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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Whoooo's Voting? ...hopefully you are!

It's time to vote for the September 2016 PCAGOE Challenge!! If you'll remember from the post about my challenge piece, this month's theme is Owls! Once again, this theme has resulted in some fabulous entries! Feast your eyes on this lot of wonderful artwork:

I wish I could choose them all in the vote! You only have until midnight on September 7th to decide which 3 are your favorite entries, so don't delay... head over to the PCAGOE blog now to cast your  vote! Remember, one lucky voter will be selected to win a free prize... it might be you!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Night Owl

This month's project brought me inspiration to upcycle some DVD-Rs and to put my sculpting brain to work. The theme for the PCAGOE September challenge is "Owls". I can remember when I was a kid, when owls were very popular, and they've made a popularity come-back once again over the last handful of years.

I'm not quite sure when the inspiration struck to use the DVD-Rs, but perhaps it hit me when I was in the studio looking at the massive stack of them. You see, my husband makes a lot of recorded DVDs from our over-the-air broadcast movie channels (we don't have cable or satellite, just a big old-fashioned antenna). He records movies so that we'll have a catalog of interesting things to watch for the future, since we don't really watch television programs but we do love movies. Many times, he gets a "bad" DVD-R that just doesn't record the information, or in some cases the online television guide that he uses messed up the broadcast schedule. When these mishaps occur, he tosses those DVDs into the trash. Since I am the one who empties the bins every week, I find them and keep a stack of them for "someday I'll turn these into something" projects. Well, I got to make a small dent into my stack of dvd-rs that have been piling up for the last 5 years or so.   

The sheen on the recorded side of most of my dvds is a lovely hue of purple, then I have some that are a lighter hue of purple and others that are a silver with iridescent purple sheen. Because of that color variation, I decided that these would make a perfect night sky, if I were to add a thin layer of liquid polymer painted with alcohol inks. I didn't quite like the holes in the centers of the dvds, so I decided to add some clay centers, which I think also add some interest. I made them graduating colors of purple (darkest at the bottom going to lightest at top), with one pearly white center at the top right, to be the moon. I also made sure to paint the liquid polymer in gradation from lighter surrounding the moon dvd to darker for those further away from the moon dvd. After these were cured, I drilled holes in them and strung them together with wire. 

Next came the owl sculpt. I had decided on a barn owl. Although I love all owls, I have a particular fondness for the look of the barn owls. Because I didn't want him to be too heavy, I first made a rough form out of aluminum foil. I draped a large sheet of raw polymer over the foil and cut it to the shape I needed. This first layer was cured, then I started to add the details. I added the black eyes and the beak, and then cured that layer too. Then began the sculpting of the feathers and his legs. The larger wing feathers are where the most of the work was done, handcutting each individual feather. The talons were made by bending a heavy gauge copper wire and cutting it at an angle to make the ends look sharp, these were thrust into the sculpted feet. The beak and eyes were treated to a coating of clear liquid Kato, to give them a glassy shine. 

After he was fully sculpted I used a cotton swab with varying alcohol inks to give coloring to his wing feathers and to accents of his face and chest. He then went in for a final cure. After he was fully cured, I used some burnt umber water soluble oil paint antiquing to add definition to the wing feathers and to the dimensionality of his body. I didn't notice till after the photos were taken that I need to add a little more of this antiquing to the area between his legs. The sculpting of this area is dimensional, with the back leg is slightly behind the front leg, but because of the white coloring, that is hard to see. I will be adding more shading in that area, to define it better. 

I had planned to sculpt a branch for him to perch upon, but I ran out of time... so I ran outside and grabbed this small branch from a storage of tinder that we keep on our property. I actually quite like the way it looks, but I may still sculpt a branch for him (undecided).  

This is probably the largest sized project I've ever completed, the entire wall-hanging is about 20" by 15"! The owl is about 11" tall...  I'm really pleased with this piece, overall.  Though, I haven't decided what I'm going to do with him yet. He may become a permanent resident of my studio space, but then again, he might fly somewhere else.... ;) What do you think of my night owl wall-hanging? Do you have any good ideas for how I might use the other multitude of trashed dvd-rs that I have remaining (which are bound to accumulate further)? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please do take a moment and leave me a comment below!

Friday, August 5, 2016

August Vote (only 2 days left!)

