Shiny, shiny beads

I’ve been obsessing over shiny beads lately, based on Debbie Crothers’ embellished beads tutorial. I also got her liquid clay tutorial, which has so many tips on how to use Kato liquid clay to produce a fabulously shiny bead. I’ve been experimenting on different things mixed into the liquid clay as well. Some have worked well, some, not so much!

Blue polymer clay beads: The Beaded BazaarRed polymer clay beads: The Beaded Bazaar

Red and blue beads

I tried to stick to some color schemes with the vague idea of stringing them together to make necklaces. There’s a red lot and blue, what I started with. I also tried some simple black and gold beads. Lastly, my favorite, peacock colors in burnished gold, blue and green! I’m trying to think of a good focal for the peacock colors, I think the beads have the potential for a lovely statement necklace. I might also add some purple beads.

Black and gold polymer clay beads: The Beaded BazaarPeacock color polymer clay beads: The Beaded Bazaar

Black and gold beads (L); Peacock beads (R)

I love the look of these black and gold beads as well! The black ones were supposed to be just for practice, but I love their simple look. I think I might make them into a simple necklace. The giant burnished gold ones are hollow! I think those would be great with some ribbon maybe? I’m not sure how to string these up.

I managed to string the red beads together to create a nice chunky necklace. Large Ultralight clay beads make sure it’s not too heavy. I really do like this one! It’s a touch too big for me, but I’m still tempted to keep it.

Red beads necklace: The Beaded Bazaar

Red rose necklace

For a touch of cuteness, here are some holiday themed miniatures I’ve been working on. I plan to put these on my monitors at work! I know I have a wee Christmas tree somewhere as well, which I’ll have to dig out!

Winter miniatures: The Beaded Bazaar

Winter miniatures

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Tube beads and faux ceramic

I don’t have much to share here. Most of my time recently has been split between challenges at work and working on finishing up a Japanese themed swap that I was supposed to send out last month! But I’ve been in touch with my swap partner and we’re both travelling this month. So we decided to mail our pieces in a week or so. She suggested doing a “sync-ship” so we’ll both get our packages around the same time. And of course the minute the deadline moved, I pushed away the pieces I’d been working on energetically and went off on a clay tangent!

Even with all that, I have finally finished a few different things. I still need to do some finishing, but that shouldn’t take too long (I hope!). It’s funny, at first I had no idea what to make for the challenge. And then slowly I found about four different tutorials for Japanese related things that I already had and ideas started flowing. I didn’t have enough time to implement my original idea, which was to make a tiny Japanese garden or Zen garden. But I still have that at the back of my mind and will be making one when I have a moment. I think a wee Zen garden will be great on my table at office.

There are a few other techniques I tried as well. I bought the Cosmic Ceramic tutorial set from Iris Mishly a while back and have been playing with it on and off whenever I find a scrap of white clay that I’m too bored to reshelve. I haven’t nailed down the realistic finish yet (have you seen these gorgeous pieces from Christi Uliczny?! I think this one is my favorite). But I’m having a total ball with these. I’m finally putting all the PanPastels I have to good use, as well as various assorted stamps. I’m in the process of organizing some of my craft supplies and I keep uncovering stamps I forgot I owned!

Faux ceramic beads

Polymer clay faux ceramic pieces

Another artist I’ve been following a lot lately is Ludmila Bakulina. She has a wonderful YouTube channel with lots of tutorials and tips. The one that got my juices flowing was a video she did recently using texture sheets and stamps with clay. What piqued my interest was that she showed a bunch of CoolTools textures that I’ve had trouble with, because they have a very fine texture. And boy does her technique work like a charm!! Here are a set of hollow tube beads I made with various small texture sheets. Also, a earring pair sitting on top of the fine line texture sheet I used for them. Even with the crazy close-up, you can barely see the texture. I have NEVER gotten a clean impression with this one by just pressing the stamp into clay. But rolling the clay onto the stamp created a wonderful raised pattern, nicely highlighted with Gilders paste.

Hollow textured tube beads Fine texture earrings

Textured tube beads and textured earring pair

In other exciting news, I’m finally off to Carol Simmons’s master cane workshop this week! My bags are packed, my supplies are in and I’m all ready to learn buckets of things! I spent some time making a few color keys in preparation for this workshop which was quite insightful. I never realized the lovely shades of green between Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow. I will be making many more of these scales once I get back and start trying to mix more custom colors of my own.

