Red, blue and white

Polymer clay flowers

Last week I FINALLY got my red, blue and white themed swap in the mail. While I didn’t end up making anything I originally planned, I managed to get a couple of different things in the box. First off, some more shots of the mirror I framed. I also added a clay hinge to make it a compact mirror. I didn’t spend enough time on this so it’s not as perfect as I’d like. I cured the top and bottom separately but forgot to account for the hinge space in the base. And of course I realized that in the very last step when I wanted to attach the two pieces! I hastily threw some extra clay on top and forced it all together, but it isn’t the neatest job.

Polymer clay mirror front: The Beaded BazaarPolymer clay mirror frame: The Beaded Bazaar

Polymer clay mirron

Ideally, the pattern on front should be beautifully symmetric instead of the weird sort of pulsating pattern I have going. All the clay here is Sculpey Souffle, which caused the square canes to squish to rectangles while slicing. To compensate for that, I shaped the cane into a rectangles thinking it’d give me square slices. Just before I was about to slice it up, I read a tip from Teresa Pandora Selgado (who make GORGEOUS canes out of Souffle) on chilling the cane in the fridge before slicing. Sure enough when I tried it there was zero squishing. Which meant the rectangle cane I’d forgotten to reshape gave me rectangle slices!!

Polymer clay mirror hinge: The Beaded BazaarPolymer clay textured back: The Beaded Bazaar

Mirror inside and textured back

Despite all this, I’m happy with the results. These were all free form canes and were great fun to make. I’m very pleased with Souffle for these types of canes. The colors are lovely and the canes reduce with hardly any effort. I’ll be experimenting some more with this. I used very little red and blue clay to make a bunch of different canes, so most of it went into the mirror. I had a couple of scraps left that I turned into this pendant and earrings. I didn’t add this to the swap because I thought it looked too squishy though!

Polymer clay pendant and earrings: The Beaded Bazaar

Pendant and earrings from leftover cane slices

I got a new Cabezel mold that I have been loving! I really like the petal and drop shapes in this one. The shapes fit together to make large complex focal pieces. I cut out a bunch of bezels and made a pendant and two pairs of earrings. I filled them with some Pebeo Prisme paints and topped it off with resin. If I’d had more time I’d have like to put together a sari silk necklace for this, but I sent just the pendant and earrings.

CaBezel pendant and earrings: The Beaded Bazaar

CaBezel pendant and earrings

I also made a bunch of flowers in red, blue and white. Here are some tulips, a rose, daisy and calla lily. One of my original ideas was just a bouquet of these flowers but they turned out to be pretty complicated to make, so I just finished these few and sent them off. I do plan to make some and stick them in a vase on my office desk. But man, these flowers are hard to make!!

Polymer clay flowers: The Beaded Bazaar P1020677

Polymer clay flowers

Finally, I managed to throw in a hollow pendant based on Wendy Orlawski’s class in PCA. I stamped a sheet of clay with some blue and what I thought was red, but turned out to be orange for the inside, and did the outsides in red, blue and white. Really rubbing your face in the theme aren’t I?! I liked how this turned out, so I made a few similar ones and stuck cane slices inside them. I like being able to match the “frame” color and the colors from the canes. This type of bead makes a nice big focal. I’m thinking of making some long necklaces with just this bead or a couple of larger beads on ribbon or leather cord… I think it’d look good without being too much.

Polymer clay hollow bead: The Beaded BazaarPolymer clay hollow beads: The Beaded Bazaar

Hollow pendants

Once I was done with all this I kinda took a couple of days off from clay. Getting the swap done took quite a bit out of me and I needed some time to regroup and get inspired. I did spend some time finishing up some hearts I made for Hearts for Zach. Here’s a big bunch of them. I still need to add bails to a couple of them and I will be sending this lot off. I really hope people like them and buy them!

Hearts for Zach: The Beaded Bazaar

Many hearts for Zach

Couple of close up shots of the hearts are below. I sorted them loosely into categories. First up are CaBezel hearts with more Pebeo Prisme (I can’t get enough of the stuff!). The picture next to that shows what I consider surface effect hearts. That’s mostly textured and silkscreened pieces. I had great fun coloring some of the silkscreened hearts on glitter clay with some markers. I saw Syndee Holt post this idea on one of the Facebook groups I belong to and had to try it out. Also in the mix are some hearts using my own textures made using Helen Breil’s really excellent radiating textures tutorial. I’ve had this for the longest time but only tried it out now since I thought radiating textures would work nicely with the heart shape. I LOVE the mica powders on these! There’s a close up of just those hearts there, ‘cuz frankly those are my favorite!! I might keep a couple of them!