So once again, time has slipped past me and I nearly forgot to post a reminder to for the PCAGOE monthly challenge! But, there are still 2 days left, so all is not lost! ;) If you follow this blog, you might remember from my last post that this month's theme is "Seaside", and as is usual, the participating members have all come up with completely unique and inspired pieces. Have a look at all of the loveliness:

I had a tough time choosing my 3 favorite pieces, and you might too! Please head over to the PCAGOE blog and cast your vote for your 3 favorite entries. Remember, one lucky voter is chosen every month to win a prize of their choosing, it could be you this month! Voting is open until midnight on August 7th, so head over to the PCAGOE blog now!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sea Tossed Shell Necklace

It's been a rough month both physically and emotionally, for varied reasons. I nearly bailed on the PCAGOE challenge for August. I think I'm close to a 3 year streak for consecutive months of entries, so I really hated to miss a month. I haven't been in the studio since last month, and I could feel edginess setting in... this is never a good thing! Luckily, I manage to squeak in some time in the studio last night and today to come up with an entry. The challenge theme for August 2016 is "Beach".

When I originally thought about what I might do for this theme, I had planned to do a piece with a whelk shell and I intended to either film or take snapshots of the process. The plan was to embed a tutorial on my blogpost about the piece. Alas, with the lack of time and last minute studio work, I did not have a chance to do a video or photos, plus, the shell I decided to create is different from the whelk shell that I made for my She Sells Seashells Fairy House, and so the creating of it was another session of trial and error. 

Sometime yesterday I had resigned myself to skipping this challenge, because I didn't have any ideas for this shell piece... I simply wanted to make a seashell but didn't know how that shell would be used. Then I dug around in my stock of unassembled pieces, that I have in a bin, and found the 2 blue circle stacked beads that I had left over from my Cloudy with a Mix of Tyvek Necklace. These blue beads kind of reminded me of cascading waves, or even fish scales... and I started thinking about a necklace that would incorporate these beads and a shell pendant. I didn't want the shell to be too dimensional on the wearer, so I decided to create a worn shell, one that was tossed about and weathered by the ocean. I liked the idea of being able to see the various layers of the interior spiral. 

I set about making the shell with a blend of Premo translucent and Premo white. This piece was created in layers and various bakings, starting with the thin core first and working out to the outer layer last. After all the layers were attached and fully cured, I then used alcohol inks to add some coloring and and white acrylic paint to give a water-weathered impression to some of the areas The inner salmon layers were also treated to a thin layer of liquid pc and a shot with the heat gun to give a glossy look, similar to that of a real seashell.

Next I drilled a hole in the shell bead and strung it and the blue beads onto a strand of silk sari. The sari necklace is made to be tied to secure it, and so 2 blue glass beads were added to the ends to weigh them down. I think the sari strand gives a nice boho feel to the piece.

Excuse the last photo, of me modeling the necklace, I ran out of daylight and couldn't get the focus as sharp as I want. I'll try another day this week, to take a better photo and will update the post with the new photo as soon as I can...

Overall, I'll pretty happy with this quickie project. I do love how the shell turned out. I'm not convinced that I like it with the blue beads, at least not as much as I thought I would. Someday I hope to make a tutorial on how to make the whelk shells. If you're a polymer artist, is that something you'd be interested in learning? What do you think about the contrast between the blue beads and the shell pendant? Would you swap the blue beads for something else? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think of my Sea Tossed Shell necklace.

Voting will open for this challenge on August 1st and will run through till August 7th at Midnight. As always, I'll try to post a reminder here on the blog!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Flute Video & Voting Time!

It's time to vote for the PCAGOE July "Music" themed Challenge! Our guild members, as always, have come up with some inspiring entries. It's always so fun to see how each artist interprets the theme differently. Check out the 6 entries for this month:

You can vote for your 3 favorite entries at the PCAGOE blog. Voting is open until July 7th at midnight EST.

I was delighted to find the Sound Waves Flute that I made for this challenge featured on Polymer Clay Daily early this week! I was grateful too, that some of my favorite facebook pages shared this project (The Blue Bottle Tree, Strebe Designs & Paisley Lizard Designs). Many thanks to all the polymer people and friends who've shared my blog link to this project. Thanks too, for all of the wonderful comments and reactions! 

In the past week, since the original posting, I've received a lot of questions about the polymer covered flute, most of which were geared toward whether the flute actually plays, and whether the sound was affected by the addition of the polymer. So, I created a video contrasting the polymer flute to the uncovered flute. Forewarning: my flute playing is quite bad, since I do not play more than an occasional once or twice a year "pulling it out of the closet to see if I can still play" session.  It has been over 25 years since I played on a regular basis, so keep that in mind when you review the video. 

