PC challenge 2016 Week 4: Out of season Christmas ornaments

I had some visitors over last week after a really long time. What that translated to was clearing up my dining table and the chairs and put away the packages of clay, bits n pieces of canes, cutters etc so that people could actually sit on the chairs (without getting poked by a stray cutter) and eat some food placed on the table. While I was doing that, I came across some Christmas ornament projects in various stages of abandonment.

At first I threw the plain cube one into a pile of other Christmas stuff I needed to pack away. But then I found the canes I’d prepped to cover it, and the other partly covered ornaments and decided to finish them up one way or another. There was a brief period of stress, where I covered two sides with the same cane but wanted to cover the remaining sides with different canes. I wrung my hands over the asymmetry of it all and contemplated making a couple of new canes (I didn’t have 6 different canes or enough of the available canes to divide evenly over 6 sides). Finally I decided that it didn’t matter what I did, since I was making it for me. Also, one side would be hidden from view anyway, and you know what, the repeated pattern is pretty darn nice!

Caned cube ornament Cube ornament Cube ornaments blue sides

Cube ornament with cane slices

So I covered two sides with a blue gemstone cane, one with a green gemstone cane and another with a green 3D cane I made last week. I debated using plain clay, or even paint for the top and bottom. After getting ready to cover the remaining sides with glittery clay (I LOVE the new Premo glitter clay) I went and looked at my cane stash. I found a green and yellow gemstone cane reduced to teeny tiny proportions (can you even tell that it’s a gemstone pattern?) and an extruded blue 3D pop cane. Since this matched the color way I had, I went with slices of these for the remaining sides of the ornament.

I also finished up this tie dye caned one. Well it’s supposed to be tie dye. I like the colorful pattern, and it looks decent with bits n pieces of whole slices crammed into any gaps (I still haven’t figured out a perfect way to cover a round ornament with square slices). I had about six leftover slices of the blue cane lying about, so those went on a tiny ornament.

Blue and white caned ornament Tie dye ornament

Round ornaments covered with cane slices

Finally here’s an improvement on the symbolic style ornament. I started this a while ago, it took a while to color in. Since I wanted two distinct colors, I had to antique carefully in stages. It took a long time and buckets of patience. While I’m happy with the result, I’m not going to be attempting this technique on such a large scale again!

Molded ornament

Molded ornament

I’m skipping the recycling part of my challenge for the week. Partly because using up the old canes and clearing my work space of things counts as recycling in my head. Also, I did pull out a box of beads intending to use them in something simple, only to realize there were enough beads for a necklace and a half in there. I have the beads laid down on my bead board and I’m trying to decide on some pattern that’ll let me get away with NOT making any additional beads. One idea is to make one regular sized necklace, about 22 inches long and one shorter necklace finished up with cord or chain for the beadless portion. Another idea is to just use all of the beads and make a loooong necklace. I haven’t decided on either route yet. Here’s a picture of my bead board. If anyone has any ideas, please leave a comment! Putting together jewelry is NOT one of my strengths.

Bead board

I spent a significant amount of time this week working on my swap pieces. I can’t share any details yet, since I’m still finishing them up (gah, sanding!). I’m aiming to send them out this week, so hopefully I should be able to talk about them soon!


PC challenge 2016 Week 3: Organic grungy pods

I have something different to show this week. I finally got around to sculpting some flowers, following Doreen Gay Kassel’s totally fun tutorial. I’m not a sculptor by any standard; I can’t even roll an decent tube of clay! So I’m pretty pleased by how these turned out. I’ll be trying some more variations.

Now I liked how the sculpting went, and initial antiquing went well too. But somewhere towards the end (of course towards the end!!), my coloring process went awry and I ended up with rather muddy colors rather than the bright and pleasing colors that Doreen creates. I’m not sure where I went wrong exactly… But I still like the effect, so I’m labelling these grungy and pretending that the effect is exactly what I was aiming for (ignore the rest of this paragraph, okay)!

Organic grungy pods

Sculpted podsFull view of organic pods

Grungy organic pods

The flowers will be placed in a cleaned up frappuccino bottle on my work desk. I spent a bit of time looking for a different vase for it, but ended up sticking with the bottle. I really like the shape of this bottle, it seems to be made for holding flowers. Here you see it sitting on my red center table (how cool would it be if my work desk was this color?!). I hadn’t planned on doing anything special with the bottle, but I think I might add some simple dots at the base to dress it up a bit.

