Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hi All,

This is an ornament I made for my sister. I haven't figured out how to hang him yet so for now he simply will stand on the mantle. I'll make more of him. He stands about 2.5 inches tall. The legs and neck are toothpicks coated with mica powder and Future. The body and head is scrap clay of three different colours that's been rolled up so that when I did the cutting of the face it looked like tree rings.

He's cute and seemed appropriate to post for today.

Season's greetings to all!


Friday, December 24, 2010

My Clayamies ornaments...

Hi All,

Every year I participate in the Clayamies Christmas ornament exchange. You can see other ornaments here (do check it out, they're beautiful!). This year's ornament was inspired by some work that Vio was doing with cutout circles.

For the textures I used, of course, my favourites, Bev's Impress It sheets which you can buy at Shades of Clay. I've had the fans texture sheet for a while but haven't used it too much. Turns out it's perfect for Christmas trees. The fans texture sheet was a doodle done by one of our guild member's friends. She brought in the doodle to guild and a texture was born.

I started with the green layer first, it's scrap clay with lots of mica powder on it. I baked that. Then I poured some green alcohol ink into some Future and painted the tree and let dry.

Used the same cutter and cut out the second layer. Placed it behind the first layer and used the first layer as a guide for the next smaller circles. Third layer was done the same way as well as the fourth, which I textured on the other side with my Christmas stamp. Textured the sides to make all the layers blend together with liberal dollops of mica powder. Then baked and added small rhinestones in the centres of the holes.

I was happy with them.

Season's Greetings to all.


More snowmen

Hi All,

Here are a couple more snowmen. These are for my sister and my nephew. My sister thought it might be fun to see one with two different size eyes, so that's for her.

My nephew is only four months old so I doubt that he'll appreciate it this year and even next year. I debated on whether I was going to make him ornaments since he's a boy and I can't see a teenager or young male adult appreciating the ornaments. But then I realized that he'll be a boy for the next ten years or so and Christmas will be exciting to him and maybe he'll enjoy hanging his very own ornaments on the tree. So I'll make him ornaments until he's no longer interested.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sometimes I Impress myself...

Hi Everyone,

I'm in ornament making mode these days - I have a number of them to make for family members. This one is for my youngest niece. She's just over two years old and has a thing for the Cookie Monster.

Here's the result of my trying to incorporate the Cookie Monster.

I think it's cute. I'm happy with it.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Warning, not for sensitive eyes...or why an oven thermometer is critical

Hi Everyone,

Last year Mom bought a new oven for claying. She had also been buying oven thermometers but kept misplacing them. She decided to trust the oven setting since it was a good and expensive oven. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake.

I call him Gangrene Santa, which is a bit gruesome, but so is he.

Interestingly enough the white didn't burn hardly at all. The translucent did, of course, but so did a fair bit of the red. I love the detail of the toe sticking out of the sock and of him smoking a pipe.

She gave me this one as a joke and made a Mrs. and Mr. Claus as a replacement once she bought a new thermometer and now no longer burns things. I will post pictures of those later.

Oven thermometers are critical. I've found the dollar store ones to be just as good as the more expensive ones.



Friday, December 3, 2010

Snowmen for my nieces...

Hi All,

Here are a couple of snowmen that I made this year for my nieces. The blue one is for my oldest niece - it has an iridescent tattoo on its belly if you look closely. My niece has a bit of a penchant for tattoos and piercings.

The poinsettia one is for her sister. It's a bit more sedate, but still fun.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poinsettia Princess

Hi Everyone,

Janice taught how to make angels at Guild today. She did an amazing job and there were many beautiful angels that were created today. You'll be able to see the pictures here when they get posted.

I couldn't get my wings to work so instead I decided to change her into a princess. I confess to having no patience with the hair at all so Karen stepped in and did the hair for me. Hair was one of Karen's favourite things so it worked out well.

I'm super thrilled with her and I think the poinsettia cane is a wonderful accent.



Poinsettia Bottles of Hope

Hi Everyone,

I've reduced the cane and decided to make some Bottles of Hope with it.

I have three cane sizes - the largest is about 1 inch tall, then 1/2 inch, then 1/4 inch. The cane reduced quite nicely and overall I'm happy with it.

There are four things that I would do differently.

