Sunday, December 22, 2013

Recycled Christmas

Any one who knows me, or has read this blog, likely knows how concerned I am with environmental issues.  As a result of my enviromentalism, I have learned to look at "trash" with a different lens.  I try to minimize our trash by refusing, reducing, recycling, upcycling, mending and repurposing.  My OneMoreUse line of products and etsy store was born out of my desire to reduce my household trash footprint (specifically single use plastics).  So whenever any product is past it's intended use in my household, I give creative thought as to how I might repurpose, recycle or upcycle each item. 

For January 2014, my guild's (PCAGOE) challenge theme is Recycled, which is a theme that speaks to both my sensible environmentalist self and also my artistic creative ideas.  I wanted to do something really unique for this challenge.  The solution for something different presented itself when my very organized hubby threatened to reorganize our silverware drawer.  He is the type of person who needs to be able to see and easily access whatever item he needs from a drawer, closet, cabinet, etc.  While I certainly like things neatly sorted too, because I have a pretty good memory of where items are located even when hidden, I am guilty of cramming as much as I can into any available space... so if that means I have to lift up a few spatulas to get to the ice cream scoop, I'm okay with that; this method drives the hubby crazy.  Every so often he threatens to organize something, which essentially means tossing some items, which he deems unworthy of the space they occupy, into a bag for a thrift store donation.   When he does threaten, I make sure to get the job done before he has a chance, that way I can be sure not to lose my favorite tools.

So, when I tackled the silverware drawer, I came across these hand mixer beaters that I had kept although both hand mixers that we've had in the last couple years have died and were irrepairable.  Removing these 4 beaters gave me enough room to organize my drawer to the hubby's standard; Perfect!  Normally I would send these to the local thrift, but I've seen a container full of such beaters sitting at said thrift store, so I don't think they have much of a market once the mechanicals of the mixer actually dies.  So I decided that THIS would be my item to use for my recycled project! 

I envisioned the beater becoming a stylized Christmas tree.  I made a red base for it, with green polka dots.  I secured the beater into the base and then coated the beater with many layers of Kato green colored liquid polymer that I added gold mica to create a custom color.  The scrolled filigree tree design is meant to mimic the look of quilled paper (as I explored in a previous piece here), and the design on each of the 4 paddles is the same.  I added some red dots to carry over the same design as on the base and add some contrast interest in the tree.  In the following photo of the tree with two paddles turned forward, you can more easily see the scroll pattern and you can see the areas of the metal batter more easily. 

While this was my first attempt at this idea, and it's far from perfect, I was very pleased with how it turned out, considering how difficult it actually was to complete.  I do have new ideas on how I will improve upon the execution of this type design in the future.  I just need to make time to revisit the idea before forging into something new, which is always a problem with me!  My favorite part of the creative process is the idea stage, and I always have way too many ideas waiting to be brought to life!  Here's a detail photo of the scroll work:

And finally a top-down view:

Voting for this challenge will open on January 1st and will run through January 7th.  I will try to remember to post a voting reminder here when the voting opens.  Last month, I was again honored to be chosen in the top 3 entries of both the public and the member vote for my penguin snowglobe piece.  Many thanks to everyone who took a moment to vote!  Comments are always welcome, so let me know what you think about this piece in the comments!  And a Very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate this holiday.  For everyone I wish you a happy holiday for whatever you celebrate... and a Happy, Healthy 2014 to all!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Holiday Tribute to My Brothers

This month my polymer guild's challenge theme is "Beads and Baubles", which basically means anything Christmas or holiday related.  It's no small wonder that my thoughts of "Christmas or Holiday" lead to my family.  Some of my most cherished Christmas memories (as with most people) are centered around my childhood.  30 + years later, I can still recall the anticipation and excitement I had as a 5 year old waiting for the big day to arrive; Can still see myself twirling around on the hardwood floor, pretending to be Dorothy Hamil, whilst my mom's favorite Christmas albums played in the background.  Can still feel the thrill of the annual search at our favorite tree farm, to tag THE perfect tree well in advance of the holiday season.  I can clearly remember decoration sessions which ended with fighting over who got to put the peacock ornament on the tree... and many countless other Christmas related moments.