Grungy pods in recycled vase

Organic flower pods in a vase

I was scrambling a bit to do something about the recycling piece of my challenge, and then I found a couple of chunky stud earrings I’d actually made for the first week of the challenge! But I dumped a giant tile over it and couldn’t find them in time to photograph them. When I lifted the tile to use it for something else, I found the poor things with the earring posts snapped off because of the weight of the tile! So I added some more posts, which gave me a chance to try out Liquid Fusion glue. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, I’ll see how it holds up. It’s also a good lesson to keep my table cleaner!

Chunky gemstone earrings

Chunky stud earrings

I had the day off on this Monday for Martin Luther King day, and had a very productive weekend, claywise. I have a bunch of cane builder back issues that have been on my to-do list forever. I spent some time giving the mandala cane a try. It is not a forgiving cane at all! But thanks to Meg’s careful instruction, I used less than 2 oz of clay in total. Of course I have a very small cane to show for it, but given that it’s not as perfect as I’d like, that’s a very good thing. Having tried this cane two times now, I can see where I’m going wrong and how I can improve. I dug out a slice from my first try to show what I mean!

Mandala canes P1020182

Mandala cane (left); 3D canes (right)

I also made some simpler canes for a project I have in mind (more on that later, I’m not sure how it’ll work out). There are two 3D canes in different color ways and one sweet cane (sweet as in the shape of a sweet, not as in look how sweet this cane is)! I really love the candy one. I have zero ideas on what to use it for! It doesn’t really lend itself to millefiori style pieces. Maybe some wee fridge magnets? Still glad I made it though, just looking at it cheers me up! Maybe I can cover a jar with clay and add some slices of this to make a candy jar… Ok clearly I have SOME ideas on how to use it! 🙂

Candy cane Candy cane

Sweet canes

The rest of this week will be catching up on some sanding and finishing, and trying out a more complex cane. Tune in next week for more details!

Polymer clay challenge week 2: Silk screened bangle

It’s week 2 of the Polymer Clay Challenge! I’m liking this already. It’s ensuring that I blog once a week at least with smaller snippets instead of waiting forever and collecting about thirty pieces to photograph and process. Well that’s the plan at least! Not going very well at the moment seeing that I was already late with the very first post.

I mentioned before that taking pictures is challenging. I have a complicated light setup with a big photo cube and lights clipped to bookends and balanced precariously with heavy candles! It takes a while to set up and pack away, so I need a few hours of dedicated time for it. But I have a positively tiny photo tent on the way right now. I’m hoping I’ll be able to set that up very quickly and my kitchen light will be enough. We’ll see how that works out!

Onwards then to my piece for this week. I had actually planned on making a different piece altogether (that will be shifted to next week now). But I had this pink-purple blend sitting around my work surface. I’m trying to keep my work area cleaner, so I decided to use that blend and clear up some space. I was debating what I could use it for when I remembered the new silk screens I received from Polymer Clay TV. I’d been meaning to try a silk screened bangle for a while, Teresa has a very simple tutorial on this. So some experimenting later, ta da!


Silk screened bangle

I really like the look of this! I used printed paper templates for the wavy edge, for some extra pizzazz. I usually cover the back and sides of such bangles with a thin layer of textured clay, but wasn’t sure how I could do that neatly with this shape and surface treatment. So I just applied some gold PanPastel along the edges and on the back (it was a terrible muddy color that I couldn’t possible leave as is). After baking it, I sealed the whole thing with PYM ii. I’d planned to glaze it after the PYM layer, but I like the sheen, so decided against it.

Also, for the recycling part of my challenge, I had some circular cutouts leftover from making a domed frame on the hollow bead maker. I pushed the baked pieces on to a raw sheet of clay, cut them out and rebaked the whole lot. Then I just attached some earring posts to them. They make great chunky earrings! Full disclosure: this wasn’t my idea. I had a couple of friends over looking over my jewelry collection to pick out things they liked. While digging through my scrap bucket, one of them found the little discs and suggested using them for studs. I’d planned on throwing them away at some point, so figured why not give it a try, and am I glad I did!


I have a bunch of bangles and necklaces I made on request for these friends, I’ll be posting pictures of those soon!

A new year and some reflections

It’s 2016 already! Where did the the last year go? That’s such a clichéd thing to say, but sometimes it feels like time is just galloping ahead, too fast for comfort.

