Quick update

Wow the days are just getting away from me. I have about five different posts in various level of completion sitting around, but not enough time to finish the associated clay pieces and take pictures. So I thought I’d chat about some of the things I’ve been working on and some fun issues I encountered!

A large amount of time went in making a Christmas sweater cane cane. I used my Lucy vise for the first time and learnt some painful lessons on using it right! I didn’t lubricate the threads the first time around and had a devilish time screwing the extruder into the vise. After some help from Diane, I cleaned out the threads and added some of the lubricant to the threads on both ends to be safe. That made the process of removing and reloading the extruder a little easier. I gave my cheap reversible drill a good workout by hooking it up to the extruder, so much so that it started smoking after the fourth round!

The Czextruder has a thick threaded rod that goes through the length of the extruder and pushes the clay out. At the end of the rod, you can screw on the hand crank or drill nut. I somehow managed to tighten that drill nut to the point where I couldn’t screw it off! I searched through forums on loosing jammed nuts and desperately posted on some forums to try and figure the issue out. I was able to unscrew it finally after an overnight soak in WD 40 and a good amount of pressure! My hands still feel the after effects! I think I’ll be sticking to hand extruding for now!

But here’s the result of all that hard work! Isn’t this reindeer pretty?! I haven’t reduced the canes very much, I’m a little scared to try honestly. With the prepping, extruding and assembly, I think it took me about seven hours or so to put this together. And this doesn’t include the time spent in fiddling/fighting with the extruder! I’d planned to do a couple of canes in green and white as well…maybe next year!

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Christmas sweater canes

I also got to use my new jeweler’s scale! I figured out that the Czextruder can fit 41 g or 1.45 oz of clay! That’s about three-fourths of a 2 oz block of clay. I think that information is going to be useful when I want to plan extruded patterns. Another piece of information I’d love to have is the length of various extruded patterns you get from a certain amount of clay. That’d be super useful in planning out fitted patterns, especially when using skinner blends. But with the number of discs out there, the amount of work involved makes my head spin! So that’s something I won’t be attempting any time soon.

I’ve also been working on some gingerbread houses. Here’s what I’ve got so far. I like the little sparkly sugar candies! I’ll be doing more of those once I make some more candy canes.

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Clay gingerbread houses

Tune in next time for some clay covered ornaments! Sneak peak below, using the symbolic beads tutorial from Debbie Crothers. I love this technique! Works with so many themes!

P1010951Molded ornament using symbolic beads technique

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Personal tutorial challenge

After working with clay for about two years now, I’ve amassed a fair number of tutorials. This is despite being very discerning about what I buy. I read reviews and look at what others have made with the same tutorials to see if everyone is able to get close to the effect that the author achieves. Although the last part really depends on the skill level of the person rather than the quality of the tutorial, for the most part it gives me a good idea on how feasible the technique is.

Even with all this, I have several tutorials at this point. Many are written tutorials that I’ve bought off Etsy for a specific technique or effect. Some are cane tutorials: these have been piling up since I subscribed to Meg Newberg’s Cane Builder, where she sends out a new cane tutorial every month. I’ve also added several CraftArtEdu classes to my library and recently got myself a couple from CraftCast during a sale.

Most of the tutorials I mentioned are in PDF format or come with a handout to accompany video recordings. I was just saving all the files to a single folder imaginatively titled “Tutorials”, but realized that I needed a better system to sort through all of them. So I sat down on a Sunday night, put on the third season of Office in the background (how am I just watching this, the show rocks!) and set about organizing the folder.

About an hour later, the folder was nicely arranged with sub-folders and categories. But I was in shock!! There were so many tutorials I owned that I was yet to try! There were some that I’d tried a couple of times, gotten bad results and given up. Some that I’d just scratched the surface with and set aside for a shiny new project and some that I just hadn’t given a shot! This didn’t even take into account the multitude of Polymer Clay Tutor projects I’d yet to try. And here I was sitting with an Etsy cart full of more tutorials because I “needed more inspiration”.

I gave myself a stern talking to about buying any more tutorials and moved all my Etsy cart contents into my wish list (to reduce the temptation of buying any on an impulse). I decided that I wouldn’t buy any new tutorials till I’d tried majority of the ones I had already.

The first project I tackled was the Melanie Muir rock cuff bracelet from this CraftCast class. Though I’d been applying some of the tips and tricks from the class to several of my projects, and had tried making just the pattern, I hadn’t actually followed the project end to end. So I set about making a bracelet with a mokume gane veneer as described. And here’s the result!

Rock Cuff BraceletRock Cuff Bracelet  different view

Rock cuff bracelet made using Melanie Muir’s tutorial

I’m pretty happy with this! Melanie’s instructions are easy to follow, and there are little video snippets showing the exact process that are very helpful. I had some trouble with getting the surface smooth, and made the rookie mistake of getting impatient and baking as is. Once I started sanding the baked pieces, I had plenty of time to repent for it!

I made some notes on possible improvements on the smoothing process and gave it another try with some less experimental colors and shiny new templates I’d ordered from Cabtopia. This time around, my color choice wasn’t the best, but the smoothing process was easier. There wasn’t enough of the patterned sheet to make a chunky bracelet, so I made myself some pendants and earrings and things. Many of the pieces need to be sanded and finished. After I took some skin off sanding the bracelet pieces, I was less inclined to finish the rest! Some pieces had a veneer that was far too thin to withstand the sanding process, so I added resin.

Mokume Gane Pendants

Mokume gane pendants

I also took some time out to try some quick projects from old volumes of Polymer Clay Tutor. The newer ones are usually in the format of one big project split over 6 videos. But there are a bunch of older videos where there are smaller projects that are covered in ten minute videos. I made some mermaid scale pendants and used a DecoArt foiling pen on the sides. It’s so cool!! It looks like a strip of silver metal on the sides! I’ll be using more of that for sure.

Mermaid scale pendants

The other thing I’m very excited about is this micro mosaic technique that I tried on a leaf shape. The colors are from a fall leaf cane gone wrong. This was a trial piece that I made rather large to make it easier to work with, but didn’t think to size it for a pendant. I think I’ll make it a pin or brooch or something. The technique uses very little clay, so I have plenty to make some pendant style ones.

Leaf Mosaic

While these fall themed projects are still ongoing, I’ve started to look at some Christmas themed projects. Remember the swap I was talking about? The November one has a holiday theme. So I decided to get an early start and I’m working on some assorted ornaments and other things. This will be a two person swap, so I’ll be sending stuff to the same person whom I’ll be receiving my swap from. I don’t know if that changes anything, but it’s different!

I have a few canes sitting on my table right now, waiting to be reduced. I’ll get back to that with the last of my weekend. Lookout for more tutorial based work!