Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Ear Wires

Today I'd like to share a few photos demonstrating some new ear wire findings I just discovered.  I'm sure others have used something similar, but it was the first time I'd seen them.  These came from Fire Mountain Gems and are made of Argentium silver.  I really like Argentium silver because of both its strength and the fact that it remains tarnish-resistant for a long time.  Several new findings are coming on the market made from Argentium silver.

Findings play an important role in jewelry.  Sometimes, they work in the background, holding pieces together or serving as devices that allow wearability.  Other times, they are part and parcel of the design.  For the most part, I tend to use ear wires that allow my polymer pieces to dangle, and occasionally I'll use posts for the backs of earrings. These new Argentium wires seem to add to the design of the earrings.  They also change the way the earrings move, and I'm really pleased with the way these look when worn.

I think of these earrings as a sort of "button" design - simple rounds and ovals that showcase the polymer canes and designs I used.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Ikat Avalanche

My workspace looks like a snow storm made of ikat pieces!  Perhaps "ikat obsession" would have been a more appropriate heading for this post.  As I look back through this blog, I see at least 5 other posts on the ikat cane.  It is such fun to create, and there are several different versions "out there" to choose from - or to help you develop your own.

My first exposure was through Donna Kato's book,The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques.  Donna demonstrates a couple different approaches for making ikat canes.  Lindly Haunani has developed her own approach incorporating her wonderful rainbow approach to color, and I have had a lot of fun experimenting with her method. Iris Mishly has a lovely tutorial demonstrating 3 different versions of ikat canes.  In addition, there are several free tutorials online.  Obviously, I'm not the only person who finds this look and its variations fascinating!

However, the credit (or blame) for my current ikat spree goes to Lindly.  At the polymer master class workshop in July, Lindly spent part of the last afternoon demonstrating and discussing some of the ways in which ikat can be manipulated.  While the bracelets in the photo on the right do show their ikat origin, some of the manipulated sheets don't look anything like ikat!

I decided I had to share here some of the results of my experimenting.  Hope you enjoy the show!
This little set on the left showcases my favorite ikat sheet (so far).  The ikat cane is not manipulated here except to be cut and placed in strips next to itself.  I did experiment with the spacing of colors, their order, and strip width, and particularly cut down on the amount of base or background color that I used to set the other colors apart.  I love the almost-but-not-quite Skinner blend look.  It definitely looks like fabric to me.

The leaf shape on the left is another ikat cane cut diagonally with the opposite sides flipped and butted up against a center strip of color.  I had to add some wave to the edges and it has a "leafy" feel.  If you find a tree this fall with leaves like this, I want to know!
The next two sets are examples of feathering with ikat canes.  I have always loved the look of feathering in lampwork beads, and have experimented a bit with feathering striped polymer clay sheets.  It took a nudge from Lindly, however, to make me realize I could try this with ikat.  Oh, the results!  I found that stretching the sheets out on the pasta machine after doing the initial feathering created a simply wonderful look.  Both the lavender and the yellow sets show the results of stretched feathering.
 Now for another twist:   herringbone!  This particular manipulation makes the clay look three-dimensional.  I textured this surface for a couple of reasons.  The herringbone treatment just seemed to be somewhat "rustic" and therefore more muted to me, and texturing helped ease and set the joins between the strips.  Don't you love it when form and function work together!
Here is one last example of ikat with large neutral separating strips between the colors and feathering tossed in for good measure.
Now run out and play with some ikat canes!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rainy Day Clay Play

We had one of those seasonal monsoons that periodically pass through New England, and everyone was stuck inside. Even our poor dogs kept checking every door to see if the rain had stopped in at least part of the yard.  So, in between keeping them somewhat happy with games and trainings indoors, I spent some time twisting and twirling clay scraps from cane ends.  Once I had several slender striped snakes, I rolled them up in circular "rugs."  The pieces seemed to need just a bit more, so I added bits and pieces of shapes for interest.  I don't know what I'll do with them, but it was fun watching them take shape in my hands.

