Saturday, March 29, 2014

Polymer "Pottery" : Wearable Vessels

Small vessels have long intrigued me.  I like the shapes, and the idea that something can be carried inside.  Recently, I ran across a nice tutorial from Chris Dembinski. She uses the torn watercolor paper technique to decorate beads in different shapes, including a small pot.   I've always liked the torn sheet look, and thought it would be fun to give her idea a try.  I've been meaning to make some vessels, and this was the perfect impetus.  Besides, it ties in nicely with my "polymer pottery" explorations.
Here are 3 little vessels I made.  The aqua and the plum ones have handles.  The red one is more flat like a bead with a rim around the top.  They are all finished with hand-dyed silk cording or ribbons, with sterling beads added for embellishment.  I've left the ribbon ends "as is" so people can tie the necklaces to a preferred length. They could also be cut and glued into findings, if desired.
By the way, Chris Dembinski has some great polymer color recipe ebooks on her Etsy site "craftsbychris" - you might want to check them out.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Polymer "Pottery": Modified Faux Ceramic Technique for Cuffs

Thought I'd share what I did last night.  This is sooooo easy, and I love the results!  As I was working on more ceramic effects in polymer, I realized everything I was making was on a flat surface.  I need at least a few brass cuffs for the show.  I didn't think the liquid polymer with alcohol ink approach would work on a curved surface without a lot of dripping, so I decided to see if I could make the other technique work.  I simplified the steps I'd used on the pendants, and I think the cuffs turned out nicely.
The steps are simple:
Condition your clay.  For the ceramic looks, I make my own cream color that is a mixture of white, pearl and small (tiny) amounts of ecru and yellow.  Rolled out to a thickness of 2 (Atlas), the clay fits well on the channeled cuffs.  A texture or design can be imprinted on the clay first, then a strip can be cut out and placed on the cuff.  Alternately, the clay can be placed into the cuff, and then impressed with a design.  Be sure to use a release if your texture plate requires one.  Once the clay is pressed into the cuff and the edges and ends are evened and pressed in, the fun part begins.
Of all the various color techniques I'd been using doing the faux ceramic look, I found using pastels the most fun.  The tutorials and ideas I'd found suggested using your finger to apply the chalk. However, that approach sometimes left prints or made a spot of color that was too large or dark for what I wanted, so I decided to use small paint brushes to add the color to the design.  The first photo shows two cuffs after the pastels have been added and the cuff baked.   Each cuff has 5 or more colors.  I found that the results looked different if all the brush strokes went in the same direction, or if different colors were laid on in different directions. Experiment!  The second photo is the same 2 cuffs after being sprayed with PYM2. I liked both looks, but wanted to be sure the pastels were protected against wear. Easy, fun, and and definitely ceramic-like.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Polymer "Pottery": Faux Ceramic - Technique 2

The second polymer ceramic technique I used was based on a tutorial from Polymerclayweb.  This approach uses pre-baked pieces to which translucent liquid polymer and alcohol inks are applied for color.  The liquid polymer also adds a shine to parts of the surface that looks a lot like ceramic glaze, and they seem more "polished" than the pieces I made with the first technique.  The alcohol inks made for some interesting effects which you'll see in some of the pieces in this post.
The yellow/orange/gold pendant above was the first piece I made using this technique.  The liquid polymer gave the deeply textured areas with the darker color a lot of shine.  I used Preserve Your Memories 2 to add a sealing coat over the whole surface. The shine is nice and looks like ceramic work with a high gloss glaze.

This next green/gold/yellow set shows an interesting phenomenon that happened using the alcohol inks.  When adding alcohol inks to liquid polymer, it's usually a good idea to let the inks dry before mixing them into the liquid.  You can see what the color will actually look like when the alcohol evaporates.  For some reason, particularly with the colors I was using for this next set of pieces, the color from the inks dried in little dots which remained even after stirring and subsequent baking.  The overall effect is of speckles, like some special pottery glazes and finishes.  What a happy "accident."  The same thing happened a bit with the purple set below.  I'm not sure if this is a result of the age of the inks, the viscosity of the liquid polymer or some other factor.  I'll have to see if I can replicate it in the future.
This "sun-set" on the left was finished in the same manner with the PYM2 sprayed over the liquid polymer glaze.  These pieces are particularly shiny, in contrast with the green set above that has a more subtle finish.

