Good Enough versus Better

I love making earrings. I wear them a lot and I prefer a post versus a wire. Just my preference.

When assembling the post portion of the earring you have options. You can completely finish the earring and simply glue a post on the back or you can embed the finding into the clay. The thought of the glue failing and the earring falling apart gives me heartburn.  Although I know plenty of people who swear by this method and have had great success.

Here is the post part of the earring. You can purchase these in sterling silver, surgical steel, and base metal. I prefer sterling silver to avoid any problems with allergies and it doesn’t cost THAT much more to avoid a problem down the road. I get mine from Rio Grande (www.riogrande.com).  The circular pad part of this component comes in different diameters, from 1.5mm and 10mm. I am using a 6 mm here.

Here’s my approach. I bake what I am going to use as the front of my earring. For this example (and to keep it simple) I am using solid color circles (about 1/2-inch (13mm) diameter and medium thickness) to accommodate the post component.

Keep in mind that the post portion of the earring is usually attached to something dangling or extending from it. So the circle (in this case) needs to accommodate the pad of the post and a drilled hole. 

Once the initial circles are baked, place the post component onto the clay with a dab of quick drying glue (I used Locktite). Walk away and let dry. This is only done so that when adding the next layer of unbaked clay the post stays in place and there is less fumbling around. Also note that I have offset the pad rather than centering it, to allow for a drilled hole directly below.

Add a thin layer of translucent or clear liquid clay all over the back of the earring and the pad of the post. This will help adhere the baked clay to raw clay.

Cut additional circles from the same color clay  . . . the same diameter as before . . . . the same thickness as before. Roughly center the circle over the back of the earring and push down over the post. You will not get this done perfectly . . .  but that is okay! 

Prick a hole into a small piece of cardstock using a needle, a needle tool, or an awl . . . . whatever sharp pointy thing you have on hand.

Place the hole over the post and onto the unbaked clay.  Gently, but firmly, press the raw clay onto the earring using the card stock as support and avoiding fingerprints. You want the clay to be well adhered and spread up to and slightly over the edges of the baked clay.  You can trim the excess with an exacto knife. Remove the cardstock and with the tip of a finger, pull the raw clay over the edge toward the front of the baked circle, hiding the seam.  Smooth it out. Then bake again.

After baking, I lightly sand using fine grit sanding sponge (I get mine from a beauty supply store). Drill a hole directly below the post. Make sure you are at least one drill hole diameter away from the edge. 

Add a jumpring and a dangly. Ta-da!!

Well I hope you can use this little tutorial and it improves your earrings from just good to better.  By the way, you might have noticed that these dangly things were from my scrap experiments.  I am pretty pleased with them and I think they warrant some more play time.

Posted in jewelry, polymer clay, tutorial | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Scraps

Do you ever get to that point where the mess and disorganization takes over and you can’t seem to get anything done in your studio. I was there . . . . right up against the wall! But in the process of ‘cleaning up’ I realized I had a bunch of scraps that were colorful and just too good to go into the mud pile.

It was a distraction from the goal of cleaning, but I went with the flow. I ended up creating three veneers from the scraps and cutting out some simple shapes . . . . probably earrings . . . .  maybe just samples for ideas . . . . .  maybe nothing.

Veneer #1 was a white background with circles placed all over but leaving a little white between them.  I ran this through the pasta machine so that it was a smooth veneer, going in both directions so the circles were not too distorted. A couple of ovals were cut out and I really like how this veneer looks . . . .  I think fun, whimsical, high energy.  I had a larger piece leftover that I put with some light blue. It’s okay. Then I had scraps from the scraps that I pieced together . . . I appear to be in a triangle phase.  Again I put it with some light blue . . .  too much?!?

A number of scrap circles just placed on a white background.

Veneer #2 was a dark rusty red and the same circles were placed up against one another to make a pattern of polygons. I didn’t think I liked this until I cut out two long pieces   . . . .  that could be earrings. I am really attracted to this, not sure why, but I am.

Circle scraps pushed up against one another to make veneer.
Not sure if it is the shape or focusing the eye to a limited portion of the pattern, but I really like this look.