I did have a pretty creative year though. I tried a variety of new techniques, screwed up the courage to start blogging, attended my first ever workshop and participated in swaps with other clayers. All of these things are big milestones for me for different reasons. New techniques still remain a touch scary for me, especially if they involve a large amount of clay. Cane designs that didn’t work out would put me off caning for a long time. But I’m trying to move past that and not let it discourage me. I want to try more complex cane patterns this year, with my own color combinations and designs.

Sharing my work and putting it out there through this blog has been so fun! More than I thought it would be. I enjoy writing up these posts and discussing things here. Surprisingly, writing isn’t the hard part, but taking photographs has been challenging. I’ve developed a lot of respect for other bloggers and artists who take such wonderful photos of their creations. Because it sure isn’t easy! Starting from setting up the photo tent and lights, taking pictures from different angles, post processing to adjust brightness, only to find a spec of dust ruining the perfect picture! I’m still a little lax on the quality of pictures I post here, but will be aiming to improve that. (On that note, I’ve seen a bunch of different food photography workshops for bloggers. But no jewelry based ones? I’m sure there are lots of people who want to improve on that!)

I had so much fun at the Carol Simmons workshop I attended last year! I’ve signed up for her master cane workshop, scheduled for September this year, and I couldn’t be more excited! I have ever so much to learn about color and how to combine them (as I type, there’s a muddy looking mokume gane veneer sitting on my work table that I’m averting my gaze from) to make striking canes. I’m also intensely curious about how Carol makes one master cane and combines slices from it to make unique patterns. I’ve reserved my spot; I’m hoping and praying that nothing changes in the next nine months (NINE MONTHS!!) that would prevent me from going.

I plan to participate in an as many swaps as possible this year. It is so cool to receive polymer clay pieces from other clayers and see how their mind works. I’ve received a few sets of earrings, pendants, a large focal Natasha bead, two snow people sculptures, a lovely pen and a kickass steampunk penguin. I’ve sent off several earrings, pendants and some ornaments. I’ve made some polymer clay gifts for people before, but it’s a unique experience to send it to another clayer. I was very upset when a covered glass ornament I sent one of my swap partners was damaged en route. It was covered with slices from this sweater cane. If it’d been up to me, I’d’ve just left it as it is. But she was so innovative, she covered the broken part with some faux knit patterned clay and made it look like a part of the design!

I’m starting this year with a purse charm theme swap and one centered around fish. I almost opted out of the fish one, but decided to take a chance and try it. And wouldn’t you know it, once I’d decided to do it, ideas started flowing in. I’m still a little concerned over how I’ll make the base form (I plan on a sculpted fish form), but I have a month to experiment, and plenty of scrap clay!

In other news, I’ll be participating in the Polymer Clay Challenge this year. This is something Katie of KatersAcres put together last year and this year, where artists are invited to set a personal goal of finishing one item every week. Some like to set themes, such as a cane per week and so on. Seeing that I get bored easily, I’m simply aiming for a finished project per week.

I also have a supplementary goal. As with any other crafter or clayer, I have boxes of orphan beads sitting around hidden in cupboards. Occasionally when I’m on a cleaning spree, I dump some beads that I know I will never willingly include in a project for whatever reason. But that still leaves a fair number. I’d like to take at least one bead from that lot and use it as a part of a finished piece.

On that note, here’s a pair of bangles that are my finished pieces for week 1 of the Polymer Clay Challenge. I made the cane for this last week (following this tutorial), and used the slices for bangle veneers over the weekend. At this point, these are just sanded smooth, with no buffing or finish of any kind. I usually prefer to leave bangles this way, since they’re subject to a good amount of friction. I so love this cane though. Doesn’t it seem to just burst out of the bangle?

Caned kaleidoscope bangles Starburst bangles

Kaleidoscope bangles

For my “recycling” challenge, I retrieved a some batik beads from one of my bead boxes (yes, one of the SEVERAL boxes!). The set of batik beads seemed to lend themselves nicely to earrings-pendant set. I really like pairing these with Swarovski crystal beads. I’ve also pulled out some other flat pieces that still need finishing, but that will be made into jewelry next week!

Batik earrings and pendant
Batik earrings and pendant

P.S: I was supposed to post this last week, but was too lazy to take good pictures as usual. I did finish the bangles last week! Have a yummy bangle in the works for this week’s challenge, stay tuned!