Walking in Wales

I can plan travel, I do it all the time, in fact, I love doing it. However, when asked to plan a trip with a couple of gal pals, I was both intrigued and a little nervous . . . . okay a lot nervous. We wanted to try something different, do something more adventurous and go where none of us have already been (but not too far away).  Those were the overall criteria. In addition, I needed to include the following:

  • A walking holiday
  • The British Isles
  • Planes, trains, boats
  • Charming cities for sightseeing
  • Quaint B&B’s
  • A reasonable budget

No problem . . . . . right?!?!

So two weeks have been planned between Wales and Ireland. A couple of the criteria have been bent a little, but all in all I think I nailed it!

Overview of trip

The itinerary includes a couple of nights in Llandudno along the Northern Wales coastline to recover from travel and start our sightseeing. Then the first 3-day walk takes us castle to castle between the towns of Conwy, Llanfairfechen, Bangor and Caernarfon. We then travel to Holyhead by train for the second 3-day walk along the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path. Our walking days vary between 7 and 12 miles and should be fairly “easy”. Afterwards, we return to Holyhead to catch the ferry to Dublin where we spend our last three days before flying home.

Where we pinched pennies – We are flying coach, not even premium economy! The three of us will be sharing a room and allows a bit more to be spent on a room. But it still works out to be only one bathroom for three women.

Where we splurged – We are using a company to facilitate our walks, Contours. They arrange accommodations, move our luggage each day, provide us with maps, etc. But the big splurge was getting a private driver to pick us up at the Heathrow airport and drive us to Northern Wales. Yes, I know I could have done this by train or bus and my English friends are probably rolling their eyes at this one. But after traveling for almost 24 hours the thought of navigating subways to central London, then dragging a bag to a train station and traveling another 5-6 hours (depending upon stops) was not appealing. This splurge only required a little arm-twisting!

So the plans are made and the start date is quickly approaching. Nerves are starting to take hold and words like “whose idea was this walking holiday” are running through our heads.  Although I expect we will be laughing our way through this little adventure, but that is part of the fun. And I haven’t told my companions that I have all the short cuts and bus stops along our walks plotted . . . .  just in case!

And everyone knows that all of my adventures includes a journal! This one is no exception. For this one I used a painted piece of canvas I had lying around, a funky button from my collection and some leather lacing. For the signatures I have tried to leave more white pages for sketching and watercolors but threw in a few printed scrapbook papers. I sewed a pocket in the back will hold a few extras such as a couple of envelopes and little ‘comment’ cards that can be added as needed and a ring of gridded papers.  This ring of papers is so important to me when traveling. Each night I review the day and write down what happened. This isn’t just a listing of the itinerary, but the little things, the funny mishaps, interesting people, the feelings I had at a certain point or surprises along the way. For me, that is what makes traveling so much fun.

 

I promise to share my review of our trip when we return. I love the idea of a walking holiday . . . . .  lets see how it actually goes.

 

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Bead and Button Review

I have returned from teaching three classes at Bead and Button in Milwaukee. It was a whirlwind of work and a rollercoaster of emotions.  Overall it was a positive experience and yes I would do it again!

I learned lots of things about myself and teaching.

  • You have to be prepared for a wide variety of skill levels.
  • You have to be prepared with extra supplies.
  • Remember to take photos, lots of them!!
  • I found that I like working with a timeline for the class typed out and taped down next to my work area. It keeps me on track and lets me assess if I am behind or ahead or just right at any point in time.
  • If you are relaxed and having fun, your students will be too. In one class, I got a little frazzled and needed to get my act together quickly. So be prepared for the unexpected. You won’t know exactly what to expect, but just that something will happen that catches you off guard. Deal with it, move on, and get back on track as quickly as possible.

In general, I considered all three classes a success since everyone left with finished pieces. I loved hearing the exclamations from people after we reduced a cane and then sliced into it or when we added a final layer of patina to pieces changing the look completely. I hope I get to see some of the class reviews to get a better understanding of how each student felt about their experience, content covered, and finished project.  I only remembered to snap photos at the end of two classes!

Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-kandinsky bracelet classYuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-mondrian pendant class

At the “Meet the Teachers” event a ton of business cards were given out and a lot of opportunities presented themselves.  Some of them I can control and follow up on, some are not in my hands. In addition, the feedback on my class samples and other work was incredible! It was so positive and enthusiastic. This totally increased my confidence (and yes . . . . my head swelled a bit . . . . okay, a lot!).  Someone I met at this event snapped a couple of quick photos of me and my table (thank you Allison Norfleet Bruenger).

Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-teachtable 1Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-teacher table 2

So I am already thinking about what I would do differently, how I could improve, and what classes that I want to submit for 2019. The deadline is sometime mid-August, but it will be here before you know it!!