Polymer Clay Color Keys

Polymer clay color keys

Bettina Welker Workshop in Victoria

I had a great time couple of weekends ago learning all sorts of cool things at Bettina Welker‘s Texture, Form and Color workshop. Bettina is a great teacher and a super fun person to be around! I made a whole bunch of beads and learnt some neat tricks with Genesis Heat Set paints. Barb and Irene, who organized the workshop, had arranged for a set of samples in the primary colors for all of us, so I came back with a good amount of paints and other bits of things I can use.

The flow of this workshop was a bit different than I expected. Bettina demoed a whole bunch of techniques and sent us off to try them out in any way we liked. This was more of a “technique” workshop and gave us a lot of freedom on the beads we wanted to make. I liked this approach, because it let us set our own pace to a certain extent and everyone came up with markedly different results. Bettina also worked along with us (though she had to be a step ahead so that she could show us each stage) and took a few minutes occasionally to walk around and offer encouragement and suggestions.

I didn’t finish up my necklace in time, because I had a ferry to catch. But here are some of the beads I made in some configurations I’m playing with. I’m pretty chuffed with them. They’re much larger than the beads I usually make. But I love that Bettina’s bold graphic style shows its traces here. Bettina gave us some good tips on assembling the necklace, which is something that I always struggle with. I’m still not sure this is the “final” layout for either of the necklaces but it’s a start!

Sampler necklace 2Sampler necklace 1

Sampler necklace layouts

I meet a bunch of clayers during the workshop, some new friends and some old. I was thrilled to meet Carolyn Good of 2GoodClaymates and put a face with the name (checkout her summary of the workshop, you can see me hovering behind Bettina in the picture!). She made some really lovely beads AND I got to see a lot of her snap jewelry in person! It was great fun to talk clay over lunch and dinner and discuss all our experiences with clay. I’ve resolved to try and make it to one of my guild meetings but we’ll see how that goes (they meet on weekdays and it’s pretty far away)!

Things at work are heating up again so I apologize for sparse posts. This post itself has been so delayed! I actually have a pile of beads I need to drill and finish up, see the shot of them below piled into bowls. I’ll try to do some quick posts on them as frequently as possible. Also, my master cane workshop with Carol is getting closer and closer! I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about after that! So make sure to check in!

Beads To Be Finished

Beads waiting to be finished

Quick update and some canes

Phew, things have been rough at work. All I did over the last couple of weeks was literally go to work, come back late at night and fall into bed. Sadly that left very little time for claying (or anything really). So I don’t have any completed piece to show off. I’m trying to scrape together time to finish my red, blue and white themed swap. It was to be shipped in June!! I had so many ideas for this one: I really wanted to try an extruded star cane for this, and maybe some bargello. But I had no time for that. I have a couple of pieces almost done, will be sending it off on Monday. Want a sneak peak? Here’s a “compact” mirror with a free style cane veneer. I picked up a small square mirror and built a hinge and cover for it. More on this later, it’s a part of a swap so don’t want to give away too much.

Mirror covered with freestyle cane: The Beaded Bazaar

Mirror covered with freestyle cane

I did experiment with Teresa Salgado’s cane bender style cane using Souffle clay. I didn’t like the original triangle section much, but the assembled square looks good to me (the two canes on the left). I used the remaining blends I had for another cane in similar colors. I plan to cover another box with slices of all these different canes. Since they were constructed using the same set of colors I’m hoping they’ll be in harmony. My first instinct is to cover the whole thing with slices of the same cane. But that’s…boring! Since I’m not brave enough to try patching together completely different canes slices, using a set of similar ones seems to be a good start.

Freestyle canes using cane benders: The Beaded Bazaar

Freestyle canes using cane benders

I got me a big bunch of fondant supplies and have been dying to try them out. These are mostly petal cutters for different flowers and a couple of border cutters. I’ve been very into clay flowers since I took the plunge and got Iris Mishly’s entire Flower Academy set. Here’s my first rose below in a random pot. While I wasn’t too happy with this to begin with, it does resemble a real rose. So that’s good! I’m playing with some variations of this and will hopefully improve my technique. It’s fairly time consuming since each petal has to be formed and shaped individually.

Polymer clay rose: The Beaded Bazaar

Polymer clay rose

Tune in next time, hopefully I’ll have more clay time soon!

P.S: I mentioned being into Grimm last time, but boy did that show turn soap opera-ish real soon. Without many other options (or time), I’ve started watching Supernatural. I’ve caught a couple of episodes before so I have an idea about the show. And with eleven seasons, that should keep me busy for a while!

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

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!

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!