I don't really detect much difference between the sound of the covered flute and the sound of the uncovered flute.... it would be nice to hear the difference with a flautist who can play well, alas I have no such source. I hope this will adequately answer the questions that people have asked. Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

And don't forget to head over and vote for the PCAGOE challenge, one lucky voter wins a prize every month, it could be you this month!!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sound Wave Flute

I've had this idea rolling around in my head for a couple of years now.... Growing up, I was a flute player, I still have my 2 flutes and my piccolo, I pull them out a couple times a year and play them. I can still read notes and can play the instruments, but my sound isn't all that great cause my lip is out of shape from disuse. It's still fun to keep on top of it enough that I know if I pull the flute out I'll be able to play it again. Anyway, one of those random playing sessions, I was thinking about my first student flute and thought it'd be really cool to decorate it with polymer. I have sat on that idea for at least 3 years. This month's PCAGOE challenge gave me a chance to bring that idea to fruition. The theme this month is Music!

After some more thought, being a very sentimental creature, I decided I just couldn't use my student flute to do this project (incase the project ended badly, I didn't want to render that flute useless). I certainly wouldn't use my "good" flute for this either, and definitely not my piccolo, which already has a black wood, or possibly plastic, base for the body. So, I headed to ebay and picked up an old beat-up, but still playable, flute for about $30. This thing had a lot of tarnish on it and a nice ding in the mouthpiece, and the head joint wasn't even the same make as the body (it was marked with a Gemeinhardt seal and the body is a Vinci)... so I felt like I was going to be doing it a service by covering up all the old tarnished and nicked-up nickel. Here's a before shot of the flute:

For anyone who knows woodwind instruments, you'll know that they have pads underneath the keys. These pads cannot withstand excessive heat or moisture, so the first step was to remove the keys. I took it to a local music shop and they removed the keys for me. I then began the process of covering the body. Since the theme is music, I wanted the pattern to somehow refer to music or sound, yet didn't want to use the traditional music note symbols... I just wanted something less literal when conveying the idea. So I began thinking about the patterns that sound makes visually, if you haven't seen the frequency resonance experiment video yet, you'll understand what I mean once you watch this video: 

I have never been much of a millefiori caner with polymer. There have been a few canes I've created in the past, but not many. I do love how canes work and really would like to explore doing more of them sometime. I thought this would be a great project for canes. I decided on a palette of ultramarine  blue and yellow with white. This color palette felt right because it reminds me of air and lightness, which is often the way I like hearing a flute, with a light airy tune. I made a couple different versions of bullseye canes in the blue/white/yellow color palette and placed slices of them on a sheet of white polymer. After I had the sheet covered the way I wanted, and had it smoothed down so that the cane slices blended into each other, I mounted it on the head joint, leaving the mouth piece uncovered for a contrasting ultramarine solid. Separately, I also unscrewed and covered the tip of the head joint with some of this sheet, then used a snake of white and a snake of blue clay to go around the base of that small piece.

Because I wanted to use varying cane slices to cover the keys, I decided that I wanted the body and foot to be mostly ultramarine blue with surprise spots of the canes cut into the body. So, I covered the entire body and foot with the blue and smoothed the joins of clay, then cut out holes to insert the canes. After smoothing over where the blue met the inserted canes, these pieces were cured. I cut thin slices of the different canes and made them all uniform in thickness by rolling them through the pasta machine. I then used circle cutters to get them to the right sizes I needed for them to cover the different keys. There were a few that I had to hand cut with an X-acto knife, for the odd-shaped keys. These were cured on a board, to be adhered to the keys after the flute was put back together. Because I wanted this piece to be shiny, but didn't want the hassles of sanding, especially with some of the exposed metal areas of the key holes and the joints where the pieces fit together, sanding would have been an extremely fussy job. So, I decided to use the liquid polymer/heat-gun method. I've seen this method discussed by a couple different artists, but most recently Debbie Crothers wrote about how she gets her gorgeous finish on her faux lamp work beads in this blog post. Thanks Debbie, for the reminder, this turned out to be a great way to get the finish I wanted, without the fussiness that sanding would have entailed!