Because I am the youngest of 3, I have fond memories of sharing those times with my siblings.  I have 2 older brothers who certainly played a big role in most of my childhood remembrances.  While there are some recollections that are sweet and dear to my heart, there are others that make me think of the dynamic of our family which give me a chuckle.  Because I am the youngest, and only girl, my big brothers (who share my father's ever-mischievous character) delighted in tormenting me in many ways.  One of their chosen methods of teasing was to tell tall tales which, to their fairly gullible baby sister, were taken as truths.  Our poor mother had to soothe many a tear, and banish a few nightmares, over some of the stories that wreaked havoc with the imagination of the youngest of her brood.  It was the memory of one of those tales which was the final key to bring my challenge piece together this month.

You see, I had decided that for this challenge, I would create a snow globe.  I had a lovely tear-drop shaped glass honey jar.  I had decided that this bottle should become a penguin.   I wanted to leave the belly area of the jar open and have the inside be a snow globe.  At first I had thought I would have perhaps a Christmas tree inside his belly with some fish and snowflakes swimming around.  When I thought more of the snowflakes, I thought of putting a snowman inside his belly.  But then I thought, why would anything like a tree or snowman be inside a penguin's belly?  This is where my brothers' story comes in to play.

One summer when I was little, probably in the 5 to 6 year range, my family had gathered at my grandparent's house for a picnic.  We were all enjoying eating large slices of watermelon and spitting the seeds out into the yard.  I was eating my slice of watermelon and I accidentally swallowed one of the seeds.  I mentioned that I had swallowed a seed and my brothers pretended to be really concerned, and they said something like "Well you know what that means don't you? Your belly will get big and fat because you'll start growing a watermelon in your tummy."  I'm sure I'm not the first child to be told this tale, and surely not the last.  So my ah-ha moment with the penguin idea was to turn that tall tale into a story of eating snowflakes:  Poor Penguin so enjoyed catching snowflakes on the tip of his tongue and eating them that he didn't heed his older sibling's warning that he would grow a snowman inside his belly and now look at what has happened!

The snowman is polymer clay sculpted over some aluminum foil.  A bed of snow fills the bottom of the jar, and snowman is secured onto the snow with a small metal rod and some liquid polymer.  They are secured to the inside of the jar with epoxy.  The penguin is a glass tear drop shaped jar that has been covered with polymer to create the penguin.  About 20 small polymer snowflakes were made and they are inside the snow globe area.  One of the polymer snowflakes is in the beak of the penguin, as if this is the last of his captured snowflakes.

The snowglobe is filled with distilled water, vegetable glycerin, the polymer snowflakes and some white glitter.  The bottom of the penguin is embossed with a snowflake and my tiny signature stamp.

The size of this piece is about 6" tall, about 4" wide and 3 1/2" deep.  You can see the scale of him in the photo of my hand holding him below.  The head of the penguin completely unscrews to allow for refilling of the water solution. 

He was so fun to make; after the acorn idea and this one, I am now saving interesting jars for future projects and other ideas... this could become a new storage problem. ;)  What do you think about my latest little creation? 

Voting for the new challenge will, as always, begin on the first of the month (December 1st 2013) and ends at midnight on the 7th of December.  I'll try to remember to post a reminder with the link and a photo of the other entries here, but can't make any promises... as always December looms heavy with gift creating responsibilities and projects galore!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A month of gratitude and feasts! ...with a side of experimentation

November is upon us already; which, here in the US always brings to mind our holiday of Thanksgiving.  Since my last post of belated thanks for websites on which my work was featured over the past 5 months, I was featured in 2 more places for which I need to express my gratitude!

The first feature was on the Polymer Clay Daily website, for my little acorn light.  As a polymer clay artist, this feature is a huge honor.  PCD is curated by Polymer Master Artist Cynthia Tinapple and this site has widespread following.  I've been floating on air since Monday, feeling validated as a genuine part of this wonderful artistic community as I receive multiple new contact notices from other polymer artists on my Flickr account, generous comments on facebook and on the PCD feature post, and some requests for a tutorial on creating my little pod.  A tutorial is currently in the making, with some brand new ideas that will be included, and it should be available by the end of the month (I hope!). 

The second feature, for which I wanted to give thanks, was for another spot on the Craftgossip website.  The polymer finds shared at Craftgossip are curated by Elaine Robitaille.  Elaine has featured me there a few times, for which I was equally grateful but failed to mention here on my blog (because I'm a bad blogger, but trying to be better).  This latest feature on Craftgossip was for my most recent Guild (PCAGOE) challenge piece.

