Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy, Shiny Christmas Tree!

I'm an "in the moment, season-to-season" kind of girl. It's rare for me to rush any season by wishing for the next one. This has good points and bad. The good is that I am enjoying the moment. The bad is that when all the business-minded artists and crafters are creating items to sell a season ahead of time, I'm living in the moment and my creations celebrate the season at hand... when fall arrives I'm inspired to make fall items, when the winter holidays are upon us, I'm compelled to create Christmas items. So, while this challenge piece is for the January 2015 challenge, I'm still in Christmas creating mode. This month for my guild, the PCAGOE, our theme is "Illuminated" (any item that is lit by a light or candle).

As happens fairly often, the piece I chose to create was based upon an item I found at my local thrift store. I found this hinged, wire, pyramidal shape that I imagine was supposed to be a sort of abstract Christmas tree. I decided this would be a great little piece to turn into a polymer Christmas tree light. I wish I had taken a before photo of the frame, but it is still exposed on the inside, so you can get an idea from this:

I began by creating flat slabs of translucent Premo in the shape of each side of the pyramid top and base. After these were cured, I glued them onto the frame and sealed the seams with bonding agent and more translucent polymer to smooth out the corners. The entire piece went in for the second curing. Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking about the polymer + heat + gravity factor and did not give it any extra support on the outsides. For those who are not familiar with curing polymer: while fully cured and cooled polymer is extremely durable, if one does not give support to 3 dimensional objects during the heat process, the heat and gravity can make the polymer break or crack when it's in the oven. If a piece is properly supported, this does not happen... proper support seems to be a lesson I am destined to re-learn often! While the frame was there for support on the inside, it was only attached to the outer edges of the frame. With the piece sitting on one of it's sides in the oven, 2 of the side pieces were pulled downward by gravity, resulting in cracked pieces. Because nearly each piece I make is a new and unique idea, there's almost always a learning curve filled with accidents. In this case, I patched it back up with bonding agent and more translucent polymer, cured it and decided to move onward. One of the things I love about this medium is that you can almost always fix problems that may arise. But, because of the patched cracks, I now needed a surface treatment that would hide the patch (originally I had intended to stain the polymer with inks, sort-of like a watercolor painting)....

A while ago, I had the idea to use Ginger Allman's (of The Blue Bottle Tree) Holo effect to create the illusion of facets on a diamond shape (right after I created my Diamond in the Rough container). At that time, I purchased the tutorial from Ginger and put the idea aside for a while. I still have yet to recreate that diamond project using the hollo effect technique, if you follow this blog, you know how rare it is for me to revisit an old project. So, as I was considering what surface treatment to use for this piece, my eyes glanced upon the materials I had purchased for Ginger's Holo effect and that serendipitous moment decided the outcome of this piece. I set to work and finished the outside of the top with a green holo effect and the base with a golden holo effect. I didn't give any texture, as Ginger does to her pieces; I kept it flat because I wanted to see how this technique might be used to create that previous faceted diamond idea, for which I would also want no texture.  Here's a close-up of the tree, so you can better see the holo effect's iridescent shine:

After the holo surface was cured, I covered the corners and edges with strips of raw polymer and bonding agent. After this was cured, next came the dilemma of how to decorate the tree. I decided upon extruded strands that curl and meander around the tree, with multicolored light bulbs reminiscent of C7 bulbs. The base decoration became an extruded, curly and meandering strand of Premo red sparkle clay. I also made a little star to sit atop the tree. This star was also treated to the gold holo effect and it is outlined in gold and sparkle red polymer. It is removable, held to the top of the tree with 2 strong magnets. I did this specifically to avoid having the star bend or break during storage.

As always the process of bringing the concept of this piece to a final product was enjoyable, even with the frustration of the start. I'm especially happy with the holo effect, it reminds me of iridescent dichroic glass, so bright and shiny... such a happy little tree. Oh speaking of "little", the dimensions are 10.5" (from the tip of the star to the base) and 4.5" at the widest point of the base. I wish I had been able to take more time to do this project, to refine things, but I'm in the middle of another big project plus the preparation for the holidays, so this one got more rushed than I would have liked. But overall, I'm quite pleased. If you're intrigued by the holo effect, I highly recommend Ginger's tutorial, she explains everything in thorough detailed description and photos.