That's one more great thing about clay - you can sit down to just look at the clay, then you start touching it, and before long, you're drawn into messing around.  I find this sort of clay play especially fun. Since there is no pre-conceived plan or idea, you don't know what you'll have at the end.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Color & Ikat with Lindly Haunani

If you've read earlier entries on this blog, you have seen my postings regarding Lindly Haunani.  I love working with her. No matter how many times I take one of her workshops, I always learn something new.  My first class with Lindly was at a Cabin Fever Clay Festival, shortly after Color Inspirations, the wonderful book she co-authored with Maggie Maggio, was published.   Her approach to color captured my imagination, and I've been enthralled with the "Lindly rainbow" approach ever since.

The 2-day class with Lindly at the Master Class Camp was, in-a-word,  wonderful.  On the first day we did something I have wanted/ meant/ needed to do for a long time - we made our own swatch decks.  I now have 4 complete stacks and the information I need to make additional stacks based on other colors.  It is so exciting to watch colors morph and change, and to be able to draw from these sets to make compatible, vibrant, color combinations.  What an amazing tool!

Next, Lindly had us create a Skinner rainbow blend using our base colors.  We also created 2 or 3 solid color sheets in pastel shades based on our base colors and swatch decks. She then walked us through the process of creating an Ikat stack or cane combing the pastel sheets and the rainbow blend.  Yum!  Here are the Ikat stacks I made in class.

Finally, she demonstrated various ways to manipulate slices from the stacks to use in finished pieces.  The final photo shows a feathered sheet and a sheet that has been formed by cutting up an Ikat stack, shifting the slices, and "building" a whole new structure.  The ways in which this type of cane can be modified and changed seem endless!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Master Class Camp Workshops: Dan Cormier & Ponsawan Sila

In this post, I'll talk briefly about a 2-day master class, and a 2-hour mini-workshop I took in July at the Master Class Camp.  One special aspect of the Master Class Camp, well-organized by Kathryn Ottman, is that the basic workshops each run for 2 consecutive days.  This provides the participant with the opportunity to study with one instructor in depth, and to come away with a more solid understanding than is possible in half-day classes.  Kathryn started the Master Camp last year, and I was really happy to be able to participate this year.
The 2-day master class was with Dan Cormier.  Dan is known for his precise processes with mica shift and his ability to create some incredible images in clay.  Dan has developed not only a special process, but a wide variety of tools to compliment his procedures.  His website includes clay peelers, digital class books, die sets, and the Sh.A.R.K, a very successful width adjuster.  Throughout the 2-days, Dan demonstrated each step of his process.  He has a very precise method of conditioning clay, creating stacks of clay, and creating slices of those stacks.  He also demonstrated the use of his die sets and some methods of manipulating and impressing designs in the stacks of clay.

These two pendants are examples of slices from stacks I made based on Dan's processes.   The gold to rust piece in particular demonstrates the halo or "bruising" around the holes that is a direct result of Dan's process of clay preparation, impression, and slicing.  Very distinctive.

In addition to the 2-day master classes, Kathryn also arranged a few special 2-hour sessions in the evenings.  I participated in the evening session with Ponsawan Sila.  Ponsawan shared some of her tips and tricks about making narrow Skinner blends to create petal canes. She demonstrated how she makes small round and disk shaped beads using petal slices. One surprise was the fact that she sometimes rolls the raw beads in table salt before baking. After baking, the beads have a fine texture with some tiny holes left by the salt.  The holes show up particularly in the purple round bead on the left.

Ponsawan also demonstrated how to create small flower buds using slices of the petal canes.  Most of us then spent the rest of the time creating our own flowers, buds, and beads from the tiny canes we had made. The photo to the left shows my collection of buds and flowers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mokume Gane with Melanie Muir

A couple of weeks ago, at the Polymer Master Class Camp in Laurel, Maryland, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a 2-day workshop with Melanie Muir.  Melanie shared many of her techniques and tips with us as we created one of her classic Rocks Cuffs and a pendant.  She is meticulous in each step of her work, and her mokume gane technique was eye opening.  Melanie has a full video explaining and demonstrating each step on

The photos here are my work based on her mokume gane technique as well as the process she has developed for the rocks cuffs.  Melanie has created some great shape templates which she sells on her web site.  The site is full of examples of Melanie's work - wonderful eye candy!

I thoroughly enjoyed her workshop, and am looking forward to applying some of the ideas she shared in my own work. The purple and rust pieces will be used to make a pendant.

The bangles below show three different mokume gane patterns using Melanie's technique.