This month's guild challenge theme is Salt & Pepper shakers.  I tried to come up with a clever tie-in of the subject to the objects.  Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by science.  I often think chemistry was one of my first loves, even though I didn't really know anything about it at the time.  Like most 4-5 year old girls in the 1970's, one of my favorite toys was a plastic tea set.  But did this girl use it to pretend-drink tea? ...nope, I would sneak into the bathroom and make concoctions of my mother's different Avon products mixed into my teacups; sort-of a little mad scientist, if you will.  That lasted until she caught me and gave me a tongue lashing for wasting her beauty products.  After which, I still made my concoctions, but hid them under my bed... I was eventually found out when she discovered hard caked and cracked substances in my teacup set under the bed.  She never bought me a chemistry set, or a new tea set for that matter to replace the then ruined tea set, so I guess she didn't see the scientist connection back then; but that was indeed what I was up to... Who knows, if she had invested in a chemistry set, perhaps I'd be experimenting with science instead of art products now... and with that difference, my mother has made the world a safer place! ;)

So, while exploring my ideas for this challenge, I thought of the chemical compound for sodium chloride or NaCl, commonly known as table salt.  I found the diagram for it on google and just loved the design that it created with the concentric circles joined together by the one ionic bond.  So, my next thought was, "great, now what do I do for pepper".  So I googled "pepper molecule" and found diagrams for both compounds of capsaicin and piperine.  Being married to an Italian who considers hot peppers to be the essence of life, I'm very familiar with Capsaicin and I associate it with red peppers, so that was out... but what is piperine?  Well, piperine is the alkaloid in pepper which is responsible for its pungent taste.  Perfect!

So, I decided to cover the shakers with a chopped translucent technique, the salt was done in white, frost white and translucent, and the pepper was done in a black, granite and translucent mix.  Then, I used a contrast of black rectangle with NaCL diagram embossed on the salt shaker and a contrast of white rectangle with the piperine (C17H19NO3) compound diagram embossed on it.  Yes, I know, I'm such a geek... that's how the title for these was born "Feed your geek Salt and Pepper Shakers".  After curing, I painted the NaCl embossing with white acrylic paint and the piperine diagram with black acrylic paint.  I sealed the paint with a polymer sealer and sanded the shakers to even out any bumps.  Then the shakers were coated with a layer of liquid polymer and cured again.  To finish, they were sanded again through 10 or 12 grades of sandpaper (I lose track and am too lazy to go count how many I actually use) and finally buffed to a shine with my buffing machine. 

I added little windows in the bottom of the shakers just under my teeny "Create My World" signature stamp, so the owner can easily see when they need to be refilled (they are available in my etsy store).  The shakers in my kitchen are made of wood and the thing I dislike about them is that one never knows when they are empty, until you shake the salt or grind the pepper and find nothing coming out!  So this solves that dilemma:

I was really pleased with the way these turned out.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment below!  And please go vote for your favorite 3 entries in this month's guild challenge at the PCAGOE blog.  Three lucky voters will be randomly selected to win a prize, one of them could be you! 
Here are the other entries, it's so tough to choose favorites among these well conceived entries!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Belated Thanks

I have been remiss in mentioning here, the blogs in which I have been recently featured over the past 5 months.  This negligence on my part has simply been due to the fact that: 1. I'm not the greatest blogger... and 2. during the past couple months I've been consumed with garden chores and food preservation.  I was thrilled to be mentioned in every one of these features, 2 blogs in the polymer world, a fellow guild mate's website, a fellow polymer artist's facebook page, and a upcycled/recycled art world blog. 

The Polymer Clay Planet blog, which is curated and authored by polymer artist Anya Artesania, has featured me 3 times since June!  My Tiffany inspired lampshade, Peacock Mosaic serving tray and Paleo necklace were all featured at PCP over the summer.  Find all 3 features here.

The Polymer Clay Diaries, which is curated and authored by polymer artist Maria Petkova, featured my turtle island wall art.  Find that feature here.   You can use the Google translator drop down menu on the right side of the screen to translate the page.  

Back in May, fellow guild mate Marie Young featured my Peacock Mosaic serving tray on her creatively inspired website.  Find that post here.

And as recent as last week (Oct. 13), fellow polymer artist Ginger Davis-Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree kindly mentioned my blog and my Acorn Light on her wonderful Facebook page.  You can find her facebook page here.

And for those of you who know my work as Create My World Designs; I also have an upcycled line of art which I sell under the name OneMoreUse.  Just today I was thrilled to see a feature for my OneMoreUse upcycled art on the Sustainable Style blog, in an article written by a fellow upcycle artist, Amelia Musselman. You can find this feature here.