1. I'd make the petals a bit more pointy.
2. I think I would increase the contrast in the veins so that when the cane was reduced you would see more of the veins.
3. I'd do more contrast in the skinner blend that I used for the leaves - when they get to be 1/4 inch size they really start to blend together too much.
4. I wouldn't end up with as much 1/4 inch cane. It's so easy to get caught up in reducing.

But overall the cane is quite pretty and I'll certainly use it up. Janice is teaching us how to make angels today at Guild and I think my angel will benefit from a poinsettia border on her robe.

And, of course, since my mother loves poinsettias I'm going to have to come up with a pattern and ornament for her.

The lids were made of dollar store poinsettias. They worked perfectly in this case.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poinsettia Cane Part 2 - packing

Hi Everyone,

Here is Part 2 of the Poinsettia cane. I thought I'd take some time to write about how I like to pack canes. I like to start with a solid background and then cut out the pieces that I don't need. I don't know whether it's easier or whether it saves time, but I find the look cleaner than using plugs, triangles, and rectangles. It also allows you to do nice backgrounds such as with skinner blends.

First I conditioned A LOT of white clay - almost 3/4 of a large block. I'm not worried about this because I can use the clay in other things. However, if you're going to use this approach with a custom colour, make sure that you have enough. I generally condition enough that the background block is the size of the unreduced cane before I start cutting out the pattern.

You need enough clay to have the background extend at least 1/4 inch from the edge of the pattern cane (in this case the poinsettia). The reason for this is that as you're cutting you don't want to distort the background too much - when you get too close to the border the background tends to start flopping over on itself.

Place your pattern cane on top of your background plug and trace around the pattern cane on the plug with a stylus or needle tool. You can see that I've dabbed some gold powder on the petals of the poinsettia cane - this was because in my first attempt I put the poinsettia cane down and then after having cut out the pattern I couldn't remember which petals went where. Once I dabbed the powder on it was a lot easier to figure out.

The next step is to start cutting away the inside of the background. This is where the pattern cane will go. Don't try to do the cut in one shot. Work in sections and approach the edge gradually. I have a selection of cookie cutters that I use for doing this. I bought a big box of Christmas cookie cutters a few years ago after Christmas for only a few dollars. They've got a lot of different shapes that you can use to cut, including gentle arcs, sharp and dull triangles, rounded edges. The trick is to look at the cutters and see which shape fits the section that you're trying to cut out. In this case the tip of the Christmas tree worked well for the petals and for the first cutting out of the inside.

You can see in the fourth image how I've cut away from the background and have the general shape of the pattern cane. From here you can start to put the two together. You may want to cut the background shape into two or three smaller pieces if you need to and that's what I did (you can see the line in the next picture).

I'll take my time here in putting the cane together. In some cases I may have cut too much and will need to add a bit more back in. In other cases I may simply need to reshape either the pattern cane or the back cane.

This next picture shows how I finish packing the cane and shows how I divided the background into a couple of smaller pieces to make it easier to work. I had a couple of spots between the right and left halves of the background that I had to fill in. These I did with some plugs. I also had a spot where I had cut too far into the background and I filled that with a plug as well.

The finished un-reduced cane is the top photo. You can see how nice the background looks.

In terms of shape of the background - I decided with this one to make it a square because I plan on reducing this to a pretty small size, maybe 1/4 - 1/2 inch and it'll be a nice border on maybe an elf or angel. The square allows me a bit more flexibility than the circles.

I've got to be disciplined enough to let it set for at least a few hours. The poinsettia portion has been sitting for 2 days and I want to give the white clay a chance to set to the same consistency - otherwise the white will move and the poinsettia won't.

I might also just stick it outside for a bit so it can cool down.

Hope this helps describe how I pack canes. I'm looking forward to the reduction and seeing what it looks like.



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Poinsettia Cane Part 1

Hi Everyone,

Now that I've conquered my addiction to Frontierville I've gotten back to claying. Here's Part 1 of a 2 part series on how to make a Poinsettia cane my way. I made a cane similar to this a couple of years ago which you can see here. I ran out of that cane and decided to recreate it.