I'd love to hear what you think of my little, happy, shiny tree... leave me a comment below!
Whatever holiday you may celebrate this season, I extend warm wishes for a happy holiday.. and cheers to a healthy 2015! The voting for this challenge will begin on New Year's Day and will be open until midnight on the 7th. I'll post a reminder here when voting is open!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Time to Vote!

There are 2 more days left to cast your vote for the December 2014 Carving Challenge! Head over to the PCAGOE blog and choose your 3 favorite entries! Three lucky winners are chosen every month to win a prize, one of them could be you!  **Thanks to Marie Young of Marie Young Creative for the image used above**

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Carving up more than the Thanksgiving turkey!

The theme for the December 2014 challenge for the PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy) is "Carved". I had been wanting to try my hand at carving for a while, so even though I'm quite busy right now with various other projects, I couldn't let this challenge slip by without giving it a try.

I've been having a lot of fun doing larger scale items, moving away from jewelry design. I will eventually go back to Jewelry (I think), but I'm having so much fun working larger with home decor and sculptural items. So, when my thoughts turned to this challenge I immediately was thinking on the larger scale. Then one night when I was in my creative brainstorming time (just before falling asleep) I struck upon the idea of using up all the cured polymer scraps that I had sitting around. These are pieces that were made and after curing either weren't strong enough (pieces that broke during finishing or jewelry assembly), pieces that burned during curing or were experiments that didn't turn out well. I have a lot of these scraps, to give you an idea, here's my box 'o scraps:

I got the idea to make a kind-of polymer soup, mixing these cured scraps with some liquid bonding agent (Bake 'n Bond). But, "what to cure it in?", was the big question. I needed something that the polymer wouldn't adhere to or be tough to remove. So I thought of silicon bakeware. Luckily, my local thrift stores usually have a piece or two of silicon bakeware, so off to the thrift I went. I found what I can only describe as what looks like a gravy boat, all in silicon, and it was only $1! Perfect!! I brought it home and set it in my studio. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that its original owner was a heavy smoker, the next day, as I began working on my other project (with the silicon mold sitting next to my workspace) it literally began making me sick! My sinuses dried up and my nose became stuffy. Whenever I left the room for a decent chunk of time, the stuffiness subsided. I kept getting the hint of stale smoke, but couldn't figure out from where it was coming! I finally realized it was the silicon piece, so I soaked it in a bath of bleach water for 24 hours. The smell still wasn't removed, but it did lessen it. 

In the meantime, I decided to try a practice carve, using the tools I use for wood-cut printing to carve my polymer. I had a business card case which I had decorated with a polymer slab, but then decided I didn't like it. When I tried to remove the polymer, the superglue had other ideas, and the polymer came off in tiny bits leaving big bits behind. I decided this would be my trial piece. I carved into the polymer pieces left behind and then coated it with black LPC before curing. A coating of resin, some sprinkles of glitter and another coating of resin, and here's my practice piece: 

Kind of funky and interesting, so I kept it and added some black liquid pc leaving areas of the bare metal uncovered, added a touch of glitter and two coats of resin. I intentionally added scratches all over the metal case to add to the primitive feel of this piece. I'm not quite sure if it's finished yet, I'll have to give it more consideration.

So, trial carving out of the way, it was time to get down to the business of my challenge project. I made a thick soup of some of the broken bits of cured polymer and the Bake 'n Bond. The uncured raw "soup" looked like this:

I made sure that all bits of cured clay were covered and I kept some bits of the cured clay peeking out of the top. In it went, to be cured for almost an hour. When it came out, it looked like this:

I decided to cut it in half, so that the sculpture could stand on its own. I was going to use a saw for this, but decided to just use an old tissue blade to saw through the cured clay. That worked surprisingly well. Then, time to sand! I needed to sand the two newly formed bases, as the cut wasn't as even as it might have been had I used a saw. Plus, I wanted the rounded, moulded sides to be finished to shiny perfection. So I sanded through many grades of micro mesh and then buffed with my buffer/grinder.