I think I may have posted some of these features (and thanks) on facebook, but I know I missed some of them there too.  So, I'm listing all of which I am aware here, with sincere thanks for the notice of my work!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A walk in the forest

One of my favorite places is the park near my home.  For me, it is a source of constant inspiration and renewal.  The most precious part of this park is a beautiful winding path through a thicket of trees.  In this space, all I have to do is take in a deep breath and gaze around me to feel the frustrations of humanity shed alongside the mounds of pine needles that blanket my steps.  This place can bring so much joy, that in those moments I am often restored to child-like amazement at the simple beauty of nature that we tend to overlook as adults.  As a visual person, I always try to be aware of even the little things, especially during my walks; because while nature can give us unmistakable grand beauty in an epic sunset, it also lies (most times overlooked) in the tiniest of seeds, insects, leaves, rocks, etc.  This awareness has turned me into a collector.  It's common that I find a small treasure while out for a walk, which I bring home for inspiration.  In every room in my home one can find either leaves, pine cones, stones, rocks, seeds, nut shells, tree bark, sticks, feathers, or any combination of these things.  So, with this small devotion I have to all things from the forest, it was a little tough for me to decide which forest item to chose as my inspiration for my guild's challenge this month.  Our theme for this month is Forest/Woodsy. 

  (obviously, because of the snow, this photo is not recent, it was taken back in February of this year)

I initially had an idea for a piece of jewelry, an idea which I may revisit another day.  But in the last week before my deadline I realized I didn't have enough time for idea number one.  My best creative brainstorm sessions come late at night when I'm waiting to be taken to slumberland.  This is a time I actually look forward to each night because I get great inspiration at this time.  So I guess you could say that the inspiration for this challenge piece just came to me on it's own, another gift from the muse.  I think this part of creating is the most rewarding part for me, to envision the final product and then work through problem solving to come up with the construction process.  The idea for this project was to create a battery operated light in the shape of an acorn.

Because the light needed to be turned on and off easily, I needed a solution to the problem of accessing the light inside the acorn.  I knew I wanted it to be entirely 3 dimensional, so at first I considered making a box like construction in the round with the top tapering to the acorn tip.  This idea was dismissed quickly, as I wanted to mimic the beauty of a real acorn cap with the layers of pointed shapes that make up the surface; plus, I always love the look of the stem coming out of that cap, so this too I wanted to portray.  I decided that the cap needed to be able to unscrew from the body of the acorn.

So, I found a wide but squat jar that would fit my battery operated tea light.  On the outside bottom of that jar, I built up a layer of transparent clay to form the tip of the acorn.  On the jar lid I built up a slighter cone shape out of scrap clay.  I decided that I wanted the top of the acorn body to reflect the subtle stripes that you can sometimes find in an acorn, so I mixed up a blend of translucents, browns and greens in the Lynda Moseley Controlled Marble technique.  After cutting wavy strips from my controlled marble that would encircle the top of the jar, I blended the bottom edge with a clay blend of dark brown and translucent clay that faded in a skinner blend to a lighter brown translucent clay mix over the acorn tip.  The acorn was baked and holes were drilled to backfill with translucent clay to allow areas where the light would filter through more brightly, and the entire piece was coated with liquid polymer and baked to achieve a satin type shine similar to a natural acorn.  The lid of the jar was covered with a lighter brown blend of clays in the shape of tear drops which were overlapped like shingles of a roof.  The stem of the acorn was added in the top of the cap.  After baking, the lid was antiqued with acrylic paints. 

This piece is about 4" long and 3" wide by 3" deep.  I was really pleased with the results of this project, and I definitely plan to make more of these to put in my shop (this one has found a home on my dining table), as well as expanding upon this idea for other projects.  Voting for this challenge is open now, so be sure to go to the PCAGOE blog and cast your vote for your favorite 3 entries before midnight on October 7th!  Here's a peek at the other entries:

Oh, and I don't want to forget to mention; Thanks to everyone who voted in last month's challenge.  I was so honored to be chosen as one of the top 3 entries of both the guild vote and the public vote!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about my little acorn!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Creation Story

There are many stories surrounding the creation of the world.  One in particular that struck me years ago is a Native American story about the world being created upon the back of a sea turtle.  I have no remembrance of where I first encountered that story and I've tried recently to find the exact story, but there seem to be many variations and each one I have found since are a little different from what I remember of the original myth.