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Some Eye Candy

Prior to leaving for Bead and Button I needed to get some new work completed. I put my nose to the proverbial grind stone and got it done.  I am pretty happy with the results.  And while I am still working with the colorful Kandinsky-inspired style I am always trying to improve. Pendents and pins are fun, giving me a good sized area to play with.

My earrings are very popular, but not for everyone. They are a bit large and I have tried to reducing the size a bit . . . . .  still working on that. But they provide a wonderful pop of color, I love these.

Yuhr-colorful earrings 1

But the rings and bangles are my favorite right now. I am particularly fond and proud of the way I have captured the color on the bangles.

I have done some experimenting with this style. Here, I am playing with white and black backgrounds. Does it work as well? Or is it just different.

I am also trying to sign all of my work. I started when I received a wax seal stamp of my squirrel logo as a Christmas present from my sister-in-law. It worked well but was too big for some of my pieces.

Yuhr-squirrel stamp 1

So I got a smaller stamp made from www.metalclays.com. It is designed to be used with metal clay, but it works great with polymer clay too.  It is small, detailed and was a great price!

It is small enough to be used either on the back of a piece or even ‘hidden’ in the pattern on the front of a piece. What do you think? Too much?

Yuhr-colorful bangles 3

 

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Fandango Review

Playing. We encourage our kids to do it. It exercises the imagination and allows us to experiment. It facilitates social interaction. It is generally calming and it is fun.

Well that was what the weekend at Fandango was all about, play. Fandango is the polymer clay retreat hosted by the Orlando Polymer Clay Guild.

This year I did it all, pre-retreat classes, the main retreat workshops, a bangle challenge and charm/bead exchange. The pre-retreat classes included Patrice Pfeiffer’s Dragonfly and Alice Stroppel’s Weed Pots. They were a great warm up for the next three days!

Then there were the main workshops with Christi Friesen – The Art of the Vessel; Karen and Ann Mitchell – Engineering and Construction in Polymer Clay Design and Donna Greenberg – Coral Cluster Sculptures. They were all so very different and all so far out of my comfort zone . . . . it was great!!  It is actually one of the reasons I enjoy Fandango so much. You either take the classes or you don’t, no choices.  It is a wonderful opportunity to try new things in a very relaxed setting. No pressure! And at a very reasonable cost!!

When there is no pressure and you can just play, soaking in the information, it is amazing the little things you learn that can make a big impact on your work.  And often what you learn will not manifest itself in your work until well after the retreat.

One other thing about playing with others is the camaraderie that is developed. There were over 60 polymer clay folks in attendance, all from different backgrounds, all with different goals, but all with the same passion for polymer clay.  This camaraderie is a common thread at most polymer clay events that I have attended and makes these events so much fun!!

The charm/bead exchange is a nice way of bringing a piece of everyone home with you!! Well not everyone participated, but it was still fun!

yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-fandango 5

And the cherry on top of the whole event was winning the bangle challenge with my fat boys, Tweedledee and Tweedledum!!

Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-tweedledee-dum 8

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Tweedledee and Tweedledum

It is that time of year where there are LOTS of things planned and schedules to meet. I am attending Fandango again, a polymer clay retreat in central Florida hosted by the Orlando Area Polymer Clay Guild (www.oapcguild.com). Actually there are now 7 of us from the Miami area headed up there the first week of May. The OAPCG does a great job of organizing this event!!

Every year they pick a theme for the event and they have all sorts of ways to participate in the fun from brown bag swaps to bottles of hope to challenges. This year’s theme is ‘wonderland’ and you are to interpret this any way you want. I am working on my bead/charm exchange and decided to go for the Mad Hatter’s hat. Something cute, but simple . . . .  I need to do about 65 of them!

In addition, there are two challenges where you are to take an item and do anything with it but not what it was intended for. Both items are from last years goodie bag. I am using a wooden bangle, which by the rules, can be ANYTHING but a bangle. I happen to get two of them last year and started thinking about what I could do with them.

I am pretty good at coming up with ideas, especially ones that I have no experience to support. I then blindly go about my execution and usually learn a bunch. Sometimes I learn that I never want to do that again or, more often, I learn a process or technique that I can use elsewhere.

So my idea for the bangles was to use them as an armature, creating a hollow form that could be used as a coin bank. Initially I thought about making piggy banks, but then the ‘wonderland’ theme struck home and it was obvious . . . .  I had two bangles . . . . . I had to make tweedledee and tweedledum!!

So I had my idea, my inspiration photo, and my bangles. Now what?!?! I started by making domes for both the front and back of the bangle to round out the bodies. I figured I could cut a slit into the back of the body to accept the coins, but how do you get them out??? I wanted this to be functional. Hmmmmm . . . . . . hinges . . . . .a cork somewhere . . . . . then I thought inro box! I could have one of the domes (the back one)  slide in and out of the body.