Now I was ready to begin the carving. I started first by hand drilling circles with the flat v shaped carving tool. Next I mapped out where I wanted spiral shapes to be added, by drawing them with a sharpie marker. Tip: If you've never worked with carving tools, when you are trying to carve a continuous line, it helps to first draw outlines with a straight carving tool, then go back and carve out the inside with either the v-shaped carver or the c-shaped carvers. This rule holds true for wood cuts as well as carving polymer. Even when one takes the time to cut an outline the gauging blades still can slip if given too much force, and that will either scratch the piece or skid across and slice one's hand (ask me how I know this). Three V shaped cuts in my left thumb plus a bandaid later, I had both pieces carved to my satisfaction.

I decided to paint the carved out areas with black acrylic, to make them stand out against the background. I really like how these two pieces can be arranged in different ways, according to one's preference, which could change daily! ;)

Finally, here's a shot from the side, so you can see how deep the clay is, and how the carved side has edges of the scraps that pop out of it:

I had a lot of fun with this challenge. While I like carving a lot, the part I had the most fun with was using up old failures and upcycling them into a new piece! My inner enviro-girl was quite happy about that! ;) I still have lots of scraps in my box 'o scraps, so I plan to do more of this scrap soup making in the future!

Voting for this challenge will open on December 1st, and will run through midnight December 7th. Remember 3 randomly chosen lucky voters win a prize every month! I'll try to remember to post a voting reminder here!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this project, and on my carved primitive card case too, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Vote!

Time to Vote again! Go to the PCAGOE blog to cast your vote at this link.  Remember, 3 lucky voters win a prize every month! Thanks to Marie Young of Young Creative for the promo photo posted above!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Meditative Repetition

My guild's challenge theme for November is Mandalas. The word mandala comes from Sanskrit; translated it means circle. Mandalas are spiritual symbols which represent the universe. It's no wonder that working on creating my own mandala would become a meditative task. I simply got lost in the repetitive details as I was creating this piece. I found myself not wanting the session to end as I kept adding more to it.

The basic concept I wanted for this design was based on layering. As for color scheme and motifs, I decided to celebrate my favorite season of the year, autumn. I chose the fall color palette of red, orange, gold, green and brown, incorporating motifs of leaves.

To begin, there is a base layer of golden red and orange on the outer perimeter of the main circle. Over this I strung 8 pieces of string that had been dipped in polymer and dyed with alcohol ink, all spaced at equal distances (these would become the center veins of one round of leaves). The yellow gold color was next as I cut out shapes of leaves around the center and small four lobed flowers near the edges of the circle. The next layer proved most difficult, to cut away enough to see the under layer of cut out shaped leaves in the gold layer, plus, adding the maple leaf cut outs, the fancy border and a slightly larger four lobed flower motif to reveal the smaller flower motif on the gold layer. In the next steps details were added with tiny bits of clay and the use of small tools to make indentations.

I suddenly decided that I didn't want this to be just a plain edged circle, mostly because I was having so much fun adding things to it... and that's when I chose to add leaf shapes surrounding the existing circular canvas. Sticking with the same color palette and motifs, I added larger green leaves and smaller golden red leaves, detailed with bits of golden yellow and orange flowers. The entire outer band of design is wrapped with a thin gauge strip of the brown.

I seriously think I could have worked on this for much longer, but wanted to wrap things up in time for the weekend, so it didn't cut into my precious time with my dear hubby. ;) This color scheme was a bit of a step-out for me, though I love the colors of fall, I tend to shy away from using green and yellow, especially together, and especially both with brown!

I could definitely get lost in doing a series of these, and might have to revisit this idea at a later date. I had originally thought that this little piece (it's just shy of 8" in diameter so, not as large as the wall hangings I've done before) wasn't one that really fit into any of the already existing decor in my home. I had resigned myself to selling it... but, I took a chance and hung it next to the other 2 round wall hangings I made in the past year, which live on my studio wall. I think he looks happy there... I envision an entire wall filled with these circular creations... someday. For now, this is a start:

I would love to hear any comments you might have to share on mandalas. Have you experienced the meditative zone of working with repetition? Tell me about it in the comments and be sure to let me know what you think of my little mandala!