After I had The flute covered and had the finish I wanted, I took it back to the music store to have the keys put back on. Here's where the trouble began. Because I've never done this before, and likely the music store guy has never had someone want to do this, there were areas I covered which needed to be exposed to give the fulcrum of the keys the space and leverage they needed to move the keys... this I hadn't realized when covering the body and foot. So I had to go back to the shop, after they discovered this issue, and I simply used my X-acto knife to cut out the areas that needed that leverage. They put all the keys back on, but because I was running close to my deadline, they still need to do a little work to get it into good playing condition. There is one key who's spring is off and I can't figure out where the spring is supposed to rest, so they will have to adjust that. They also removed some of the corks on the back of some of the keys, so I will need to have those reinstalled. They were concerned that the tone of the instrument would be deadened by the covering. I am not a sound expert, but I've compared the tone of this flute to the tone of my other student grade flute and I cannot discern a difference. So, I have played the flute and it does work, and it will hopefully play well one day soon! My goal in this was to create a beautiful, but also functional instrument, and I'm quite pleased, so far, with my accomplishment. I really hope that the music people can get it up to speed with tweaking the keys to good playing condition. Here are a couple more shots of it, from varying angles and views, so you can see all the decoration around the entire piece:

As I said, I'm really pleased with this project, and if the music guys can tweak the keys to get it into best playing condition, I might decide to do more of these...  I'd really love to get my hands on a piccolo to do this to! ;) If I'd have had this flute as a kid, I'd have been over the moon happy to have such a unique instrument! So, what do you think of my sound wave flute? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave me a comment below!
Voting for this challenge begins on July 1st and will run through to July 7th at midnight EST. I'll post a reminder here on the blog!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

June Vote!!

Goodness, I nearly missed out on posting a voting reminder here! I'm up to my eyeballs in strawberries and busy getting my house and gardens ready for summer, so I've been quite distracted from the computer these days. There are only 2 days left for the June PCAGOE challenge vote! The theme this month was "Quilled" Polymer, and we had a great variety of pieces among our participating members, see for yourself:

Voting is only open until the 7th of June, midnight EST... So head over to the PCAGOE blog and cast your vote for your 3 favorite pieces! Remember, one lucky voter is chosen every month, to win a prize... it could be YOU this month, but you have to vote for the chance! Thanks to everyone who takes a moment to vote!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chaos: things don't always go as planned

Sometimes things just don't go as planned. I'm actually not surprised that my latest project didn't work out as intended. This is the busiest month of the year for me, as I'm knee-deep in lots of house-hold seasonal events: preparing and planting the garden (we have 2 large vegetable gardens); protecting, picking, cleaning, preparing and enjoying my strawberry harvest bounty; protecting the various fruit trees that are pinking or in immature fruit stage; and spring cleaning my house... all this piled on top of other "normal" life activities, obligations and chores. So my life is always a bit chaotic in the month of May, and this polymer project, though not intended to be, is a great reflection of that chaos.

Problem is, I had too many ideas for this project, and I tried to incorporate too many of them into this one piece. **sigh** I had feared that trying to cram too many ideas into one piece might indeed become disastrous, but I just had to try, didn't I? Why? Well, because I was dying to get all the ideas out there and just didn't want to wait. Lessons learned, often the hard way.

So my first idea was to create a portion of a sun image, with lots of flowing lines, but not the entire sun... here's a rough sketch of my first idea (the one I should have probably stuck with):

The PCAGOE theme for this month is "quilled" polymer, and this image would have worked well. Since I've done a couple other quilled pieces in the past, and wrote the tutorial article for The Polymer Arts magazine, I really wanted this to be something special. So I keep thinking about it and over thinking it. And then, I got the idea to upcycle some cds and to incorporate layers of quilling. Here's where I went terribly wrong. You see, this secondary idea did not follow the sketched image at all, it was something entirely different, and probably would have worked well had I stuck to that idea and the image I saw with it. But I didn't want to abandon that flowing sun image (chalk that up to having tons of rain in the past couple weeks), so I made the decision to combine the two (well, basically three) ideas into creating a layered and now full sun image (in order to incorporate the upcycled cd idea).  Oh, and then I had a fourth idea of using curled strips, as I've seen these used in quilled paper art lately.  (imagine a rolled eye animated emoticon here)

So, beyond being a bear to create this piece, with all the layers and trying to keep everything in place when cured (thanks to heat + gravity concerns that polymer artists know so well), the design just doesn't really work for me in the finished format. Well, I'm not sure it's finished either, I just basically ran out of time since I needed to photograph this with whatever remaining daylight I had at 8PM...  I may keep adding to it and trying to salvage something that I like from it.

