Tutorials from The Blue Bottle Tree

I’ve talked about Ginger Davis Allman from The Blue Bottle Tree before. She’s one of my favorite artists and a treasure trove of information about polymer clay. Her website has many reviews and informational posts. I really wish I had her articles for beginners when I started out. If you’re thinking about getting your feet wet, don’t miss her articles on a good starter kit, tips on baking clay and her series on essential tools. And she has an excellent article on the different clay brands.

She also has a bunch of tutorials where she provides in depth instructions for specific techniques. I own all of them!! This blog post is a sort of all in all review.

First things first, her tutorials are laid out very, very well. I’ve bought loads of tutorials from other artists and while all of them have good content, Ginger’s tutorials have a real professional touch. There’s a neat index, sections and chapters that flow logically from one to another. You won’t find yourself going back and forth or needing to take additional notes. And trust me, that’s huge!

The first tutorial I tried was the graduated colors one. I had just bought some Pardo clay and wanted a project that wouldn’t waste a whole lot of clay. I ended up using Premo to try the technique and really liked the effect, so I made these two necklaces and some matching earrings and such. I think this is a great technique for projects where you want a simple two toned effect where a single color is the star. There’s a multi-color blend section as well, that I hadn’t tried until I started writing this review.  It was so fun!! I need to experiment more with that.

P1000349 Purple graduated beads necklace

Rainbow graduated colors necklace and earrings
Above: Graduated beads necklace and matching earrings in red; Purple graduated beads necklace, graduated colors and sizes for kick Below: Rainbow colored necklace and earrings

I had lots of questions about tinting translucent clay at this point, so Ginger suggested the Glass Effects tutorial for specific color recipes. This tutorial is just bursting with information! The faux Czech glass and beach glass are my favorites. I made a bunch of faux beach glass with good intentions of trying some organic wire wrapping, but the beads look so pretty in this bowl, I haven’t done that yet!

Faux beach glass
Faux beach glass

I also love the yummy Czech glass beads. I’ve made some with Premo, Cernit (my new favorite translucent) and Pardo, I love them all! You really can’t go wrong here. There are incredibly detailed instructions on how to make faux Roman glass as well. I made a a pair of earrings with some shards and really liked how they turned out.

Faux Czech pressed glass beads
Faux Czech beads and faux Roman glass earrings

Faux Roman glass earrings

I bought the Holo Effect tutorial to make some Christmas ornaments, they looked so pretty! It was the first time I’d put up a Christmas tree, it was a great feeling to see a handmade topper. Next year I’ll be making more Holo ornaments. Ginger includes a mini lesson on making these if you purchase the tutorial around Christmas time.

Holo effect ornaments and pendants
Holo effect ornaments and pendants

The Holo Effect also makes some lovely jewelry. I made a pendant (right corner in the picture above) when I was experimenting and wasn’t too happy with it. I happened to wear it to work one day because it matched my top. Almost everyone who saw me asked about it! No one would believe it was made out of some sort of clay. Inspired by that, I went off and did some experimenting with colors and veneers and made these…pendants?! Looking back, it’d have made sense to make these in matched pairs to make into earrings or something, but I was having too much fun to think of all that!

Holo effect experiments!
Holo effect experiments

While I was experimenting with all this, I kept seeing lovely rustic beads cropping up everywhere. I traced them back to Ginger’s excellent tutorial and just knew I had to have it. Working with this proved a little more challenging for me. It’s a freeform technique that requires some practice and care and the rustic style isn’t something that comes naturally to me. After lots and lots of trial and error and endless email conversations with Ginger, I finally made some beads that I liked! Once I got into the groove I couldn’t stop! This is an excellent way to use up scrap clay. And just look at the variations!

Rustic beads
Rustic beads

Rustic bead earrings

Rustic bead earrings
Rustic bead earrings

I want to take a moment to really appreciate the patience and detail in Ginger’s replies. I asked endless questions that were pretty much how exactly do You do this step? She always answered with plenty of detail. And there were emails were I attached about ten pictures and asked, where did I go wrong with each of these? Those email threads have a wealth of information, most of them not related to the tutorials, but still generously shared. I have these stored away carefully, I’m sure I’ll go back and read them again.

Finally I got to the tutorial I really had my eye on all this time: organic beads! Just take a look at this spread here. There’s an amazing variety of shapes, colors and textures. Not just ordinary color either, but shimmery glowing colors that I had no clue how to create. So after weeks of drooling over the beads, I finally have in and got the tutorial. And I spent the next 4 hours just reading and re-reading the whole thing.

Believe me when I tell you that this an incredibly detailed tutorial packed with lots of information; it’s practically a book! You’ll learn how to create textures, shapes, oh-so many ways to color them. What I like the best (this is true for all of Ginger’s tutorials) is that although there are suggestions on how to make these techniques your own, Ginger very clearly states what she uses to make a huge variety of beads, end to end. This is a great starting point for you to practice the technique. I was thrilled when I made some really cool beads on my first try.

Initial batch of organic beads
Initial batch of organic beads

Now I’m a little design-challenged, so I’m still thinking over how to make these into jewelry pieces. I may just keep them in my bowl and admire them from time to time! But I made my favorite beads of the lot into nice teardrop earrings.

Bowl of organic beads
Yummy organic beads

Organic beads

You can find all Ginger’s tutorials on her site here. If you want to see a sample tutorial, you can take a look at this excellent mica leaf pendant tutorial. She shows how to use leaves to impress textures into clay, how to color them using mica powders and how to finish all this up nicely with a clay frame and bail to boot! I did some experimenting with this and was really pleased with the results.

Mica leaf pendants
Mica leaf pendants

Whew that was a long post! But it’s proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent with these techniques. I keep circling through all of Ginger’s tutorials, I’m almost always working on one or the other on the side. I hope I’ve inspired someone else to go try them. You won’t be sorry!

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