To make the cane you need a green leaf cane, a red leaf cane, a green and yellow jelly roll cane and a colour for packing. Below you can see the canes that I'm using. Since I use the big blocks of Kato I have no idea how much clay I used for each of them, but the plugs are somewhere between an inch and two inches tall and about the same width. It doesn't really matter, you want enough clay to reduce to about 10 sections of red that are about 2 inches long and some green clay that you'll also reduce to 2 inch long segments. You need more red than green.

I did a quick sketch on what I thought a poinsettia flower would look like and I used that as a starting point for some of the ideas on how many petals I wanted. The great thing about this cane is that there's no perfection involved - the leaves can be as irregular as you want.

I reduced the jelly roll cane to thin segments and then combined them together. Very similar to a lace cane in technique. This will be such a small portion of the cane that you don't have to worry about it.

Then I started arranging the red petals around the jelly roll portion. There's an element of randomness in my technique but if symmetry is what works for you, then by all means do that. I varied the cane sizes to small and larger since that's what happens with poinsettias. I didn't worry about realism too much.

It sometimes helps to step back and see what the cane looks like from a distance when you're arranging the cane portions.

I find I like to have my canes start at about 2 inches tall. They're easier to build when they're only that tall since the cane bits don't tend to flop over or misalign too much.

Here's what the cane looks like so far. It's about 2 inches tall and maybe 2 inches wide. The next step is to pack it. I'm going to use simple white clay for this - if I were to go with a pearl clay I'd get mica shift with the packing and I don't want that. While others do a great job with translucent clay and packing I'm not so great at it. The Kato translucent that I've got is quite a bit stiffer than the red and the green so that was another reason I don't plan to use it.

Total time invested in this cane so far is about 2 hours.

Next lesson is how I pack the cane.



Monday, November 22, 2010

A pair of earrings...

Hi All,

Months ago I promised Fiona I would make her a pair of earrings. I made these but was never really happy with them and decided that they weren't good enough to send to Fiona. They've been sitting on my work bench and I've been wondering what to do with them. I kept hoping for additional inspiration but it never came. They just never looked quite right, something was missing, or there was too much... I'm not sure.

Tiffany was over the other day and watched as I tried to clean up my room. I handed these to her and asked "what do you think?". She loved them - so they're hers now.

Anyhow, I'm back into claying a bit more so I should have more postings in the near future.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Thing's ornaments

Hi All,

A few weeks ago I was matched with a 10 year old girl through a volunteer organization. Due to privacy issues I'm not allowed to use her name or provide any details other than very generic information. She definitely has a sweet tooth so I've nicknamed her Sweet Thing. She's bubbly, enthusiastic, and giggly. I'm looking forward to having her be a part of my life for the next while, however long that may be.

Yesterday she came over to play with clay. I had some suggestions on what we could do and these were her first attempts at clay. She started with the snowflake and quickly got the hang of the pasta maker and running clay with texture sheets through it. The one big challenge is keeping her super long hair away from everything. It almost ended up in the pasta machine, in the clay, in the ink...

The star is for her father and the snowflake is for her mother. Pretty amazing for a first attempt in clay, eh?



Friday, October 29, 2010

Margi's pumpkin

Hi Everyone,

You've read about my friend Janice several times, but you've likely only read about my friend Margi a couple of times. She's one of the coordinators for our annual Morrisburg get together and is incredibly talented. And, like Janice, it's a good thing she's so nice and generous because it would be very easy to hate her for her skill otherwise.

Lately she's been focusing on knitting cute little sweaters for her brand new grandson but she does take time off to do other things. Here is a picture of her Halloween pumpkin. I'm not at all sure where she got the idea and with Margi it's always tough to know, but this goes down as one of my favourite pumpkins ever. Margi's given me permission to post this on my blog and I do it gladly with a smile.

You can see some of Margi's clay related work here. And for those in Ontario, you can see her at one of my favourite artisan shows, the One of a Kind Show in November. To see more of Margi's versatility, check out her website here.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

A class with Dan Cormier - week 31 of canes

Hi All,

Last weekend I took Dan Cormier's "Relief beyond Belief" class. He teaches how to do die forming for clay and I think it's a technique that I'll use in the future.