Veneer #3 was a bunch of little triangles I had that I pieced together. I loved the look of this . . .  definitely my favorite!! The edge of the veneer was what caught my attention, so I cut out shapes focusing on the edges and backing them with black. I think this has some merit.  Not sure where I am going with this but I like it . . .  a lot.  There was a center portion left. These two little pieces could be lovely little earring dangles.  Then, of course there were scraps from my scraps that were pieced together. Again using triangles, but again . . .  too much?!?

Just a bunch of triangle scraps, pieced together to make a veneer.

So while my little distraction was baking, I focused on clearing my work table. I have actually made some real progress!! Not enough to photograph and show you . . . .  but enough for now (take my word for it)!

I find these little exercises very rewarding. I have no expectations, I am not trying to make finished or final pieces, so when something develops or leads to another idea  . . . that’s a win!  I hope you find some time to get distracted in your studio!!

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You’ve Been Accepted!

Who doesn’t like hearing that phrase?!?! Well I did it again, I have been accepted to teach at Bead and Button for 2019. Five classes in all!!   I am totally excited.  Two of the classes were taught last year and are 3-hour quickie classes. But three of the classes are new full day classes.

Last year they didn’t know me. I was given a time slot early in the week. I didn’t sell out my classes, but I had students. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Everyone finished the project, that was a big goal for me! For 2019, I am scheduled in prime-time, Thursday through Sunday.

Thursday, June 6 is Mod Mondrian Lariats from 8:30am to 3:30pm

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Mod Mondrian Lariats

Friday, June 7 is Gone Fishin’ from 9:00am to 4:00pm

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Gone Fishin’

Friday, June 7 is Three in Three Earrings from 6:00pm to 9:00pm

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Three in Three Earrings

Saturday, June 8 is Picasso Inspired Portraits in Polymer from 9:00am to 4:00pm

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Picasso Inspired Portraits in Polymer

Sunday, June 9 is Channeling Mondrian Pendant from 9:00am to noon

Yuhr-Mondrian Pendant

Channeling Mondrian Pendant

I plan to be more diligent about promoting these classes, because let’s face it, polymer clay is not the main stream there. And I am trying to get more ‘up-to-date’ with my willingness to use multiple social media platforms. I am pulling together instagram, a business page in facebook, pinterest and the blog.  It all seems so overwhelming, but it’s the new norm, so I’m going to jump in  . . . . and start treading water!

Posted in Bead and Button Show, polymer clay, teaching, workshops | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Check One Off the Bucket List

We went to the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and yes, it was as good as I expected!!

The opening day of the fiesta (we didn’t have tickets), we got up early and were watching out of our hotel window to see the outlines of the balloons taking off . . . .  far off in the distance. We also had the TV on with live coverage from the field of the festival. Even watching the mass ascension on TV was pretty exciting.

I had tickets for the second morning. Events kick off at 6:00am, so it was a really early start to the day. The morning was chilly so we bundled up, worked our way through the traffic and was sipping hot coffee in the dark by 5:30am.

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The first thing that struck me was the huge team of people working the event. Directing traffic, organizing parking, giving directions, checking tickets, keeping tables clean and food warm. The organization of the event was pretty impressive.

As the morning was beginning to get light, we kept our eyes on the various flags around the field. Was it calm enough for the balloons to inflate? Was it calm enough for the balloons to launch? We quickly found out that it was calm enough for the balloons to inflate, but not to launch. It was either too much wind higher up, or in the wrong direction.  So we listen to the Star Spangled Banner with everyone on the field flaring their burners! It was great!!

So as the sun came up we walked among the balloons as they inflated. It was like a forest of balloons of different colors and shapes!

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If you ever get a chance to attend the Balloon Fiesta, I highly recommend it. The hot air balloon folks seem to be a very enthusiastic and friendly group. My tips for attending include:

  • This is a weather dependent event, at least for the balloons being inflated and taking off. So keep an open mind, enjoy all the other things going on if things are kept on the ground!
  • The traffic to the event is impressive. There are a number of places you can park (off of the event site) and ride in on shuttle buses.
  • While I splurged for the Gondola Pass, it was overkill. Nice, but totally unnecessary.
  • And yes, it is worth getting up for the morning session!!
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Clay Out West in Review

What a fun four days. I am exhausted both physically and mentally, but feel exhilarated at the same time.  I am guessing that the organizer’s are simply exhausted!! Job well done ladies!