I have never sculpted before, so it was interesting to try and recreate the head and faces. They are fairly simple . . . . no hair . . . . . no neck . . . . . no eyebrows . . . . not a lot of color and features all squished into one area, but the nuances were tricky. Luckily clay can be re-rolled and you can start again . . . .  and again! And the arms, ugh, proportion!

One of the keys to this project was figuring out which step cames first. If I wasn’t sure what came next, I would walk away and let it sit for a bit so I could think it through.

For example, the striped shirt comes up under the edge of the head and certainly under the arms, so the body was done first, then the head, then the shirt, then the pants and then the arms.

A little step out of my comfort zone, a stretch of my engineering skills and TA-DA!!!

Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-tweedledee-dum 8Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-tweedledee-dum 9Yuhr-theflyingsquirrelstudio-tweedledee-dum 7

You can see my inspiration photo in the background. Was it Picasso that said creativity has to find you working? Well I have been working. Some steps were executed better than others. But it was a fun experience, I learned a TON and I am pleased with the final result. They will be a nice addition to my studio shelves.

Now, what’s next?!?!

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Channeling Mondrian

I love bold, graphic, high contrast patterns and Mondrian is one of my many favorite artists! Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter, who was a leader in the modern abstract art movement. It amazes me that over 100 years ago this man created these simple yet powerful patterns using primary colors in fields of white with black lines. Today, these patterns can frequently be seen in design or decor and attributed to this brilliant man.

mondrian art

Using his patterns as a starting point, I have played and played. One of the results was a class I developed where we create a Mondrian cane, reduce a portion of it and create a veneer that is placed in a wooden component developed by Banyan Bay Studios. I will be teaching this class for Bead and Button in June (register here). Tuesday, June 5th from 6pm to 9pm to be exact!!

Yuhr-Mondrian Pendant

Whenever I take a class, I always go home and ask myself. Okay, I can duplicate the project but now what?  So, as a part of my classes I always like to show some examples of what else you can do with what you have learned. Students will certainly leave my class with a large piece of a Mondrian cane (or two), so what’s next?? Well, I judge my success as an instructor by how well I plant some seeds of an idea as a starting point for each student.

 

My class examples show some simple applications of this cane in pendants, earrings, and bangles. I have varied the scale of the cane and turned it on an angle. But there are so many variables to play with, change the colors, the line weight, or the line angles. And this is just the beginning . . . .

So, if you are in Milwaukee the beginning of June, come and join the fun!

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A Little Tute!

Yes, I am playing with words. I plan to share a little tutorial with you as well as tute my own horn!!

I recently had the opportunity to do a demo for a joint meeting of the Palmetto/Sarasota Polymer Clay Guild and the Tarpon Springs, Florida Guild.

What a great bunch of gals . . . . . friendly, creative, and generous!! And they put out a pot luck spread for lunch that was an unexpected surprise!

I was demo’ing how to use polymer clay in the wooden components designed by Banyan Bay Studios. Here is a few of the designs they come up with.

As part of the demo there were some questions on a particular cane I had used on one of my sample pieces.

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute example 1a

It is super simple, very forgiving and can be used in a number of ways. But let me be clear . . . . . I AM NOT THE INVENTOR OF THIS CANE!! It can be found throughout the polymer community and I am not even sure who to credit with its origination (Nan Roche, Donna Kato??).

You start by building a bullseye cane that is basically a cylinder of clay covered in concentric circles of color (solid colors or skinner blends of color). It is a basic that everyone should know and is the basis of so many more canes and designs!

Once the bullseye cane is built you cut it lengthwise in quarters.

You take each quarter and push the edges of the clay up while keeping the point of the internal color. (clear as mud, right?!?!). After this step, it doesn’t look pretty, I know, but keep going!

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute 1

You then combine the four quarters and continue to compress and lengthen (or reduce your cane).

Cut and combine the four quarters one more time!  Compress and lengthen (reduce) the cane to the desired size. The size and point where you say “I’m done” is completely your decision. There are no hard-fast rules here.

When creating a veneer from this cane you can combine slices in several ways. Create organic ‘flames’ coming from a center spine. This cane can be shaped into a petal and be the start of a flower. This cane can be combined with others in building more complex kaleidoscope canes.

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute 7

Honestly, the simple bullseye cane is an un-sung hero in polymer clay and can be used for so many more designs, or as a building block or as accents. The colors you choose, whether to use solid blocks of color, a skinner blend or translucent will all change the look . . . . dramatically! But it is still a bullseye cane! Here are some other examples.

I had a bullseye cane in my stash that I used to demo a butt-join as I wrapped color around it. It was not really going to ‘be’ anything. Until someone said “what would that look like if you cut it up?”. So we gave it a try!

By the way, (this is the tooting my own horn part) if you are considering attending Bead and Button in June (go here to preview all the classes). I have 5 classes to choose from. Registration is open and I am pleased that they are filling up, its going to be fun!

 

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