The above photo was an eye opener for me. I've had this skinner blend plug that I'm not happy with and didn't know what to do with. I brought it along as scrap clay and was thrilled with how it looked in the die forms. Many people asked me how I made the pattern and truth be told, I'm not quite sure. I think it's just a Skinner Blend that I turned into a plug but I'll have to double check. I'm counting this as a caning entry since the plug in itself became a cane that's really quite pretty.

I found Dan's class a bit challenging. He's very much a precision and perfection person, even in the tutorials and he'll spend 20 minutes making a Skinner blend just so. He says he's not capable of talking and working at the same time so we spent a fair bit of time watching him work. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but for a dabbler and player like me I would get impatient and just want to get to the clay, particularly since he's not imparting words of wisdom while he's working. Having said that, it was good for me to watch someone do perfect work since mine is so clearly not. Also he taught us things that I never would have figured out in a million years so the class was definitely worth it.

Dan's got several sets of templates that are available for purchase. Initially I thought the price was a bit high for the templates, however, when you add in the labour and precision of the templates it's actually quite reasonable. Particularly for a non-precision person like me.

I did learn a lot and am looking forward to putting some of the lessons in practice. I'm trying to figure out how to use his tools as part of the Clayamies annual Christmas ornament exchange.



Our favourite breakfast

Hi All,

Today has been a cooking day. My father and his lady love are visiting and we've been feeding them well. It started this morning with one of my favourite easy breakfasts. It's called a German Pancake in the original recipe book that I don't even know that I've got anymore. It's fairly impressive. If you'd like to make it a bit healthier, use whole wheat flour, but it won't puff up as much.

The above photo used 8 eggs.

Preheat oven to 350F. While oven is heating, add 3-6 tsp of butter into a baking pan and melt butter so that it's bubbly in the pan. Keep pan in heat until ready to pour batter but be careful not to burn the butter.

Recipe per person:

2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
sugar to taste
chopped fruit to taste (frozen is fine and doesn't need to thaw)
vanilla to taste

Whisk eggs, milk, and flour together. Add chopped fruit and stir. Pour into hot bubbly pan, ensuring fruit is somewhat evenly distributed. Bake 20-30 minutes or until edges are puffy and golden. The batter should be thin, almost like crepe batter.

Serve drizzled with maple syrup, fruit sauce, or powdered sugar. It will start to fall as soon as it's removed from the oven so make sure everyone is seated for the "oooh, aaaahhh" effect.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A couple more tins...

Hi All,

At Guild a few weeks ago Barbara taught us what to do with the ends of skinner blends. If you slice them into thin slices and then layer them onto clay in random patterns you can get some interesting effects. My two oldest nieces are in university and I thought the technique would lend itself to covering tins, so here they are.

The same skinner blend was used on two different backgrounds. I added some of my smiley face canes and I'm happy with the final effect. I've got ideas for how to incorporate this into all sorts of projects.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A tin for a friend

Hi Everyone,

I know I haven't been blogging much - blame it on a number of things including my husband having usurped the computer to start his own business. But now I have a shiny new laptop and it should get easier if I can stop my addiction to Frontierville (another contributing factor).

A couple of weeks ago I had a reunion with one of my favourite professors from university. It's been almost 25 years since we last saw each other which is making me feel a bit old considering that we've now got employees at work with university degrees that are younger than that. She's somewhat artistic so I thought I would give her a tin that I covered with some of the canes that I've been making.

I'm really happy with this tin and Sue enjoyed it. We had a great time seeing each other again. I love it that some friendships endure the test of time and this friendship appears to be no exception.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

A photo reducing tool

Hi All,

I haven't been claying the last while for various reasons so I'm very delinquent on my blog postings.

I thought I would quickly mention one of my new favourite software programs. It's called Fast Image Resizer and it's free. It's a very fast way to resize your photographs, which is always a bit of a pain. You call it up, it opens a window, you tell it how big you want your photos, then drag your photos to the window, and presto, new resized images. It's even smart enough to create a new folder that says smaller images, so you don't have to worry about losing your old stuff. It's very easy to install and hard to go wrong.

You can read about it here, with a link for the download:

We have a guild meeting today so perhaps that will give me some oomph to help clean things up in my hobby room and get the creative spirit alive again.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I wasn't organized enough before I left to do blog entries in my absence. I've just gotten back from a 12 day trip to Santiago, Chile, and Easter Island.

