Lights and butterflies

I’m late in posting again; this should’ve gone out last week. I was hoping to show off the bunch of things I made for the butterfly swap but my partner received my package just yesterday(she’s just a couple of hours away in Vancouver too!). I did some good work on my owl swaps, so that’ll go out this week. I also have a bead swap and a spring themed swap for this month! So my point is that I am claying! But I can’t talk about any of it yet! It’s like being in Polymer Clay Secret Service or something!

Ahem, moving past my lame jokes… I do have one project I managed to complete. Well sort of complete. See, when I was making the silkscreened hamsas a couple of weeks back, I loved the way they looked against when held up against the light. But I felt like that translucent property wasn’t being highlighted when used like this. I had that brewing in my head when I was randomly surfing on Pinterest and I saw a Dixie cup lantern idea. Now I had no idea what Dixie cups were, but I got very excited because I could totally picture translucent polymer clay cups instead of the Dixie cups!

I did a bit of research on the type of cups used, and got even more excited because these were paper cups. I could just use those as to base to form and bake my lanterns. The one thing left to figure out was how to design the clay cups so that the light can be inserted easily, and if needed removed. I had a string of lights on hand for a long pending project, so I pulled those out, bought me some 3 oz paper cups (that were surprisingly difficult to track down) and started with a paper cup lantern. It took all of about 5 minutes to cut an “X” into the base of the cup and shove one of the light in. I placed that cup on my table and walked around it trying to figure out what to do with clay.

After trying to come up with the most complex harness systems, I thought, why not just try to replicate the X shape in clay? Premo is definitely flexible enough to allow the larger part of the bulb to pass through. The specific string of lights I had were ideally shaped for this: they taper a little on top. Of course it was a bit more complicated in clay since I needed the right size X and a cutout in the middle to match the area where the paper folded in. I made a couple of templates with scrap clay and tested my theory that Premo was flexible enough to work.

Lantern base templates

Lantern base templates

Once I had the size locked down, I made myself a silkscreened veneer and made a test lantern. Once that was happily dangling on the string of lights, I made a bunch of lanterns and added them on! Now this is a string of 20 lights, spaced a good distance apart. My initial plan was to make 20 lanterns, one per bulb. But this takes a lot of clay: about three for every 2 oz of clay. Also, since I was forming them on a paper base, I had to bake them almost immediately after forming, or the paper would start leaching the clay. Not good, especially when I want them to be good and strong!

Clay lanterns

Clay lanterns

And it was hard work!! As I’ve mentioned MANY times before, I’m not the kind of person to concentrate on any one project at a time. But the string of lights lying on my table was driving me nuts. So I made about seven at a stretch, threw one on every other bulb and called it a day! For the moment I’ve just pinned the string to the wall at one end, so it actually looks quite nice with the fewer lanterns. If I were to string these up over a door or something, I think I might consider making the full twenty lanterns.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my experiment! I have a huge lot of things I bought for projects that I haven’t gotten to (and let’s face it, might never get to!) that I spare a guilty thought to occasionally. It feels really good to pull something out from there and actually use it. It’s also one of the few times I tried out an idea by myself and managed to implement it with trial and error. I plan to try out some different shaped lanterns and different surface techniques!

Here are some close up shots of the lanterns. As I wrote this I realized that I don’t have a picture of the lanterns unlit. But they’re more impressive this way, trust me!

Silkscreened clay lanternsSilkscreened clay lanternsSilkscreened clay lanternsSilkscreened clay lanternsSilkscreened clay lanterns

Oh and here are the butterfly swap pieces! I finally got around to trying out Tina Holden’s wonderful Batik and Shimmer tutorial. The shield shaped piece in the picture on the left is what happened when I tried deviating from the instructions! The mixed shapes necklace on the right is what you’d get if you follow instructions correctly! I love the technique!! I’ll be trying other variations once my swap commitments lighten up a bit.

Butterfly pendants and broochesButterfly necklaces and earrings

Butterfly swap pieces

This is what I received from my partner! Isn’t it pretty? I love this metal color, I just ordered some chain in the same color. You can find more of her work here.

Swap pieces from Esther Schmidt

The butterflies I received from Esther Schmidt