

I went home after that weekend and wrote in my journal about how I had met someone special. I didn't realize that he was so special that he was to become my husband almost seven years later.

We're still canoeing and we're still together. I am very fortunate.

These photos are from some of our assorted canoe trips. The one with the people in it is a later trip done with the Ottawa Hostel.



A glimpse of my lingerie...

Hi Everyone,

A while back I bought some underthings from La Senza. One of the bras makes a very good t-shirt bra except that it had a good size bow on the front, which is not at all attractive under a t-shirt (it looked like I was carrying a tarantula in my shirt).

So off the bow came and what a perfect addition to my BOHs.

Inspiration comes from everywhere.



Monday, August 3, 2009


Hi Everyone,

I took Hector and one of the monster bottles to work the other day and one of the women decided that she'd like to help out making Bottles of Hope. She took the two bottles around and got several other women interested. So I'll be doing a BOH tutorial for a group of women at work who have various levels of interest and skills.

Since I've discovered that the monster bottles are a great way of using scrap clay I took on the challenge of cleaning out my scrap clay bin. When I was cleaning up my clay room the other day I discovered a bin of clay that I had forgotten all about. It was a mishmash of attempts to segregate colours and other just genuine scrap.

It took hours.

It's a bit embarrassing.

Here's the final result. I have more than enough clay to make monsters with so I'll try to make some demos for the women at work so that they can be inspired.

I really wish I were the type to segregate my scrap right away into pretty colours. But caning doesn't lend itself to that very well. I think there are two types of clayers, those that generate scrap, and those that don't. I don't know if there's any correlation to those that keep clean work surfaces or not but I don't know many clayers that keep clean work surfaces so I suspect not.

I've probably got about 40 Premo size blocks in the photo.



Sunday, August 2, 2009

A graffiti BOH...

Hi Everyone,

Cindy Lietz has been publishing some very nice photos of what she's calling "graffiti beads". It reminded me to dig up a worry stone that I had created years ago that may be using the same technique. And then I thought how nice the technique would be for Bottles of Hope. I'm pretty happy with this one, but I did muck it up at the last minute. I had coated it with Future and stuck it in the oven to cure since I find an oven cure really makes it shine.

That part was OK, but I made the mistake of pulling it out of the oven with some polyfill that I sometimes use as a pot holder. Future is sort of sticky when it's in the oven and the polyfill stuck all over it. I keep forgetting that.

Now I have to do some sanding or tweezer pulling (I haven't decided which one yet) and will coat again.

I won't go into details of the technique, I suspect that if you're at all familiar with some of the clay ways it's an easy thing to figure out. But knowing Cindy's work, I'm sure she's got some twist on it that makes her membership into the videos worthwhile, particularly for beginners.

I will share one of my favourite stamp sets. I bought it at Michaels using the 40% coupons that used to come in the newspapers but which I now download every time I need one by using the website which is good for Canadian stores. I don't know if there's an equivalent for the US.

I love this set - I've had it for years and use it in a lot of my projects. It's in the Imagine piece that I presented a few posts ago. The magnetized backs of the stamps make them easy to keep in place and I have yet to lose one.

That's it for today.



Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Bottle for Jacquie...

Hi Everyone,

In my last posting I wrote about Sheldon, a nephew of Renee. This morning I spent some time making a bottle for Renee's sister, Jacquie.

I've used the Ponsawan style for the bottle as I figure Jacquie will have many times in the near future where she won't have an attention span long enough for anything in particular. This bottle with give her a few seconds of diversion here and there.

Jacquie's favourite colours are olive greens, browns, and earth tones. The clay came out a bit more gold than I would have liked, so I tried to add greens in accents and in the beads that are in the bottles.

There are some tiger eye gemstone beads and jasper gemstone beads in the bottle. Tiger Eye is said to protect against the Evil Eye and to bring clear and calming insight to the user. Jasper is said to be a strong protection gemstone, to help prevail against hazards in the night, and to help balance the energies in the body. I added these stones only because they looked nice and I've had to look up the properties after the BOH was created, but I did think that since Jacquie liked earth tones that something of the earth should be included.

It's a little rustic in feel, but sometimes imperfections are part of the charm.

As usual, the Sarah McM CD was playing in the background so Renee's spirit is infused in the bottle.

And I've added some of the tinted flakes that I've posted about earlier.

I'll get the bottles in the mail today and use expedited post so that Renee's family can receive them as soon as possible.