My birthday/Mother's Day/Christmas present to my mother this year was to take her to Easter Island. Some of you may remember that my husband and I went last year and you can read (in great detail) about our Easter Island travels on my husband's following blog entries:

Day 1 and 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

As part of last year's travels we also went to Tahiti and Moorea. That travel description can be found here,
here, and here.

We had invited Mom last year but she wasn't able to go and asked that I take her this year.

Since Easter Island has a special type of magic for me, I willingly agreed. Here are just a few of the images from Easter Island that I liked. Mom took over 600 photos while she was there. Her favourite spot was the coast line and she spent hours and hours trying to get just the right shot of the surf.

Mom had a fantastic time and did great for someone who will be turning 70 later this year. We hadn't really done any extended travelling together and I'm happy to say that we did well and I'd have her as a travel companion again.

For me, the second time around wasn't as magical as the first time and the moai didn't have the same draw that they did previously. However, it was still really wonderful and perfect, but in a different way. I felt like I had come back to a home away from home. This time was more about the people. The islanders are beautiful and I felt comfortable everywhere I went. I think being able to speak Spanish helps a bit. I'll remember the smiles and the conversations with the restaurant staff, souvenir shop people, and, of course, the people at the inn where we stayed.

Last year I had made some friends, Amanda, Ann, and Elisabeth who are still friends with promises that if we're ever in each others neighbourhoods we'll visit. This year I also made some new friends, Tess and Andrew, and Natalie and Yoyo. These people also feel like they'll be in my life for a while to come yet. I have promises to other people on the island that if I'm ever back that I'm to visit, even just to say hi. While I doubt that I'll be back at Easter Island, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

On a side note, this time we passed through Santiago, Chile. I was captivated by the Andes and would liked to have spent more time getting to know them. As part of our trip we spent a morning at El Pueblito de los Dominicos in Santiago, a must see village for anyone who enjoys artisan work. For whatever reason it's not very well written up in the tour books and it was only at the insistence of one of my coworkers who is from Santiago that we went. I spent a fair bit of money there, the craftsmanship is superb. I bought several pairs of earrings, one of which I'd like to try in clay.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

What makes a basic clay kit?

Hi Everyone,

Recently I've been asked what makes a good basic clay kit for beginners. Here are my thoughts.

Absolute Essentials that you might have to pay for:
  1. Clay, of course, and, horror of horrors, I'm actually admitting that Premo might be a good start. It's soft enough and there's such a wide variety of colours that it won't turn off beginners. But don't try canes as a beginner with Premo. I'd buy about $25 worth. If you're at all intrigued by canes then go ahead and buy either Fimo or Kato.
  2. A pasta machine. Many books say you don't need one, don't believe them. However, I'll go against the grain here and say you don't need a good one. Use the 40% off coupon and buy one at Michaels. You can upgrade later and use this as your portable one. With the %40 off coupon you're in for about $20 I believe. I have bought them from kitchen stores as well but the brand that's cheap isn't very durable if you're forcing a lot of clay through.
  3. A work surface. I like the feel and weight of a ceramic tile, but I've also used dollar store plastic placemats. You can buy the tiles at any home renovation store for about $2, sometimes less if you're willing to accept chipped ones.
  4. Blades - absolutely important, razor blades and knives really don't work well. Again, use the 40% off coupon at Michaels to buy them and get the variety pack. I mostly use the firm blade. $5-$10 will get you all the blades that you need.
  5. An oven thermometer. This used to be optional for me, but I quickly tired of burning translucent clay, so spend the couple of dollars and get one. My current baking oven runs about 25 degrees warmer than the dial says it does and this is a critical temperature difference. Cost - about $2 - 10. I have the step above the dollar store one.
Total beginning cost - approximately $50 USD or CDN.