Voting for this challenge will begin on November 1st and will go through the 7th at midnight EST. As always, I'll try to post a voting reminder here on the blog with the link!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Vote!

Voting is open until midnight EST October 7th! Go to the PCAGOE blog to vote for your 3 favorite entries and you could win a prize (3 lucky voters are randomly chosen to win a prize every month)!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catching Dreams in Four Directions

The theme for my guild's challenge this month is Native American/Southwest. I may have mentioned previously on this blog my former love affair with Native American art. It began as a college student as I became aware of environmental issues. A fan of Greenpeace and their ship, The Rainbow Warrior, at that time I learned the Native American Prophecy that gave the Greenpeace ship it's name:

"When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow."   -- Old Native American Prophecy

It was this quote that inspired my first environmental artwork, which was a wood cut print. I guess because it was a time of exploring different ideas to find that which resonated with my soul, I delved into Native American stories. I became fascinated with the symbolism, and their respect for the earth and every living thing captivated me and mirrored my own beliefs. My entire senior drawing portfolio was based upon Native American art. 

Later, I learned how to weave a dreamcatcher. At the time, there was a bit of a craze for them, and I wanted to make one as a gift for a special friend (the mom of one of my best friends). She had Native American blood in her ancestry and she kept a collection of Native American figurines and southwest decor. This bit of my history was the basis for this piece. I knew I wanted to create something incorporating the liquid polymer coated string, so I decided to revisit my history and make a dream catcher. But I wanted something more, I looked at medicine wheels and wanted to incorporate some of the symbolism from medicine wheels into the piece. Here is a great image that shows some of the symbolism and colors associated with the 4 directions on a medicine wheel:

Thinking about the piece further, I decided to try to make my own feather, using the string coated with liquid polymer idea with which I've been playing recently. The feather alone took a full day to make, that's a lot of string! Have a look:

I decided to make the frame of the dreamcatcher/medicine wheel resemble a wooden branch. But, I didn't have enough packages of clay in tones of brown, so I began by wrapping my base support with scrap clay. I decided that I really liked the mottled undertones from the scraps, so I just smeared some burnt sienna and black paints onto the surface so that the clay could give a sort of underpainting effect to the circular bases. A smear of transparent liquid polymer with a scattering of embossing powder after curing gave just the right finish. I wove the dreamcatcher part with string and coated it with transparent liquid polymer. 

I sketched out some ideas as to how to create the medicine wheel part of the piece. I wanted something that looked authentic, so I decided to create a piece of faux leather and chose to paint my four direction animal and color symbols onto that surface. For this piece, I mixed up some buckskin color using translucent, ecru and raw sienna Premo. Tearing the edges gave me the look I wanted, of an animal pelt that was cut with crude tools. The surface was given a faux leather treatment which involved texturing it, adding hints of burnt sienna acrylic paint and spot scorching to bring out a darker amber in selected areas. The stylized 4 direction animals were painted on top of the faux leather piece with acrylic paint in their symbolic colors. 

The hardest part of this entire piece was threading and securing the faux leather to the rings! I first tried to use the same string I used in the dreamcatcher and feather, but it kept breaking when I pulled too tight and was too loose to hold the heft of the faux leather. I needed something with less give, so thankfully I had a ball of natural hemp cord which was strong enough and taught enough to do the trick. The final touch was to add the feather to the side of the frame and attach some dangling beads. Had I had more time, I would have made some faux turquoise beads for this, but I didn't want to be working until deadline as I did last month... so I opted to raid my bead stash. I chose some turquoise beads that were repurposed from a vintage piece of jewelry I bought from a local place. I'm not quite sure what the original material of these beads is, I'm afraid it might be dyed bone. I was hoping to say this piece is a vegan dreamcatcher since everything I made for it is faux (no sinew, no leather, no feather) but I can't say that due to my hunch about the beads. Ah well...  maybe I will eventually take the time to make those faux turquoise beads and swap them out... might be a selling point on etsy! ;)
Here's the back of the piece, for those who are curious:

I am really pleased with this, but I don't feel the need to keep this one, so it will go to my etsy shop... It was a nice return to a former passion (theme) and all went fairly smooth with this project. I was really pleased with the faux feather, and it was fun to create! I'll be moving on from the lpc covered string idea for a while, as I revisit another technique which I explored a year ago. I'm hoping to write an article based on my upcoming experimentations and I'm excited about the new ideas that are brewing for the potential article! Hopefully I'll still be able to come up with pieces for the next few challenges while I work on my article pieces... stay tuned!  

I'll try once again to post a voting reminder... voting for this challenge opens October 1st and will close on October 7th at midnight. Please leave me a comment below and give me some feedback on this piece and anything else you care to share about Native American art! Thanks for visiting!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book luck

If I were to believe in messages found in cookies, "You will have an auspicious week of books" would have been my fortune last week. Big, big news arrived two Fridays ago when I received a congratulations email stating that I was to be a contributor to a book for which I had submitted some of my recycled artwork. I submitted images of my work about a year ago and had forgotten about it, so the news was a great surprise. And, last week I received my advanced copies from the publisher! The book is called Art Without Waste 500 Upcycled and Earth Friendly Designs and can be purchased here at Amazon.

The book is packed full of great ideas and beautiful work; from personal items and accessories, home and garden, to art installation and design.

I really had no idea what piece the author chose, so I was quite happy to find 2 of my images in the book! Plates 107 and 109 - OneMoreUse (that's my recycled etsy store) by Create My World Designs
Here are close-ups of my two images in the book.

Oh and I'm in the book too! ..that's my neck! ;) LOL! All of these pieces were made with plastic from discarded snack food bags, which I fused, cut and formed.

The other book luck also happened last week when I was declared a lucky winner in a drawing for a jewelry design book! The drawing happened on the Pretty Things Blog, where blog mistress Lori Anderson generously gave away 6 different books. (you might remember Lori's name as she was the host for the Bead Soup Blog Party that I joined this spring - find my post about that here) I commented on the blog, telling Lori the book I would love to receive; and was lucky enough to be a winner, plus I got the book I wanted! The book I won is called Simple Soldered Jewelry and Accessories by Lisa Bluhm. I can't wait to dig into this and start incorporating what I learn into some of my work! Thanks so much to Lori for the generous giveaway! If you don't already follow her blog, head over there and follow! She did another book give-away this week too! Lori even gift wrapped the book, it was such a fun package to receive, here are photos of my prize book:

Yes indeed it was a great week for me and books! I am a lover of books, so I am extremely grateful for this lucky book week!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Still Time!!

There's still time to vote!!  I almost forgot to post a reminder on the blog again! As of this writing, there are 2 remaining days to cast a vote for your favorite entries and get a chance to win one of 3 prizes! The voting form can be found at the PCAGOE blog.

Also, as I mentioned in my last blog post, we're doing something special on the guild facebook page to celebrate the anniversary of The Polymer Arts Magazine. Each 2 weeks on the guild facebook page, we do an artist feature of one of our guild members. For the first 2 weeks of September 2014 we are featuring Sage Bray, who happens to be Editor/Publisher of The Polymer Arts magazine.  You can find the PCAGOE facebook page here. Check it out!

And be sure to hurry over to the PCAGOE blog to cast your vote for the challenge (voting ends midnight EST September 7th 2014)! Many thanks in advance to all who take the time to vote!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

11th hour work sessions and other disasters

Disaster!  At exactly 11:15 last night, with a midnight deadline looming, and after spending most of the afternoon/evening working on my guild challenge piece, I made one move that spelled disaster for the entire project... well, almost.  I did manage to make a huge alteration and somewhat saved it... So here's the story, and the method of how I created (and partially destroyed) my latest challenge piece:

The theme this month is "Little Black Ball" - each entry must include a 1" black ball somewhere in the construction.  Plus, as a bonus theme, to celebrate the anniversary of The Polymer Arts magazine, we decided to ask each member to incorporate a technique or inspiration that they received from reading either The Polymer Arts magazine or the blog.  

