Silkcreen eBook and opulent tapestry tutorial

Square Silkscreen ornament

Okay, I had a Christmas related post all written out, just had a couple of more ornaments to finish and photograph (I’ve developed an aversion to setting up my light box and taking good photos recently. Have you noticed the pieces bathed in clouded Washington sunshine in the last couple of posts?), when I saw a Facebook announcement that completely changed all my plans. I’m talking about Ginger Davis Allman’s new eBooks on silk screening.

There are two shiny new tutorials, one is a primer of sorts on silk screening and one has an end to end silkscreened project, labeled creatively as an Opulent Tapestry project. The minute I saw the opulent tapestry tutorial cover, I knew I had to have it. I’d been trying to create the subdued blended background for a while now and not getting anywhere, and I had a big bunch of silk screens I’d bought recently inspired by the 2 Good Claymates.

So I bought myself the two eBooks at a nicely discounted price thanks to a coupon Ginger included in her newsletter. And I got down to creating. That was two weeks ago, and I still haven’t packed away my silkscreens! I did put away everything for a day or so, but then I got a bunch of new silkscreens that I’d ordered and that started me off again!

What I make using the tutorials? Well I’m glad you asked! Because I’m so in love with the pieces I made! Some of these were supposed to be presents, and I found it very hard to part with any. I did end up sending the one (just one!) to a family friend, but only after I’d made a similar one for myself.

More silkscreened ornaments with beaded hangersSilkscreened ornaments

Flower patterned ornaments

For the most part I made some large ornament style pieces following the instructions in the Opulent Tapestry tutorial. I didn’t start out with that in mind, but once I made my silk screened sheet, I didn’t have the heart to cut them into little pieces that’d be the right size for jewelry. I experimented with a variety of colors and materials. I adore the ones with glitter clay used as a base especially. The photos do not do these justice, believe me!

Square ornaments with beaded hangersP1010977

More round ornaments

While I used bulk of the decorated sheets to make large ornaments, I had enough to make some cabochons and things. The ones on the left are coated with a layer of resin. The set on the right (which were meant to be a present!) are coated with a couple of layers of PYM ii. I like both sets, though getting the silkscreened sheet onto a heavily domed surface without cracking was quite a challenge. The smaller matched pairs will be strung into earrings.

Smallerr cabochon style silkscreened piecesEarrings and hollow pendant

After I got through that lot, I wandered back to the tutorial and read through some variations Ginger suggested. And that produced these! Once I saw these results, I was really hooked!! I had so many ideas in my head! Boxes, necklaces, journal covers, strung bracelet beads… I made a quick beaded watch for my cousin as a Christmas present with silk screened beads, but didn’t get a chance to take a picture (seeing as I finished it at 2.30 am on Christmas morning!).

Silkscreened box

Silk screened box

If it isn’t clear already, I’m in love with this technique. And these tutorials! I would’ve purchased the Opulent Tapestry one for the details on the background effect alone, but I love the whole project: pairing bright metallic colors with a muted background and finishing with the wonderful beaded hangers. The silkscreen ebook opened my eyes to so many ideas and suggestions on ways to use the patterns creatively. Ginger has only about a million ideas on how to color them. The funny thing is, I already had all the products she talked about, but it never crossed my mind to use them with silkscreens.

Now not all paints and things can be used directly on a silkscreen for different reasons. Ginger goes into this in detail and explains how to adapt certain products for the best results. I really recommend paying attention, the piece on the left is what happens if you don’t. See how blurry and awful that pattern is? The piece on the right was created similarly but actually following Ginger’s tips, and just look at that crisp pattern!

Blurry pattern Vs crisp

Now I might’ve continued making ornaments to my heart’s content had I not taken a class from CraftCast on making a graduated disc necklace by Lousie Fischer Cozzi. I love the fluidity of the construction, it wraps around so nicely and works with short necklaces and longer ones. And here’s what happened when I tried it out with some silkscreened discs!

When I assemble jewelry, my designs are strictly symmetric and matched up rigidly. Even with that, because of the nature of the patterns and colors in the Opulent Tapestry project, there’s a decent variety in the assembled necklaces. I also like that I can play around with the size of discs, the number of discs and come up with a statement necklace or a simpler daily wear style piece. The one on the left is for me, something I can wear every day. The two in the middle picture are quite elaborate, more of a party necklace. I spent some time playing with the length of chain attached to the discs as well. One of them is about 21 inches long, so the decorative section will sit fairly low. With the other one, it’s almost a choker style, where it wraps snugly around the neck.