Essentials that you can scavenge from home:
  1. An oven. You can use your household oven and bake in aluminum foil tins, or roasting bags. I don't sweat the odd piece that I cook in the oven due to size, but many are more cautious and if I were to do any large production I would be as well. For a few dollars more you can buy a toaster oven and I had a small one that I bought on sale for years that did me just fine. Another $20 if you buy your own.
  2. A roller. A wine bottle will do for a while, particularly if you've got a clear one. We have salad dressings that come in smaller diameter bottles that also can work. I do have to say that it's worth the money to go ahead and buy an acrylic rod. I use mine all the time. With a 40% off coupon they cost less than $10.
  3. Storage containers. You'll very quickly start accumulating so you'll need something to store your clay and other things in. Shoe boxes work for a while and so do tupperware type containers.
  4. A computer with access to the Internet. While you can buy books and DVDs, there is so much information on the Internet that it's not necessary. A really good starting place for ideas is Polymer Clay Central.
Additional cost for essentials: $30-50 USD or CDN. So, really, for about $100 you can get a good start on clay.

If I had to choose my top three items that I wouldn't be without beyond the essentials they would be:
  1. Pearlex - great for covering or changing the colour of scrap clay
  2. Liquid clay
  3. Texture sheets or stamps
Interestingly enough, my mother's top 3 items would be:
  1. Needle tool
  2. Extruder
  3. Texture sheets
I'd be curious to hear other people's opinions on their top 3 non-essentials. Even within our clay group we're fairly evenly split on some of these items. Some believe that needle tools are essential, whereas I might use mine once in every 10 clay sessions. And yet others could care less about Pearlex.

If you've got opinions, feel free to share.



Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 29 of canes - my new sunglasses case

Hi Everyone,

A couple of years ago my husband and I were each able to purchase a pair of Maui Jim prescription sunglasses. They were very pricey but at the time we had decent benefits where my husband had worked. Every time I put them on I still do a sigh of "aaahhhh". The vision is crisp and the colour of the lenses is just perfect for me. I'm hoping that my vision doesn't change too much so that I'll be able to enjoy them for a longer time yet.

Anyhow, they come with a fairly sturdy glass case made out of metal and covered in a vinyl type coating. The vinyl coating on my husband's glass case started to peel off and our eye glass store kindly provided us with another one. But when I looked at my husband's case, I realized that I could cover it with clay (of course, because what else does one do?).

The colours of my skirt cane weren't really lending them to the large bottle that I wanted to cover so I thought I would use them on the sunglass case. The canes and colours seemed suited to it since I associate the turquoises with sun destinations and sunglasses go with sun.

Anyhow, here's my new sunglass case. I like it and husband is impressed.

I baked it in stages. The inside both sides went in first and I did a full bake (not really intentionally). Then I did the top and baked enough to cure. Then the bottom and everything got a full bake.

If I were really keen I'd finish the inside edges, but I'm afraid of making it too thick and not having it close properly. The inside pieces started to pull away during one of the bakings but stabilized and haven't pulled any further.

I dusted the outside with cornstarch to make it feel nice so I wouldn't have to do any sanding. It's given it a softer look than the inside. I may do some buffing or I may just let it be but I think I might have been overly generous with the cornstarch and it's a bit hazy.

The sunglasses come with a little lens cleaner pouch that you put the glasses into prior to putting in the case. In my other case I didn't worry about it since it's felted on the inside. In this one I'll make sure I use the pouch since I don't want the lenses rubbing against the hard clay. I probably could have felted the inside but I've never done that before.

It is heavy, so for now it'll stay in my car rather than be carried in my purse. That will be an interesting weathering experience to see how the clay handles lows of -40C to highs of +40C.

It's pretty and I'm giving myself bragging rights on this one.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

47 Bottles of Hope Today

Hello Everyone,

I spent a perfect day surrounded by my claying friends Barb, Barbara, and Janice. We focused on Bottles of Hope and while there was some laughter and talking, there were also moments of perfect quietness with each of us lost in our thoughts.

We were very productive over the course of the 5 hours that we spent together and we made almost 50 Bottles (Janice is making three more so that we can call it an even 50).

Here are photos of the results. I ended up only making one monster and for most of the time I played with greens. The bottles that I made start with the pink monster and continue to the end. I will be re-posting those photos later as I promised that I would name them on behalf of entrants to the OWOH giveaway.

I'm pleased that the day was spent making small tokens that will offer a smile to those that are going through the difficulties of cancer.


Today is a gentle day...

Hi Everyone,

This is a bit of a serious entry, feel free to stop reading at any time.