I had the idea for this challenge well in advance of the month (of August) which should have been used to create it.  I'd been toying with the idea of liquid polymer coated string for well over a year, with nothing worthy of showing until last month, as my friend Line Labreque guessed correctly in the comments of last month's post... that challenge piece, my Rays of Summer lacy soap dish, was based on the string coated polymer idea that had been stewing in my head (after a brief experiment I did a year+ ago, that was unworthy of being shown).  As a subscriber to both The Polymer Arts magazine and daily blog, there was an overflowing fountain of inspiration from which to choose.  My inspiration from The Polymer Arts blog came from two blog posts, one about mandalas and one about repetition.

Idea set in place, all I needed was the time to bring it to life.  August is always a tough month for me to get any work done in my studio.  This time of year, the garden is really starting to rock; so I'm harvesting, preparing and preserving lots of veggies almost daily.  Plus, August brings with it the last chance to enjoy summer to the fullest; before the school year kicks our life into the regimented schedule, stress and limited "couple" time for me and my hubby.  So it was no surprise that this challenge piece would be a last minute work session.  I began working on this yesterday at around noon, after my usual Monday work (i.e. laundry and internet business) was either completed or "in process".  

I began by gluing my dowel rods together to form the supports.  I then built up my 1" black ball of polymer in the center.  This was cured to ensure a strong and stable base.  Next, I started to form the mandala by winding string around the rods and the center ball, and adding polymer layers here and there.  The string was coated with liquid polymer.  From this point, the entire piece was spot cured with a heat gun, at each addition to the mandala.  Here are some shots of the back of the piece:

The original size of the mandala was to be 12" in diameter.  I built out the entire thing and somehow had it in my head that this should have all the colors of the rainbow, thus, the red first colored layer, orange next, yellow was the third... at this point I was really happy with how it was developing.  But I thought the liquid polymer coated string should be covered in color also.  I started with the outer string layers, painted one with blue LPC.  I should have heeded my inner voice, that said... "I don't know, I really love the natural color of the string, combined with the warm colors of the spectrum..."  (I also should have taken a photo of it at that point so that I could show you how lovely it really would have been) but I went ahead and cured the blue and immediately hated it.  So, I then added purple, hated it more, by now the yellow parts also contributed to what I disliked.  So, I then took black acrylic paint to "antique" the yellow wrapped clay, blue and purple parts and to paint the exposed dowel areas and one strip of the LPC string.  Big Disaster!  I just kept hating it even more with each change I made.  I wanted to turn back the time to before I touched that blue LPC paintbrush to the natural LPC string, I wanted to scream or maybe cry!  But, by now it was 11:15 PM.  My photo of the finished project was due at 12:00 AM!  Panic ensued,  I decided to cut my losses, literally.  (this next photo, with the ornament sitting on top of the cut-off portion is kind-of how it looked)

I took my wire cutters and hacked off the outer layers of the mandala, cutting it down it to the central black, red, orange and natural colors, also cutting the size down to 3" in diameter.  I decided instead of a wall hanging, this would be an ornament.  I added little black balls to the ends of the mandala, to cover where I cut off the other part.  A final curing in the oven, and I called it quits on this project. I did save the hacked off part, which I'm already brainstorming how to alter and save for something else.... hmm, what do you think I'll make with this?

 While I do like this little mandala ornament, it is so far from what I had envisioned, that I can't help but be disappointed in this project.  I did learn many things from all of this, not the least of which is not to procrastinate my project to the very last day... I wonder just how many time I need to relearn that lesson! ;)  I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have about this piece, or about your similar experiences... leave me a comment below!

Voting for this challenge will open on September 1st.  I'll try to blog a voting reminder about it, as well as a reminder to check out our guild facebook page in September... because, we are doing something special to celebrate the anniversary of The Polymer Arts magazine!  Happy Anniversary to The Polymer Arts, and it's very talented creator/editor/publisher, Sage Bray!