Short everyday wear necklaceLonger red necklacesP1020021

Red silkscreened disc necklaces

Now after using chain with some of these, I wanted some different stringing material that would match the rich colors in the beads. I’ve been admiring the work of Staci Loiuse Smith for a while, and she uses sari silk with her wonderful necklaces (here’s a helpful article she wrote on that). I searched around and found some sari silk cord and ribbon in lovely rich colors on Etsy. I ordered some in colors that would go well with these opulent colors and waited impatiently for them to arrive.

They finally did arrive yesterday! I spent all evening assembling necklaces. I love the bright blue cord with the blue and gold discs! Since the base is translucent clay, the color changes based on the angle you look at them, you kinda see that in the photos here. So the bright blue goes nicely with these. And ooh I love the purply-pink one on the right! The burgundy silk cord sets off the whole rich palette. I might HAVE to keep that one for myself too!

Blue silkscreened necklaceLight shining through silkscreened necklace

Pink and purple necklace

Silk screened necklaces with sari silk cord

Did you think that was it?! Not quite! Here’s some more necklaces! Some oval shapes in here, for some variation. The initial plan was to combine the oval and round shapes, but I didn’t like that, so stuck to all round or all oval. I added silk ribbon to one of them, and while I like the colors, I’m not sure I’m very fond of the effect. But the color is lovely!

Red big D necklaceRed necklace with sari ribbon

It’s been a crazy month at work, so a lot of clay projects I’d planned to do have been put on the back burner. Which fit it great with the silk screening phase, since the projects don’t take very much time at all. Which is how I’ve been able to churn out all these shiny bits but I haven’t had time to make me some new canes, or try some other things I’ve had on my list. This long weekend got away from me before I knew it! But at least my necklace stand looks full now!

Necklace stand

Necklace stand

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Bead shapes and the Relief Beyond Belief technique

When I first started making jewelry with clay, I made all sorts of round beads. I used canes, translucent clay, mokume gane veneers and everything else and rolled lots and lots of beads. Looking back, I think it was just a subconscious association I had with jewelry = beads = round. It wasn’t until I started looking around a bit more that I noticed jewelry could be made out of anything! Round beads, cabochons, organic shapes, flat pieces, domed pieces… you get the drift.

I went through phases with each shape. First was the round bead. Cindy Leitz’s tips on rolling perfectly round beads really helped. I follow the exact method she shows in this video, except I like to use gloves for that final smoothing roll. This works nicely for graduated bead sizes. I can manage hand rolling only with a medium or large sized bead though. For tiny spacer type beads, I have lots of bead rollers! I like this round bead roller. It can make beads of 5 different sizes and has a channel for piercing.

Ikat patterned necklace
Necklace with round beads with Cindy Leitz’s Ikat pattern tutorial. The spacer beads were made using a bead roller

I also went through a phase with hollow beads after this tutorial. I love the gentle curve of these beads and how light and airy they are. I have the Sculpey Hollow bead maker as well as a couple of metal palettes. The hollow bead maker is great for graduated sized; the medium large one is my favorite for a pendant. The palette is good when I want to make a bunch of beads the same size, like for earrings for instance. I like the domed shape for mokume gane veneers because there’s more surface area to show off a good amount of the pattern that’d be lost on a round bead.

Hollow domed beads
Hollow lentil beads with reptile pattern on one side and mica shift on the other.

I also discovered flat pieces somewhere along the way along with cookie cutters and templates. Oh the possibilities!! These are also great for mokume gane pieces and anything else that will be finished with a layer of resin. Lynda Moseley makes lovely flat shapes with gently curved edges that show off her veneers. I’ve found that it does work very well for her faux techniques and marbled veneers. I like the cutters from Poly-Tools, they’re quite organic and different.

P1010389
Assorted flat pieces

P1010549

Recently, I started getting obsessed with puffier cabochon like shapes for simple chunky pendants or earrings. I looked into Melanie Muir style dimensional pieces which are beautiful but weren’t puffy enough for me (I do have my eye on her CraftCast class though, it looks like fun!). I had played with CaBezels as well but it wasn’t quite what I was picturing in my head. I wanted something that was generously domed, preferably hollow. I toyed with making rough cores with Ultralight, but I wanted to be able to make the same shape again if I wanted.

While searching for a good technique, I came across Dan Cormier’s Relief Beyond Belief (RBB) eBook. Now these beads seemed to be exactly what I wanted. But I wasn’t sure if it worked only with his templates and I wasn’t sure how easy it was to do. The combination of the book and a couple of template sets wasn’t a cheap one; I wanted to know more before I took the leap.