I've been interested in Native American culture and stories since my college days.  I created my entire senior advanced drawing portfolio based on Native American art.  I think what initially drew me to reading the stories was an awareness and respect for the connection which Native tribes have to the earth.  So about 3 years ago when I was having dinner with 2 of my dad's sisters, imagine my surprise and delight to learn, for the first time, that one of my ancestors was Native American.  My aunts couldn't tell me much more than the fact that my dad's great grandmother was a full blooded Native American.  Considering the part of the country where my roots are planted, my great great grandmother's tribe must have been Lenni Lenape.

When my polymer clay guild, the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy (PCAGOE), decided to do a challenge theme inspired by a story or book, the turtle land creation story that I encountered many years ago was what I decided to depict.  Since I couldn't find the exact story, for those who would like to read something similar, here is a link to another version with the same basic premise.  I also found a similar Lenni Lenape version which was much more simplified... it goes:  Kishelemukong, the Creator, brought a turtle up from the ocean. 
It grew into an island (North America).  The first men and women sprouted from a tree on the tutle's back.

The piece of art you've seen in this post was created with this story in mind, as my entry for the September 2013 PCAGOE challenge.  I also had the idea to try to mimic quilled paper artwork.  The look I achieved is not quite what I had in mind, because it became much more complex than I had originally intended. The piece is meant as a wall hanging.  It was created by first stretching a piece of canvas over an wooden embroidery hoop.  I then sketched the design onto the canvas.  After painting the entire canvas with liquid polymer clay, which was then cured, I painted the canvas with inks.  The next step was to mix my polymer colors and extrude them all in long strips.  The strips were adhered to the canvas with a polymer bonding material and heat fused into place.  This was a painstaking process, taking much more time than I had originally anticipated.  The final step was to cover the wooden frame with more extruded strips of varying sizes.  I was quite pleased with the final outcome.  What do you think?

Voting will open on September 1st.  I'll be sure to blog about it to remind you to go vote for your favorite entries and to show you the entries from the other participating members!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Polymer Clay Weekend Away

In my last post I mentioned having gone away for a weekend polymer clay retreat.  The first weekend in August, I had the opportunity to meet (in person) some of the members of my online polymer clay guild, The Polymer Clay Artist's Guild of Etsy (a.k.a. PCAGOE).  Member Cindy Matthews of Arrowdale Art Studio graciously offered the use of her home as a meeting point.  Cindy lives in Williamsport, PA.  Williamsport was once a favorite haunt of mine and my husband's, before the natural gas companies moved in to exploit the area for hydro-fracking; (but that's another subject for another time...)  Considering the retreat would be so close to home (about a 3 hour drive) and in a familiar locale, I couldn't resist being a part of the event.  Not only was it a great opportunity to be with like-minded creative spirits and to be inspired by each other, but it was a chance to meet in person some of the people with whom I'd been conversing on the internet for years!

We met at Cindy's place Friday afternoon, and had an afternoon and evening of sharing food, chatting and show-n-tell.  The show-n-tell part was especially fantastic; having the chance to examine items in hand that I had ogled in online photos.

Saturday morning was a gorgeous day, perfect for working on Cindy's large wrap-around-porch.

Saturday we had a full day of claying together, complete with demonstrations generously offered by Susan of 11BoldStreet, Marie of Marie Young Creative, Lisa of Hi Girls! Designs and Line of Play Sculpt Live.  Each demonstration was a signature technique of each artist.  As a group we all created a version of Marie Young's bird eggs.  Below is a photo of all of our birds together.

Most of us took a shot at face sculpting in the method that Line of Play Sculpt Live demonstrated.  Sadly, I don't have a group photo of our faces, but here's my attempt at Line's face technique.

Saturday evening was spent sharing more food and conversation, and an exchange of twinchies (2" pieces of artwork) which we had each prepared ahead of time to swap.  The group had decided to make the twinchies representative of ourselves or of our hometown.

Here's what my 2 sided inchies looked like; Side A representative of me (silk dyed polymer technique background):

Side B; representative of where I live (Lancaster, PA), with an Amish quilt pattern that originated in Lancaster PA:

Sunday we gathered in the morning to autograph, for each other, magazines in which our work has been published, plus additional technique and business chats before breaking up to head back home.  This retreat was such a wonderful opportunity for me... one that I'll not forget!  I hope to be able to attend more East coast polymer retreats in the future!

