Thursday, October 16, 2014

Extruded Decoration

When I finished making the square poker "chips" I still had a few pieces of conditioned colored clay left, as well as some stacked clay still in the extruder.  What to do with it?....

I textured the sheets, extruded some more clay, and curved my flexible blade.  Here are the results - some pendant/pins and some earring sets.  The pieces are fun and funky - and I had a good time making them take shape.

No scraps left!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Retreat Preparation

I'm in the process of getting ready to go to the Kentucky/Tennessee Polymer Clay Guild's annual retreat at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.  This will be the first time I've attended this event, and I'm really looking forward to it. Right now, I'm in the midst of preparing for some of the activities they plan, and thought I'd share my little projects here.  
Of course, there is the traditional "inchies" exchange where everyone makes enough 1inch square tiles to trade with the other participants.  Inchies are usually based on a theme. This year, the focus of the retreat is extrusions, so my inch tiles are extrusion-based.  As you can see by the tiles to the left, I made flat patterns using extruded snakes, then shaved off the edges to reveal the colors below.  I used the shaved pieces and placed them on solid color backing to create the more random looking pieces.  It's sort of a combination of extrusions and mokume gane techniques.  The process is great fun and the results look pretty good, too. 

At the retreat, there are daytime activities as well as some after-dinner games.  One of the games requires us to have "poker chips" to use.  I've made up one set of "chips" using extrusions carefully placed and cut in a striped checkerboard pattern.    These chips are about 1.5 inches across.

 I liked the way these pieces looked so much that I decided to try some jewelry.  I made up a new color set, used a smaller hole for the extruder disk, and made up more checkerboard pieces.  The results below show some earrings and a pendant, all awaiting wires or other findings. 

Now I have one more set of poker chips to make.  I'm not sure what technique I'll use.  Maybe it won't be extruded......

Friday, October 10, 2014

Polymer Mosaics

Mosaics are interesting.  They can be very simple or incredibly complex. I thought it would be fun to try making mosaics with polymer, and decided to give myself a little push.  The impetus for these pieces centers around an upcoming workshop I'm teaching.  These pieces will help provide participants with samples of the various steps involved in the process.
The photos to the left show some finished pieces.  The small pair are for earrings.  The other two pieces are pendants.  The darker inverted drop pendant is finished with Magic Gloss resin.  The other three pieces have been lightly sanded and buffed to maintain a more rustic appearance.
When you leave the surface mostly "as is" you can really feel the ups and downs of the mosaic - the grout and the shapes.  The surface could also be sanded to create a smoother, more uniform finish.

The two pendants to the right are in one of the initial stages of mosaic work.  The individual "puzzle" pieces have been been made, cut, and mounted on a base, and are awaiting grout.
These three pieces have had grout added, and need to be baked before a backing and outlining border are added.   Note that the grout color can really change the look of a piece.  I expect the turquoise grout to darken some during baking, which should make it appear closer to the teal color in the mosaic pieces themselves. If not, then I'll have more contrast.
The yellow set of "steps" on the piece with white grout is actually one long strip of yellow clay with indentations pressed in before grouting - a nice little technique.

This last piece is actually the first mosaic piece I ever made.  It has some flaws, and taught me a few things.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Twirls & Swirls

About a week ago, I mentioned that I was going to work on swirl beads and learn how to use some bead shapers I'd gotten.  Instead, I ended up making ropey cuff bracelets.  Those clay side paths....;)
I still wanted to work on swirly-twirly beads, and practice with the bead shapers, so I headed back to the worktable.  Today you get to see the results.

Swirl or twirl beads are usually made from sheets of colored stripes, then rolled by hand. There are various examples on the Internet, including a very nice tutorial from Cindy Leitz, who calls these "torpedo" beads.  I started with a striped stack I had, cut and rolled a slice, and used the bead shaper to make a bead.  The photo to the right shows the striped stack and the bead. This look is fairly typical of this type of bead design.

 I wondered what would happen with other types of striped stacks, so I decided to use some of the wedge canes and Ikat stacks I have to make more beads.  The picture below shows an Ikat cane and two swirled beads.  These beads were made by rolling the clay on a flat surface using the palm of my hand.  As you can see, this method makes pointed beads.  I think this shape may be the origin of the name "torpedo" bead.

Here are more swirled torpedo-shaped beads.  Some were made from Ikat canes and others were made from some of my wedge canes.

Finally, I have some earring sets made from various canes and stacks, and rolled in the bead shaper.  These bead shapers are a great way to ensure your beads are the same size and shape.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Butterfly Migration

As the days of September passed, the monarch caterpillars here spun cocoons in preparation for their metamorphosis into butterflies.  While watching caterpillars on milkweed, I was inspired to do something with a butterfly cane I had made recently. Making butterfly canes is a time consuming process, and it's really amazing to watch a butterfly appear in the clay.  The piece here represents the migration of butterflies, which usually occurs in October, as they head south and west for warmer climes.  One of the things I like to do is to make the wing sections of the butterfly separately.  This allows me to make different sizes of butterflies more easily than in a transparent clay-encased cane. I also can manipulate the wings for a nice, three-dimensional effect.