I had a chance to pick Diane Bruce‘s brain during Carol Simmons’ workshop and she mentioned she had taken a workshop with Dan. She also showed me some of the Cutting Edge templates she had and told me the RBB technique was pretty adaptable. That was all the encouragement I needed!! I ordered the eBook and a sample set of dies as soon as I was home.

I think this has to be my favorite clay book! The fact that it’s in electronic format allows nice links and indexing which makes it easy to revisit specific sections. But more than that, I love the precision of the instructions. I’ve never been “a pinch of this and a dash of that” kind of person and I love how there are very precise explanations for each step with a clear picture illustrating the point. The process is quite simple, but there are many potential mistakes, all of which Dan makes sure to mention and warn against. He also has some great tips for sanding and finishing, some of which were quite a revelation for me.

I’d planned to read through the book a couple of times while I waited for my dies to come and try it out with some scrap clay. But then I found a Natasha bead that I’d shaped and packed away that had gone all wonky. Rolling it through my pasta machine produced a nice swirly design. I saw a CoolTools template lying nearby and thought, why not try it? I did the first couple of steps from memory without paying very much attention. When I got to the actual forming step, I sat up a little, mindful of Dan’s warnings, but still without much hope. To my amazement, the clay shaped up, exactly the way he explained! At this point, I sheepishly went back to the book and reread the instructions to finish up properly. Pretty soon, I had my first bead!

First RBB bead
My first RBB bead from mokume gane scraps

I did some experimenting with dies and cookie cutters, and love the results! Trying the technique with cookie cutters is a little fiddly. My first experiment came out well, but the second bead collapsed a bit. I’m not too fussed since these were made from scraps (does anyone else ever run out of scrap?! With the multitude of ways you can use leftover clay from a project, how does one save scrap to use as cores and things?! More on this topic later). I also messed up a little with the longer bead: I kept changing my mind on which cookie cutter to use and that left some marks on my sheet. The striped veneer is so thin, I didn’t want to sand it away. But the bead is still nice I think.

First batch of RBB beads
First batch of RBB beads

P1010458

The mica stripes come from trimmings off a Carol Simmons mokume gane stack. Isn’t it yummy?! My mom always says the pieces I make out of scrap are the best; in this case I’m kind of inclined to agree.

I’ve been scouring all online store for more templates I can use with this technique, and also looking into ways to make my own templates! I still haven’t found a perfect solution, but I’m going to keep trying. In the meantime I did make some nice shapes with the Cutting Edge dies and some templates from Melanie Muir. I pulled out some old canes and things that I had on hand and covered my RBB blank beads. The green and yellow ones turned out especially great I think. The pattern is from Meg Newberg’s gemstone cane. I also added some 3D mica shift and faux abalone. Everything looks better on a nice puffy bead!!

RBB beads with cane slicesRBB beads with faux abaloneMica RBB shapes

Hollow Relief Beyond Belief beads make using cookie cutters and assorted templates.

Now I had all this made and the blog post written up to this point and was planning to publish the post last week. But then, I got my peeler kit and holes and lines tutorial in the mail, and I just HAD to include some RBB style beads I made with those veneers. So I spent all of last week mixing some new mica shades and experimenting with some slabs. Now I used my Lucy slicer to take slices off my slab. But I’ve been using the peeler for stamped mica shift and it’s so much better than using a blade. I might cover more details in a separate post on mica clay experiments, still trying to get some samples and information together.

I’ve included a sideways shot of a set of beads to try and illustrate how puffy they are. But so light for the size! One thing on my list to do is make a solid bead and hollow bead using the same form and weigh them to find the actual difference in the weight. Also, you can see some cuts on the surface in the large gold oval bead. Now with almost all the others, I made a core with scrap clay and layered a super thin veneer over the baked form. This took longer with the multiple stages, but gave me much more control over the final piece. There were some cases where I didn’t join the seams of the veneer on top and back neatly (see the orange bead in left photo). Now all this could have been avoided with some care and patience. But I was in such a hurry to get all this done this week, I didn’t pay much attention to all that. Of course it bothered me like crazy when I was taking these pictures, but I wanted to include it as a reminder what NOT to do!

Mica RBB beads
Mica RBB beads

Mica RBB shapes

The remaining pieces from the experiments were combined together into a hasty mokume gane stack to cover some more blank beads. And it turned out nothing like I expected. But I love them! The colors seem to reflect the colors of the leaves right now. And fall is my very favorite season! I wish I knew how to replicate these colors to make a fall themed leaf necklace of some sort. There’s something so satisfying in using new and different colors. It really sets each batch of jewelry apart.

Mokume gane RBB beads
Mokume gane RBB beads

So that’s my bead shapes post! Hope you enjoyed looking through it. Tune in next week for ideas on how to use scraps from such projects!

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!