Or, I might just cut it in half. When I cut the photos in half, I kind of like what happens... 

And... when I photoshop those halves into how I would hang them on the wall, I'm liking this effect even more.


So, I might be able to redeem the chaos after all... If I do, I'll be sure to post an update about it here on the blog.  What about you? Have you had life's chaos, calm or emotions subconsciously effect a project? What do you think of my chaotic work of art? What changes, do you think, would make this piece work better? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment below!

I'll post a reminder here on the blog for the challenge vote... as always, voting will open on the first of the month, and will be open from June 1st through June 7th. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring has sprung

For a long time, I have been wanting to do an art vessel focused on negative space as the major design element. The theme for the May PCAGOE challenge is "negative space".  So, the PCAGOE challenge was the impetus that I needed to bring one of those ideas to life.

I had the idea to make a continuous spiral as the body of the vessel, combined with some side supports to buttress the spiral shape. I decided to try this with a method that Donna Greenberg generously shared on facebook. Donna used an epoxy clay as the under support for one of her wonderful openwork sculptures. If you're not familiar with Donna's work, you should definitely check her out. She is, without a doubt, one of my polymer heroes. You can find her facebook page here:

 I had some epoxy clay on hand so I decided to give Donna's method a try. Unfortunately, I initially only made the spiral, my thought was that I'd cover it with polymer before adding the side supports. Well... I wish I had realized that once separated from the form I was using to mold the spiral, it could potentially just become a great big epoxy clay slinky... needless to say, I didn't think of that. I guess I  assumed that the epoxy clay would be sturdy enough to hold it's own, but it wasn't, big epoxy slinky is indeed what I got.

I then had to put the slinky, I mean sculpted spiral, back on the mold form and try to add the side supports. When I finally was able to cover the epoxy clay with polymer it was a tricky undertaking. Difficult first, because the lower spindles of the spiral did not have a lot of space for my fingers to get in and smooth out the clay; and second, because the epoxy clay form (because I removed it from the base too soon) was a little wonky. Yes, that's a technical term. ;)

I decided to wrap strips of black polymer around the epoxy clay spiral shape of the base form. But because smoothing out the polymer was not going to happen easily with the limited space between the lower spiral spindles, I decided to use a technique that I used last year to make a necklace for myself... I took thin crochet thread and wrapped it around the raw polymer, then cured it and removed the thread, then backfilled the spaces that were created by the thread with some acrylic paint. Here's a photo of that necklace (and the sweater I wanted to match it to) that gave me the idea for how to treat the coil of the vessel:

This was a good idea, only thing was that with the necklace I was able to smooth out the clay, but with the vessel and the tight spaces, this wasn't feasible, so the vessel's finish is rougher than I would really prefer. Instead of acrylic paint I decided to use some peacock pearl colored Premo mixed with some LPC and thinner to make a paste that would be thin enough to fill the thread voids. I like the fact that this mixture clung to the cured polymer a bit more than the acrylic paint did, which I think gave it a little bit of a mokume gane feel.  Here's a shot of me holding it, so you can see the scale of the piece:

So, while I'm happy to see the idea come to life, I'm not really happy with this piece. I have another idea for how I might construct this next time, and I am considering doing a second iteration very soon. The thing I'm most unhappy about is how wonky the spiral got because of taking it off the form before adding epoxy supports on the side. I also don't like the fact that I had to texture everything because of how it was formed. My new idea for designing this will allow me to finish it smoothly. So, while I'm not completely happy, I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the inspiration I received while making this piece. What about you? Has there ever been a piece that you made which turned out less than you had hoped, but you were still grateful for the lessons learned? Did you do another iteration of that piece and better it with those gained insights? Tell me about it in the comments... and let me know what you think of my Spring Sprung vessel too!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April Flowers Vote

It's time to vote! We had a great turn-out from our guild members, so many beautiful creations for the Flowers theme... it's tough to choose just 3 pieces, I wish I could vote for all of these lovely polymer clay creations! Check them out for yourself:

Head over to the PCAGOE site and vote for your top 3 favorite pieces! Remember, one lucky voter is chosen every month, to win a prize... it could be you! Voting is open from now until April 7th at midnight EST, so go there now and cast your votes!