Classes were varied and included Leslie Blackford, Carol Blackburn, Shelly Attwood, Julie Picarello, and Donna Kato. These classes hit all the different parts of your brain from precise and controlled to whimsical to wonderful intent and even a few surprises. Here is what I came home with from the classes.

Leslie Blackford in her Vintage Animal Pins showed us a photo transfer technique and then blew our minds as she took little lumps of clay and with a pinch here and a poke there, created animal heads to go onto the photos.  We did a bit more sculpting creating fetishes. A patina was used on the clay after baking that made all the difference in the world to the finished project.

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Carol Blackburn taught us her Southwest Patterns Brooch or Pendant technique that was such a surprise. Her process is so well done and thought out. And she continued to surprise us with her pendant/brooch finishing techniques.

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Shelly Atwood’s Petroglyph Pendants showed us carving on polymer clay along with creating a variety of patinas. This is not as easy as it looks and is going to take a bit of practice!

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Julie Picarello shared All Meshed Up, her take on mokume gane along with creating windows with mesh or screen. She is a fountain of information and I only wish this was a full day class. But you know how that goes, we are always asking for more time to play! And for full disclosure, the upper right piece is Julie’s sample she made in class and raffled off, woo-hoo!

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Donna Kato took us through her Color Pencil Pieced pendants. These pendants are finished with colored pencils, a surface technique that adds a tremendous depth the clay. And from beginning to the end we learned something every step of the way (at least I did). This is one of the two projects for her class.

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But the real challenge from any workshop is taking all the tidbits and techniques, letting them percolate and see what comes out in your own work. In Carol Blackburn’s class, I had a little time while my pieces were curing to play with my scraps. You know the bits that are eye-catching and you think “I can’t just throw those away!”  And my success rate is low for packing these little gems and not having them get squished, squashed and generally distorted in the journey back home.

Well I wasn’t sure where I was going with them but I lined them up on a sheet of black clay cut out a couple of shapes.  Cute, but then I had scraps left from the scraps. Yes, this is a rabbit hole of sorts! So I then created a second veneer, cutting up the scraps into triangles and fitting them together. Left the shapes angular. Added a border of black. I really liked how these came out. I will be revisiting this.

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And the buttons . . . . I can’t forget the buttons! There were as many different buttons as there were people attending. The buttons covered everything from surface techniques to canes and from complicated to simple. They are like little treasures, not sure what I will do with them . . .  other than periodically admire them . . . .  and that’s ok!

My trip went on for another week and a half after Clay Out West, and had the sweetest ending . . . like the cherry on top.  I was at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and went into a gift store . . .  that seemed nicer than most.  I was admiring a display of animals that were intricately adorned and almost fell over when I realized it was polymer clay . . . . and the work of Jon Anderson.  A personal and up-close look at Jon Anderson’s work at an airport gift shop . . .  I couldn’t believe it.  What a special treat!!

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Well the dates and teachers have already been selected for next year’s Clay Out West. The dates are September 30th to October 3rd, 2019.  The teachers will be Donna Kato, Leslie Blackford, Debbie Crothers, Ron Lehocky, Dayle Doroshow and Wendy Malinow.  Registration won’t open for several months yet, but if you want to be on the mailing list for announcements, send an email to clayoutwest@aol.com.

Posted in polymer clay, workshops | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Purging the Hoard

Yeah, I have a problem getting rid of stuff.  All the process or practice pieces along the way are piling up in boxes. The planned projects in my head are endless. And probably exceed the number of years left in my life . . . .  by a long shot.

I have to keep reminding myself “what do I want to spend my time on” . . . . cleaning? . . .  looking for things I put away in that  ‘safe’ spot? . . . . .  moving things around to get to other things? . . . . .  or just moving them so I can find a place to work?  I know I am not alone but it doesn’t make it easier.