I'm taking the day off work today to honour the baby that I lost at 10 weeks, 9 years after finally managing to get pregnant and without hope of ever getting pregnant again. My son (I always felt that it was a boy) would be turning two today. I imagine what it would be like, would we have a plastic pool that he would be splashing around in in this heat wave? Would family have travelled to celebrate my miracle of life? Would I be taking photographs of him mangling the cake that I would have made for him (carrying on my mother's tradition)? Would we be surrounded by laughter and child giggles (the best kind!)?

I no longer often dwell on these thoughts, they come in passing, unbidden, sometimes unwelcome, but more often causing a wistful smile on my face. My path in life is different than many others but I've come to learn and accept (perhaps the hardest part) that any path in life is walked with occasional backwards glances and wondering what might have been.

Once again I'm choosing to spend the day with a few select friends who will gather around me (both physically and from afar in thoughts), offer quiet strength and love, and we will spend the day making Bottles of Hope. The memory and love of my son will be infused in the bottles and perhaps offer a moment of brightness or peace to the recipients of these bottles. You can see last year's results here.

I think today will be monsters. I haven't made them in a while and they're fun and make me smile.

I am touched by how many people offered me the perfect words during the hardest of my mourning and it is important to me that I give back to the ether some of the strength that was passed on to me when I needed it most.

Thank you to all of you from the bottom of my heart.

I will post photos later on today of the results of the day. In the mean time, if there are clayers among you who have a few minutes today and would like to make a Bottle of Hope (or other tributes) for someone, I would be honoured and would be happy to post photos or links to your tributes.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Dora's anemone cane - week 28 of canes

Hi Everyone,

I love reading Cara's Surfingcat clay blog and I've mentioned her work before. She's a woman after my own heart with her use of Kato clay and experimenting with canes. The other day she posted about Dora's anemone canes and I knew I had to try them. I still had some leftover clay from the skirt cane that I made so the bonus was that I didn't have to try to figure out colours or even condition clay.

Dora gives excellent instructions and I really was only limited by how lazy I was going to be in reducing a triangular shape. I didn't end up with as many reductions as she did but when I reduce this to as small as I wanted it worked out perfectly.

I'm very happy with this cane and it made a much better bracelet for my friend with the skirt. The tutorial is well done and is definitely worth a look. If you're at all a caner, Dora did several months where she tried to do a cane a week and gives instructions for a lot of them. I agree with her completely, it's not so much the making of the canes that is difficult, it's taking the discipline and focus on turning them into a blog entry that becomes a bit more of a challenge. I actually made this last week but didn't seem to have the oomph required to touch up the photos and put words around it.

I will certainly do this type of cane again.

I'm almost caught up with my weekly cane entries. One more to go before I'm fully caught up, so this week you're getting three cane entries. All variations on the theme.



Sunday, July 18, 2010

Skirt Cane - week 27 of canes

Hi Everyone,

I posted a couple of weeks ago about a skirt that I loved and wanted to try to recreate in cane. You can see the original image here. Last weekend I finally decided to try it. The colour choices were fairly easy and went together pretty well. But, as I was trying to decide on the cane pattern, a little voice inside my head said "you should go check the picture". I ignored that voice which means that I feel pretty good about the final product, but not perfect.

I didn't sketch out the pattern or anything. Started with a couple of skinner blends and then shaping them into a paisleyish shape. Reduced it so that I had three of them. From that point on it was just a matter of playing with the bits that I had until I had a squarish shape.

I did some extruder spirals which I will write about in my next posting. And I took some inspiration from Cynthia Tinapple's Polymer Clay Daily entry here.

Overall it makes an interesting veneer and it'll be great for other projects. I think I want to try the clay zentangles fro Dora's Explorations and this will be great for that.

The level of detail is too fine for the paper clip bracelets, so my friend at work isn't getting one of these.

If I had looked at the picture I would have made it more dark blue than white. I probably would have added some simple jelly roll canes in there near the paisley to give it more detail.

But, if I take away the skirt and just look at the cane as is, it perfectly fine and I'll be happy to use it in different projects. I ended up making three sizes of the canes and when they're combined they work well together.

I did have a fair bit of the pure colours left over so I combined them into other canes which are the topics of my next two entries.



Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oooh, I have to try this - week 26 of canes

Hi Everyone,

My good friend, Louise, who does beautiful Bottles of Hope, sent me a link to Les Ethiopiques, a francophone polymer clay artist.