Speaking of finishes...of course I had to give resin  a try.  The rest of the photos show resin added to the surface after baking.  No PYM2 was used, just the liquid polymer and resin.  As usual, the resin gives the finished product some depth and extra shine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Polymer "Pottery": Faux Ceramic - Technique 1

This post has a little story behind it....Due to some unexpected events, the Westerly Artists' Gallery was in need of an artist to develop a show for the large street-side window.  When no one stepped forward, I agreed to give it a shot, IF I could pull in one or two other 3-D artists and make a small "group" show.  It was just too short notice to produce enough pieces by myself.   Happily, I was able to talk a potter and a woodworker into joining me.  Things are shaping up nicely, and the show will go on in April.
The reason this figures into my blog posting is I decided to try to make items that tied into the other 2 mediums.  I've made polymer faux wood pieces before, and knew I could make a few items that tied in nicely with the woodworker's items.  However, I've never tried making polymer "ceramics."  Here was the perfect impetus!
First, I decided to do a bit of research and see what others were using for ceramic-like effects.  I have long been an admirer of Iris Mishly of Polymeri Online.  She has some absolutely fantastic tutorials on just about any polymer topic you can imagine and, of course, she has an exceptional series on polymer ceramic techniques. I'm always happy with her tutorials, and her tips and tricks are quite worthwhile.  I also found a few Youtube videos on the topic, as well as an interesting tutorial on Polymerclayweb.  I set about experimenting, trying different ideas to see what "fit" for me.
Today's post covers the first approach I used. These are closest to Iris' approach, and, I feel, allowed me to achieve a somewhat rustic and realistic ceramic look.  When I showed them to friends, they thought the pieces were actually ceramic - until they picked them up and felt that lovely polymer lightness.
One of the most consistent aspects of the various approaches was the use of pastels or chalks for creating color. Iris also uses another product that adds some special effects.  I used some plastic stencils from Iris' website for the designs and some wallpaper textures for the back of the pieces. Here are the backs of 2 of the pieces shown above.

One of the hardest things for me is making the pieces into something that is done and immediately wearable.  The finishing - bails, chains, cording - is not my favorite part.  Sometimes the ideas I have are too time consuming - and I want to get back to more clay!   The ceramic pieces I made with this approach seemed suited to somewhat more casual approaches.  So here are examples using silk ribbon and wound cording on the left,  and chains below on the right.

Of course, I also needed to try some earrings.  I found these were a bit larger than what I usually make. The patterns just needed more space.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Going Miniature with Penni Jo Couch

Penni Jo knows her way around sculpture, and does absolutely incredible things - in miniature!  I was enchanted with the samples of  her work we got to see, and the techniques she shared really excited me. If you've been following my blog for a while, you may recall that in December, 2012, I posted a series of pendants I had made with tiny flowers and vines.  The flowers and vines were all formed individually by hand and applied to a baked base.  I really loved the look, and enjoyed making those pieces, but they took a great deal of time.

Well, Penni Jo had a couple of technique "tricks" up her sleeve - and they're just what I needed.  I'll be able to create miniature leaves and petals just a bit faster and with more control over size and consistency.  She does her work on raw clay, and that also seems to make a difference.

I think the miniature look is incredibly delicate and light. I can't wait to give more designs a try.

In her workshop for CFCF,  Penni Jo had us all make hearts and decorate them using the techniques she taught.  I finished my first and started a second, then ran out of time.  Since I was going to have to fly the pieces home, I baked them both.  The periwinkle piece is finished.  I really loved the scalloped edges she taught us to make.  Since I had to bake the turquoise piece to bring it home, I don't know if I'll be able to match the leaves or if I'll just keep it as a "reminder/idea."

In case you don't know, Penni Jo makes wonderful molds for use with polymer.  She also has a great tool kit, and it's definitely worth taking a look at if you want to do miniatures. She sells both on her shop on Etsy.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Caning with Sarah Shriver, Kaleidoscope Diva

I'm so glad Sarah Shriver battled storm and airplane cancellations to make it to CFCF.  Despite the fact that she had to spend 2 nights in Charlotte, NC waiting for a plane to finally leave, she jumped right into our first workshop with her usual grace and good humor.  I was fortunate to spend day and a half with Sarah, and, as always, came away with some great ideas and a renewed appreciation for caning.  Sarah is a master of the craft, and is particularly famous for her personal approach to kaleidoscope canes. It's not just her method of making blends and canes that is special, it's also the seeming ease with which she whips up a perfect bead from a cane, while the rest of us sit spellbound.  She inspires me to try different color variations and combinations, and I was pleased with the results.

Here are the various kaleidoscope canes I made from my
basic cane block following her techniques.  Can't wait to actually get some pieces made from these!

The full-day workshop with Sarah covered something I haven't done before:  packing a cane with intricate sections.  Sarah introduced us to her fish bone cane, and had us all laughing at her stories of peoples' reactions to the jewelry she makes from this cane.  The cane is cute and it was really interesting to learn the ins and outs of keeping a cane image properly protected or "packed" to allow consistent reduction.  Of course, learning to reduce is also a skill that requires both good technique and lots of practice.  Sarah made it look easy.

My fish has a bit of a prehistoric, cave-drawing look about him, and that look has got me thinking of other things I could make with the whole cane-packing approach.  Gotta get some clay time!

I worked rather quickly on my cane because I was eager to try Sarah's approach to making this slip-on bracelet.  She shared her technique for a basically knot-less elastic band.  Very slick!

I also loved her idea of super-reduction and combination of the fish cane to make these cute earrings.  Making a cane and saving pieces in different reduction sizes opens all sorts of possibilities.