So what would you do with your . . . .

  • Practice pieces?  Do you want to show growth or the evolution of an idea (do you need to?).
  • Art work that really isn’t that great (or even good) and you don’t enjoy any more or wouldn’t show off from the assorted classes you have taken.
  • Insert the various technique, craft, art supply, etc . . .  that you have collected because it was on sale or, better yet, being given away!

So I am taking a look at my studio. It great that I have a studio (more than some, less than others) but a limited, finite space. Two years ago when I moved into this current space I was thrilled. New. Clean. Bright. Full of possibilities.

I am a master of piling and collecting. Having every surface covered with supplies that haven’t been put away  . . . . . may not even have a place to be put!

But now its time. Time to assess the damage my hoarding has taken on this space. Really think about what I want to be doing. Sounds deep and meaningful. Or is it just a ploy to avoid serious work,  . . . . . hmmmm.

Of course, as I write this, I am trying to figure out where I am going to stash my newly acquired mill end cones of weaving threads!! Yes a new hobby, just what I needed, I know. But the grouping of threads . . . . the colors . . . . the texture . . . .  and I found an open shelf!! What can I say, some spots may never change . . . . . . . should we just embrace them?!?!?

At least with this mess to clean up, I do have something to show for it. My buttons are completed and bagged for my next retreat, Clay Out West!!

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Taking A Side Track

Okay, so I took a little side track recently . . . . and it was a good thing!  One of the artists I stalk on-line, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.   She is a full-time artist, crafter and maker. Every weekday morning I start my day by going to four blogs and www.balzerdesigns.typepad.com is one of them. She paints, art journals, sews, carves stamps, makes cards . . . . .  I don’t think there is a craft she hasn’t tried!  Her enthusiasm is simply contagious.  She taught at Whim So Doodle located in St. Petersburg, Florida this past weekend.  I have stalked them on-line too, they bring in a great line-up of teachers throughout the year. Julie’s previous engagements at Whim So Doodle have never fit with my schedule . . . . .  until now!

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She came down for three 1-day classes.  I didn’t have anything scheduled, so I immediately talked myself into taking the plunge and signing up for all three classes – lettering, reduction painting and gelli plate printing. I love doing all of this . . . .  it was totally applicable to my art journaling. . . . . like I need an excuse!

The lettering class was great. I find lettering very relaxing and meditative. It was all about developing your own style of font, the guidelines for creating a layout and how to use your lettering in a more illustrative way.

The Reduction Painting class is a technique that Julie uses all the time in her work and she was gracious enough to share. The technique was very  ‘freeing’, but with everything new, we were all overthinking it! The results provided layers that created depth to our pages along with wild patterns to use as focal points. Not well explained, sorry . . .  I guess you had to be there!

Then the Gelli: Beyond the Basics class was a whirlwind of techniques. We all created samples of each technique. Everyone had their favorites and everyone had their  . . . . well lets just say . . . .  least favorite! So there was something for everyone!!

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And let me not forget, Whim So Doodle!! What a great store with wonderful staff. They have a great big area for the store with a wide variety of arts and crafts supplies. Then they have a smaller room off to the side which is their fabric room, O . . . M. . . .  G!! I am such a sucker for colors, patterns, texture! As I selected a yard of this and a yard of that . . .  they asked ‘so what do you sew?’. I laughed and confessed that I am a collector of fabrics. I can’t imagine cutting into these little beauties . . . . but I will work on that!

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For me, this is as good as going to a spa . . . .  or chilling on the beach.  I love the process of letting go and opening up to learning something new.  Nothing here was finished work or particularly fabulous, but the process was spot on!!  And as always, there was a journal. I had to take notes somewhere, right?!?!

In addition, downtown St. Petersburg was lovely. A great place to walk around, with plenty to do from museums to water sports to a stroll along the bay. The restaurants and bars in the area were really nice!! My favorite bar was Saigon Blonde. The restaurants I enjoyed included the Mill, Oak and Stone and Red Mesa Cantina – all fabulous. If you ever get the chance for a little weekend get away, it’s a great spot!

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