Once I got home and unpacked. I finished my bird egg sculpt.  I was really pleased with how he turned out!  Here's a few photos of my finished birdie:

You can view more photos of my weekend get-away on my flickr photostream.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Better Late Than Never! ~ Paleo Necklace Challenge Entry

Today is the last day to vote for the August 2013 PCAGOE challenge.  I'm only posting this now because I was tied up at the beginning of the month with a polymer clay retreat; a weekend away to play with clay and meet (for the first time in person) some internet friends from my guild. I'll post more about that experience soon!  So about the August challenge... this month's theme was Tribal-Goddess and the interpretations were varied and wonderful!  It's always so great to see so much diversity among all of the entries.  My interpretation came about almost accidentally.  The piece emerged as a polymer clay necklace of faux stone and faux rock beads, etched with caveman type drawings.  When I set to work on this challenge, I had in mind an all together different concept; I was planning to create a mother earth figurine. While mixing the clay for the figurine, I saw a beautiful crackled blend of colors appear which begged to be turned into something. Instead of setting that aside to move onto the "planned idea", I let the clay guide me to create this piece.

Those are my favorite types of creative sessions when the clay almost has a mind of its own... so rewarding! For more views of this piece, please visit my flickr photostream

Here's a glimpse at the other wonderful entries created by my guild mates:

Voting closes tonight (8/7/2013) at midnight EST, so head over to the PCAGOE blog and cast your vote for your 3 favorite entries.  Each month 3 lucky voters are randomly chosen to win a prize... one of the winners could be you! So please do go to the guild blog and vote!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Gift of Hope

July means charity theme for my guild, the PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy).  This year we decided to do Bottles of Hope as our charity.  Bottles of hope are little bottles that are covered in polymer clay which are then given to cancer patients.  Each bottle represents a wish for hope and health.  The Bottles of Hope project has spread internationally, and you can learn more about this great cause at:

Because most of our guild members personally know at least one person who is currently battling cancer, it was decided that each person would make at least one bottle to donate, and additional bottles for any friends or family affected by cancer.  I have a friend that has been courageously fighting cancer for the last 5 years, and continues her battle today; so I decided to make one bottle for her in addition to my donation bottle.  Also, due to member's limited time in the summer and our limited participants this month, the guild decided that we could enter up to 3 bottles per person, which is why both of my bottles are found in the guild challenge.  Here are photos of my 2 entries:

My concept for both of these bottles was based upon the desire to give a bottle that illustrates being filled with love and hope, not empty. But how to decorate the outside of the bottle to allow for the hope inside to show through? This problem was solved by covering part of the bottle with translucent liquid polymer with inclusions of embossing powder, to create a translucent but colored layer. Part of the bottle was left naked, to create a window to see the inside clearly. The polymer pieces on the top of the lids are both each attached securely to the lid with a screw. And the "hope" that is inside consists of many tiny polymer hearts and spirals. It was my original intention that the owner could make a wish on each heart and spiral, or share the tiny tokens with anyone she wants to give a little love or hope. The bottle is tiny, measuring in at 3" tall and about 1" wide at the widest point, the hearts and spirals inside the bottle are about 1/4" wide and 1/4" long. More views of these bottles can be found in my flickr photostream at:

Here is the group photo of the other entries from all the participating guild members:

Surely another tough decision to choose just 3 favorites.  As always, great effort went into each creation resulting in 11 wonderful pieces of art!  So please head over to the PCAGOE blog to cast your vote, you have until July 7th midnight EST!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Elemental challenges

As I write this, I'm enjoying a slow, steady, rainy day.  Perfect for thinking about a challenge whose theme is the elements!  Actually, I'm quite late in writing about this due to many other challenges at home with getting the house and garden prepared for summer, picking strawberries, picking strawberries, picking strawberries (did I mention picking strawberries?!?)...  and finally, the loss of a beloved pet.  I've been so busy and so heartbroken over losing my sweet kitty that I hadn't considered posting about the challenge here until the last minute.  As of this writing, there is less than a day left for voting.  If you catch this on this day (June 7, 2013), you have until midnight tonight to cast your vote!  Please take the time to go vote for your 3 favorite entries at   And remember that if you do take the time to vote you may have the opportunity to win a prize!  Three random voters are selected each month to win a prize of their choosing.

Here are a few photos of my entry piece:

For this month, our guild members were asked to create a piece that reflected any, or all, of the elements (earth, air, fire, water).  I had originally intended to create a piece with all of the elements.  Throughout the last month, I worked on creating portions that would eventually be combined which signified each element.  Then on the 2nd to last day before the challenge deadline, I spent the day assembling, disassembling and reassembling the piece to no avail.  Each time I put it together, no matter how I changed the necklace layout, it just was not cohesive.  As a last ditch resort, I decided to pair it down to simply the one element which struck me as the best conceived piece.  From the 4 choices, fire was the one which I felt was best represented.  I called this piece Flaming Embers Necklace.  The pendant was created with translucent polymer and alcohol inks, the embers shooting out of the top of the flame were created with necklace cable wire and liquid polymer.   The asymmetrical necklace design is created with clear glass seed beads interspersed with orange and red beads to carry the theme of flying embers of a flame.  