Les Ethiopiques has a great tutorial on an optical illusion cane. The photo above is one of the things that she's done with it. It is in French, but there are a lot of photos so most of it should be OK. I tried looking at it with Google Translate, but the text is embedded in the photos so it doesn't translate at all. Fortunately I speak enough French that I can understand it.

When I was a teenager I had black and white optical illusion wallpaper in my room so this brings back memories. I'm looking forward to trying it but I suspect I'll have to use something other than black and white. My Kato black is very stiff and my white is very soft. I did a cane today (another post) where I leached the white and that made it a lot better, but I don't think I'll have the patience to try something as complex as this cane with the two different textures.

Suggestions for colour choices are welcome. I'm leaning towards a deep green as my colour choice for one colour, but I haven't decided what to do for the other colour.

Les Ethiopiques is a prolific blogger and she's got 18 tutorials on her blog which is pretty wonderful considering the blog only got started in February. For whatever reason, the link to all of the tutorials doesn't show up unless you read it in Google Translate, then it's off on the right side-bar. And now that I've been looking at it, it sometimes shows up on the non-translated blog, but not always. One of the ones that I want to try from her tutorials is the stained glass beads. She has a great kaleidoscope cane tutorial as well and what to do with the scrap which is something that I've seen a few times but can never remember what to do with so it's great that I've got the link now.

The one thing that blows me away about Les Ethiopique's website is that she's very good about putting things together and showing finished products with her work. And it's beautiful! I wish I were as disciplined.

While it helps to be able to read French, it's not a requirement to enjoy the pretty pictures on her blog. I hope you swing by and scroll through some of the images. I'm sure she'll provide some wonderful inspiration.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

My newest inspiration - week 25 of canes

Hi Everyone,

No cane for this week. Instead I thought I'd show you what I'm trying to figure out in my head. This picture is of a skirt that I love that a friend at work has.

The image isn't the greatest because I took it with my cell phone camera. And it really doesn't give a feel for how vibrant and wonderful the skirt looks.

I've decided that the cane is going to be done in shades of translucent. I want the lightness of the colours to really show through. And it's going to be a cane that gets overlapped onto the background somehow.

The translucent idea came from me recently having watched one of Donna Kato's videos.

I don't think I'll get as complicated as the paisleys in the skirt. Instead it'll likely be more of a suggestion of paisely.

I have some ideas on this that I'm going to play with a bit. I'll keep you posted.



Friday, July 2, 2010

Bottles of Hope 46-63

Hi Everyone,

The last leaf cane that I made generated a fair bit of scrap clay and rather than bunch it all up and run it through the pasta machine until it was uniform in colour, I decided to try something a little different with it. What a perfect clay to use for Bottles of Hope. I've committed to making at least 100 BOH this year and here is the most recent set.

The first set of bottles aren't my usual style, but I'm really happy with them. They remind me of seascapes. This becomes particularly important since my sister's husband's mother has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She lives on the coast in California and some of these will make their way to her. Prognosis, from what I've heard, is good so far so we'll keep our fingers crossed.

I kept playing with the clay and the next set of bottles were the result. They're a little bit more refined than the first set and I'm sure they'll appeal to others.

I really do love Bev's stamps words for the Bottles and I try to use at least one word in each of the bottles.

These last five bottles are when I just had plain scrap clay that had been run through the machine to the point of being a uniform colour. Two of them were made by cutting half circles of clay and then layering them.

Bottles were made while listening to the CD that my friend Renee had sent me before she passed away from cancer. I love it that her fighting spirit is infused into the bottles and there's a wistfulness of emotion I have while making the bottles. Having gone through a grieving process myself I know how important moments of brightness are during the journey. I hope these bottles offer some moments of brightness to the recipients, whomever they may be.

As always, here are the links to the bloggers I've donated on behalf of:

46. Lululiz
47. nfmgirl
48. Candy
49. Stephanie
50. Caitlin
51. Gayle
52. Cobblestone Creations
53. Bee
54. Linda
55. Diana
56. Trayna
57. Ruta Elze
58. Alice
59. Sewfunky
60. Kate
61. Carapace
62. Tina
63. Karen