CaBezel hearts: The Beaded BazaarSurface effect hearts: The Beaded BazaarTextured hearts: The Beaded Bazaar

CaBezel hearts; Surface effects; Textured hearts

Final lots: cane work hearts and some magnets. I pulled a few canes out of my stash and made these. I quite like the black, white and red pattern: it’s composed entirely of extrusions. The magnets use some cane builder canes I made a while ago. I’d planned on making them into jewelry as well but magnets seem to fit better. Besides, it makes sense to stick ice cream cones on a heart doesn’t it?! To say you love ice cream?!

Hearts with cane slices: The Beaded BazaarHeart magnets: The Beaded Bazaar

Hearts with cane slices

Bit of a rant and random updates

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.

Fairy door Opened Fairy Door

Fairy door

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.

Lion Fish TinOwl

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 with bone bezels Holo Pendants

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.

Ikat leaves 

Ikat leaves

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. 

Ikat box P1020580 Open Silkscreened Box Silkscreened box

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 Scrap clay pendants

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 Pieces

Shadow cane pendants

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

The hamsa swap

To start of the week, here are the hamsas I made for the February Polymer Clay Adventure swap. I’m happy to say they reached their destination safe and sound! I made a peacock based on this super fun tutorial from Christi Friesen and paired it with a silkscreened one that has a peacock feather pattern. I’m so in love with this silkscreen from Tonja’s Treasures. I have some ideas brewing for projects that will incorporate these silkscreens.

Scupted peacock hamsa Silkscreened peacock hamsa  Translucent peacock hamsa 

Peacock themed hamsas

The elephant head was molded based on this excellent journal cover tutorial and was paired with a keychain that had a bunch of smaller silkscreened hamsas.

Sculpted elephant hamsa Hamsa keychain

Elephant hamsa and mini hamsa keychain

Finally, I really wanted to do a phoenix for the third one, but couldn’t get the shape of the bird to look right. And this one was to go to Katie of KatersAcres, who’s an AMAZING sculptor (and all round artist really). So I abandoned the attempt at sculpting and went with a millifeori style hamsa, along with a parrot patterned silkscreen.

Millifeori hamsa Parrot silkscreened hamsa

Millifeori and silkscreened hamsa

All in all sculpting was fun! I still need precise instructions to follow; my experiments with the phoenix sadly proved that I’m not a natural sculptor. But it was still a lot more fun that I’d thought. I’ll definitely be doing more of that. Also, here are the lovely pieces I received in the hamsa swap!

Hamsas I received in the swap

Lovely hamsas I received

I spent the last couple of weeks scrambling to finish up some March swap pieces. I talked about butterflies last week, here’s a GIANT faux cloisonne butterfly. While I liked how it turned out, it’s far too large to be used as anything but a wall hanging! I tried coming up with a smaller version, but apparently I just can’t draw small! So I shelved the idea and went with a bunch of other pieces including a butterfly wing cane, faux mosaic and a fair attempt at soutache. No pictures yet, since I just mailed the package out today. So tune in next week if you’re curious!

Faux cloisonne butterfly

Faux cloisonne butterfly

I’m also planning my first ever fairy door for the second Parker’s clay tribe challenge. This time around, only one entry is allowed per person, so I spent some time thinking about different designs. After some research on different elaborate doors, I have a design sketched out and some test prototype pieces. I’m not going to give away anything else, except that this peacock cane will contribute heavily to the door!

Feather canes

Feather canes

Also in the works, some more feather canes for my owl swap. I’m planning on some sculpted owl pendants, so I have several more canes to make and reduce. This is a three for three swap, similar to the hamsas, so I need to work on swaps for three people. I had a plan in place, and was making progress nicely. But of course now that I’m close to the deadline for finishing them, I’m not happy with just one technique or one style! The good news is I’m close to finished with my initial plan, so I should have something to mail of next week! But till we get there, I’m off to go make about a billion skinner blend sheets!