And here are all of the participating artists' entries for this month:
Surely a tough decision once again, to choose just 3 favorites, as all are well conceived and well executed ideas!  So please head over to the guild blog and vote for your favorites!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ms. Fix-it: or Confessions of a chronic Do-It-Yourself-er

This blog post is about a different type of creativity…  Ever get frustrated with corporate America's planned obsolescence?  I do.  Imagine... you're using one of your trusted tools or gadgets when suddenly it stops or no longer performs properly.  So, whenever  a product I own decides to die, I do a search on the internet to find any available information to diagnose and fix the problem.

So, about a month ago, in the midst of whipping up a batch of home-made bread, my Kitchenaid stand mixer made a funny noise and simply stopped running.  In aid of eating foods that are as minimally processed as possible, (i.e. no chemicals), I make my own bread.  I knew I would be wanting the help of Ms. Kitchenaid in a week or two to make the next batch of bread… what's a girl to do?
I should mention that we live on a one income budget, so we are very crafty with how we spend our money.  Also, I tend towards extreme environmental consciousness, so the thought of tossing something like this to the landfill is unacceptable.   
I first called the 1-800 number located on the back of my machine.

After the nice customer service person told me: 1.  That my bread recipe was ½ cup more than what my model could handle (really? I've been making this same bread recipe with this machine for many months with zero signs of a struggle till this point);  2.  That he couldn't diagnose my problem over the phone; 3. That he highly recommended that I pay for the mailing kit to send my machine to the factory for diagnosis and repair; and 4. That just the mailing kit cost $35, and that didn't include any part of diagnosis or repairs…. Realizing that I can buy a refurbished machine on ebay for likely just a little more than I'd spend sending them the damn machine and paying the factory labor and parts costs for fixing whatever was wrong with it; I thanked him for his time and kindly said that I'd look into all my options before purchasing the mailing kit.  I then headed to the internet for some research.  There are some sites out there that helped; these sites got me to a preliminary diagnosis and realization that I could possibly fix this myself for less than the $35 shipping kit cost!  The sites I found were this:   and this:
It sounded as though my machine had the same issue that was described, a broken worm gear (which apparently is the most common problem when these machines break down).  It seems these gears are made out of nylon (read plastic).  We're talking about a $4 part... Yep, this machine with a heavy metal exterior, leaving one to think the machine is built to last, has plastic gears inside.  The company claims these plastic gears are designed to break down, as to prevent the motor from burning out; though it sounds logical, I admit to being a bit skeptical about that reasoning alone for plastic gears.  Neither of the two websites listed above had many visuals to go with the instructions of dismantling the machine.  Frankly because I'm a visual girl, the how-to instructions on their own left me less than 100% confident that I knew what I was doing.  Never one to let that hold me back when a chance to experiment is at hand… and hey, what did I have to lose by just taking the thing apart?  I set to work, screwdriver in-hand.  After I got the thing successfully apart, I decided that I should do a blog post on this topic, to help anyone else "out there" fix their machine.

 My model is the Kitchenaid Classic 4 ½ quart capacity.  (**Note: it might be of benefit to read through both of the previously mentioned websites and through all of my instructions before you have a go at it! **)  So here are the details…

First, gather the tools you will need to take the machine apart.  Here's what I used:  a small flat head screw driver, a phillips head screw driver, a metal punch tool (not sure of technical name) and a large flat head screw driver; you will also need a hammer:

1.  Make sure your machine is unplugged!  Then, at the back top of your machine there is a phillips head screw located on the top of the rounded part as seen in the next photo, unscrew this screw to remove the rounded cover on the back of the machine.

2.  After you remove the rounded back cover, you will see the two small phillips head screws which hold the outer band in place, unscrew both these screws (see red and yellow arrows).

3.  Remove the outer band by stretching outward slightly and slipping it off the machine.

4.  Next we will remove the round band at the front of the machine head, take your small flat head screw driver and place it in one of the little grooves you will find at the top of that silver band, then nudge the band downward (careful not to scratch the paint on your machine), it should shimmy loose so you can remove it.  Note: This band is not fastened with any screws, so when you put the machine back together you want to push this band up far enough so that it will stay in place.


