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?