So for those who follow this blog, or at least check in occasionally, you might’ve noticed I haven’t updated it in a while. I have a list of excuses about a mile long: work, visitors, laziness, secret swap pieces etc. But honestly, I still had some pieces to share and talk about. The actual reason why I didn’t? I was feeling a bit “meh” about it all.
A part of it was the fairy door I finished in a great hurry just in time for the challenge deadline. No one’s fault but my own, I spent too long “designing” it rather than building it. It was a project close to my heart; I even wrote a whole post on how I created it. But once it was completely done, down to the last spray of PYM ii, something felt off. In theory, it matched my design. Inspired by this lovely peacock palace door, it had a “head” decorated with peacock cane slices, a stone cabochon to add some more color, decorative metal door with a blingy knocker and some matching walls. But once I’d taken the pictures and everything, I wasn’t completely satisfied.
The other thing that happened to put me off, just a bit, was some not-so-great swap experiences. I started participating in swaps last year, and for the most part, it’s been great! I’ve gotten some lovely pieces, people have been wonderful about what they received and I’ve learnt a fair bit. The clay community is very friendly, so I thought it’d always be that way. The first bad experience I had was with a charm swap at the beginning of the year. As usual I couldn’t decide on one thing, so I created a bunch of charms and sent them off last minute just before I left for a long trip. Now I created each of these pieces with a lot of care and tried to include a variety of sizes and colors so the recipient would find something she liked. Once I sent it off, I waited and waited to have an acknowledgement of SOME sort that she received it. Two weeks and nothing. At that point I sent a couple of private Facebook messages, spaced a few days apart asking if she received the package. Still no response. Finally, I tagged her in a post on the group asking if she received it. She finally responded saying she did and she was sorry but life was very busy so she hadn’t had time to upload pictures or make my swap. She promised to do both as soon as possible. It’s been three months, she never uploaded pictures and I haven’t received my swap.
Honestly, the part the hurts the most is that she never took a moment to say, hey, I got the package. It’s no small thing to make something, pack as carefully as possible, go to the post office and mail it out. I think the least someone can do is acknowledge all that by just saying they received the package. There’s just no way anyone is so busy that they can’t find a moment of time to do that. If they were, they shouldn’t be participating in swaps in the first place!
I think part of it is that is it’s a mutual swap and they haven’t sent out their pieces yet, they might be embarrassed about it. I know I felt that way at first, I wanted to be able to say “your package is on the way too” along with thank you. But then I realized I don’t really mind if the other person is late in getting their package in. It doesn’t matter even if they never get it to it. I just really want to know if they received their package and okay yes, I’d love to know if they liked it. Isn’t that the point of a swap? To send your work into the big black hole that is the universe and pray that it reaches someone who appreciates it? Maybe my work isn’t the prettiest or the most professional looking. I’m the first to acknowledge that I have a lot to learn.
But I take a lot of effort to send neatly finished pieces that I would love to receive. I try to find out something about the recipient so I can send something they’d like. I search through all the clay groups I belong to and try and find pictures they’ve posted or things they’ve commented on. If it’s a mutual swap, I reach out and ask about their preferences. I make many test pieces, spend as much time as possible finishing them neatly. Almost always, I send a few extra pieces with different sizes and different techniques, so there’ll be something that suits the receiver. I include a little note with all my packages explaining the motive behind the pieces and apologize for any imperfections I may have noticed at the last minute. No matter what I have going on in my life, I make sure I get the package out as soon as possible and double check tracking numbers, if any, to ensure that it has been delivered.
I think the main thing all swappers should keep in mind is COMMUNICATION!! Everyone has a very busy life with many, many obligations. I understand that. Maybe you were gloriously free when you signed up for the swap, but something happened and that changed. Maybe you’re busily working on the swap piece but it’s taking longer than you anticipated. Whatever the case is, do let your swap partner know. I’m sure they’ll understand and be sympathetic. And no matter what’s happening with your end of the swap, absolutely let them know when you receive their package. The minute you open their package you have an obligation to let them know you got it. Sometimes I’ll put off taking pictures and posting them because I’m too lazy to pull out my light tent: I’m trying to get better at this. But I will get on my computer and send off a message saying I received it. I know not everyone checks their mail every day. That’s okay as well. But the minute you do get the package in your hands and open it, do let the other person know!
Okay, that’s my rant! I swear, I wasn’t planning to go off the deep end about it so much. But this has happened a couple of times since. I haven’t received my swap and I have no idea if the other person received my package (though USPS says she did). With all this, I think I’m ready to take a break from swapping. I have one found-object swap that I signed up for a couple of months back: I’m working on that. But I don’t think I’ll be signing up for anything else for a while after that.
I also want to acknowledge some good experiences I’ve had! Esther Schmidt received her butterfly pieces from me and sent me an additional heart set after that! Amy Hucks sent this wonderful lion fish tin that must’ve taken forever to put together! And here’s a wonderful owl from Angela Thompson, who was also kind enough to share how she made it.
Swaps I’ve received
Ahem, on a more positive note, here are a few random pieces I managed to make over the last couple of weeks when I wasn’t obsessing over swap etiquette. I finally tried the faux opal technique from Donna Kato and was very pleased with the results. Here are a couple of pieces in a faux bone bezel from Tina Holden’s tutorial. Also some Holo pendants with glitter clay. I’m loving that Lumiere paint crackle on the glitter clay, I’ll be experimenting some more with that.
Faux opal pendants and Holo pendants
I made some Ikat leaves using Lindly Hunani’s wonderful technique. Of course the minutes I used up half the cane for these, I decided to use an Ikat veneer for a zippered box. So I made another cane, this time using Kato. I like the brighter Kato primaries, I think I might soon switch over to using primarily Kato clay, especially for canes.
The box was made following Iris Mishly’s brocade tutorial. I have another square box blank waiting to be decorated. I haven’t decided what pattern to use yet. I did make another round box with a poor attempt at the gorgeous effect Helen Breil creates with mica powders. This weird blotchy effect was not what I was going for! When done right, the clay sheet resembles rich and silky fabric. I’ll need to try that again. The box itself is quite nice though.
Polymer clay zippered boxes
At the peak of my meh-ness, I decided that clearing up my extremely messy work area would inspire some creativity. That had me staring at a pile of scrap clay that either had to go into my already overflowing scrap box, or be worked into something interesting. I was bored to tears with Natasha beads and lentils, so pulled out some scrap clay tutorials and gave them a go. Here’re are my pieces using Randee Ketzel‘s scrap clay hearts and art deco swirls from 2 Good Claymates.
Art deco earrings and scrap clay pendants
I decided this would be a good time to test what I learnt from Ginger’s sanding and buffing ebook. I didn’t pay enough attention before baking and had to be fairly aggressive with sanding, so some of the pattern on the scrap hearts were lost. But the pattern is still fun and the pieces feel wonderfully smooth. I had much better luck with the shadow cane domed piece. With the high amount of translucent clay, it picked up a beautiful shine! In the picture, the flat piece on the right has a layer of resin and the one on the left has been sanded and buffed. It might not be visible in the picture, but the shine on the two pieces is comparable! When I first looked at the buffed piece, I thought it was wet and tried to rub the water off it!
Shadow cane pendants