5.  Next take your metal punch tool and place it on the pin that you see on the planetary, the pin is located near the shaft which holds your beater attachements (this entire piece that rotates is called the planetary), as seen here:

Hammer the end of your metal punch tool to draw out the pin and remove it.  Note: when you put the machine back together, the holes on the outside of the planetary must match up with the hole on the inside shaft, if you can't see clear through all of the holes, simply rotate the planetary until you can see through it and then you will be ready to reinsert your pin.

6.  Now you can pry down the planetary (the part that rotates).  I did this by inserting the long shaft of my screw driver between the planetary and the top of the machine (like a mini crowbar), then wriggled the screwdriver shaft up and down until I was able to pull the planetary off the rest of the way with my hands.  This takes some force, but it will come free.

7.  Next you will unscrew and remove the 5 flat head screws on the circular area that were revealed just now after your removed the planetary (seen below)

8.  Unscrew and remove the 2 flat head screws just under this circular area as seen here:

9.  At the back of the machine there are 2 more flat head screws that are recessed into the butt of the machine which need to be removed, you will find one on each side of the machine as seen below:

10. Now the top of your machine should be free to lift up and off, again this may take some force (I also used the shaft of my screwdriver to help here) but it will come off... Once it is free, be sure to slide the plastic housing at the top of the cord wire out of the base, as the wires are attached to the mechanics in the top part of the machine but the cord is seated in the base (you don't want to set the top down with this still attached to the base, as it could detach wires from soldered points)  Be prepared, a lot of black gooey grease is housed in the head and may fall out so you might not want do this on your best table cloth or while wearing your favorite outfit!

This is only a small portion of the black icky grease that was in mine, a lot of it fell out as I was taking the top off and a lot of it was in the top part of the machine. 

Now that your machine is apart, you need to diagnose the problem. Clean off as much of the old grease as you can with some paper towels.  Check all your gears to see if any teeth are broken off or shredded.  Not only was the worm gear on mine shredded, but the pinion gear below it was missing teeth - because the pinion gear is metal, those missing teeth were still lodged in the center pinion gear that it connects with, so I had to go through each gap of the center pinion with my small screwdriver to slide out any broken bits to be sure it wouldn't mess up my new replacement gears.  Be sure to inspect all your gears before you order your parts...  I almost missed the pinion gear issue but luckily caught it right before I placed my order.  Go to this website, to view a machine diagram (look for the "enlarge the image" for easier viewing), to determine which gears you need to replace.  This site also has the best price point that I foundon the internet to order the worm gears :   Be aware that when you put it all back together ***you MUST replace the grease!!*** (the manufacturer actually recommends you replace the grease every 2 years or so, but this was the first time I'd done it in the 13 year lifetime of my machine).  You MUST to use a food grade grease such as Benalene, which you can also buy at the Mendingshed website, it comes in a small pint sized can:

So here's my bright new shiny worm (the worm gear is the cream/yellow colored part) and pinion gear box that I replaced, before I greased it back up and reassembled the beast... The cost of this shiny new part was about $7, the can of grease was about $18 and then there was shipping, but I think I got the job done in the range of $35-$40... and I still have a fairly full a can of grease ready for the next time I need it:

When your parts arrive in the mail, swap out the old parts for the replacements by unscrewing the old parts where you see them attached.  Remember to add a generous amount of new grease (comparable to what you cleaned off the parts) and reassemble by following the directions in reverse. 
And there you have it, how to disassemble your Kitchenaid stand mixer... 

Mine has been singing along perfectly since the replacement, as my oven will attest, and I've learned to do my bread in 1/2 batches so I don't break another worm gear!

I'm dreaming of owning an Electrolux mixer someday, but I don't think I'll have a spare $600 to $1000 any time soon, so I have to make my Kitchenaid last as long as she can and with this knowledge, she should last for many years!

I've done this same Ms. Fixit routine for my ibook and my MacBooks.  Thanks to for perfect instructions paired with photo visuals of each step, for the past 13 years when I've had a computer problem I fixed it myself on the cheap.  I also buy my new-to-me, previously used computers with "issues" to get a bargain that I can fix fairly inexpensive.  So, next time something breaks, before you just toss it, head to the internet to see if you can learn how to fix it yourself!  You might just impress yourself, or your spouse... I love hearing mine say (and he does often), that he married the right woman; one who's just as handy with a power tool as she is with a kitchen utensil, sewing machine... (insert random homemaker tool), etc.... ;)   Good luck with your machine, if it should ever break, and leave me a comment with any questions!