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.