Thursday, November 6, 2014

Extruder Extraordinaire - Mari O'Dell

As promised, today I'm going to share with you some of the things we created at the Kentucky-Tennessee Polymer Clay Retreat at Mammoth Cave National Park a few weeks ago.  It truly is amazing how much you can do with an extruder.  Mari O'Dell, extruder extraordinaire, led the group through an incredible variety of projects and activities all using extruders as the core component.  Mari's   instruction was outstanding.  She has what she terms a "wabi-sabi" approach which allowed the participants to adapt everything she presented to their own learning and working style.  The ideas came fast and furious - I hope I'll be able to follow my notes!

The first project we all worked on was a little covered tin complete with a lotus flower on top that can be spun by using your fingers.  Mari had some tips about pressing the clay onto the tin, and using texture and chalks really hid seams and finger prints well.  The little trim was something I added after the first baking.  For some reason, the clay pulled down from the rim, and the trim helped to cover the small gap.

The next photo below shows the lotus flower from the top. Mari had made each of us the center of the flower from a mold she had developed herself, and it added the perfect touch.  The petals of the lotus flower were all made from an extruded cane.  One of the things I found I really liked about these extruded petals is they held their shape and were consistent.  The design might change slightly from one end of the extruded cane to the other, but the resulting flowers were lovely and realistic and a bit more "polished" than the petals I make from canes by hand.

An aside:  The extruder I purchased from Polymer Clay Express is a 2-in-1 device.  Looking a lot like a fancy caulking gun, the barrel can be changed so it is possible to use  both 1" and 2" disks for creating extrusions.  I really appreciated Mari's individual instruction learning about all the various parts and how to change between the two modes.  The handles really allow you to use your hands or to put more body strength into extruding, and I had no trouble getting new and older clay to move through the tubes.

Then we went on to making various canes to put through the extruder.  It really is amazing how a cane changes - or stays the same! - when put through the extruder.  Afterwards, we used the extrusions to make some lovely bell flowers.  Here are three sets of earrings I made from different extrusions. This first pair came from one basic cane that I cut in 2 and extruded separately.  Putting some solid clay before the cane inside the extruder resulted in the extrusion having a border around it.  I really like the contrast, and the fact that one basic cane can become 2 - or more!

This next set of bells came from a basic cane that was also divided and re-grouped.  I tried my hand at making clay dangles for this pair.

The third pair used a different basic cane as well as a different disk in the extruder.  The leafy shape of the extrusion adds real interest to the flower petals.

We also did a lot of individual exploration.  Here are two bracelets made from extrusions. The orange bangle is composed of numerous - I think about 12 - thin extrusions done one the small Makin's extruder so many polymer artists use. I twisted the strands together, joined them. and then placed slices from an extrusion around and round the band.  This helped cover the join area and made the whole bracelet stronger - and more interesting.

The other bracelet was made from an extrusion on the large 2-in-1 extruder using a 5 petal disc.  One thing I discovered when making this particular extrusion was the effect of putting old and new clay together in the extruder.  I had some older antique gold clay in with some newer colored clay.  The old clay made funny little bumps and broke up in some places,  adding an interesting texture to the whole extrusion.  It doesn't show up too well on the picture of the bracelet, but these individual bead pieces show the bumps and "broken" spots pretty well.

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