Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Black and White Kaleidescope Cane

Following the instructions in Donna Kato's book, The Art Of Polymer Clay, I made a black and white kaleidescope cane and made a few beads out of the results. What fun!

And here's a bonus surprise to this abstract technique. I cut off the end of the cane, and discovered a bird image (left)! It was only on the end, once I made more slices, the bird was gone. Still, this bird will make a nice focal bead. The photo shows it in it's raw, sliced state. The image on the right was another unusual slice off of the other end of this same cane, I made it into a dime sized bead. The rest of the cane, shown in the top photo, is fairly uniform throughout.

Donna says in her book she was pleasantly surprised to find she could use up her scrap pieces to create these kaleidescope canes. I have made a few more of these canes with arbitrary scraps, and have to admit some of my color combinations were pretty darn ugly. Donna may manage to pull it off, but for me, I'll probably be a little careful of my color combinations.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Finished Clichy Rose Necklace

I finished my first piece of wearable polymer and here it is. I made it with the assistance of Donna Kato's book, The Art Of Polymer Clay. I followed her Clichy Rose Cane instructions, and what I learned was that the center (pink flower in this case) does not reduce as much as the outside of the cane. I am new to cane making, so this was quite an advance for me to make beads that turned out nice enough to wear.

I recommend Donna's book as an addition to any polymer library. She covers a lot of ground with basic information and inspiring examples. One downside to covering a lot of ground is that not much space is devoted to each technique, it's enough to get you started, though, and there are a lot of techniques in this book that I'm sure I will rediscover as I look through this book in the future.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Beads

These beads were made with Halloween colors in mind, kind of fun, kind of spooky, but certainly not a skull buster technique. I was just marveling at the swirls of color I made and how easy it was to make them.

I am convinced that bead making for me is going to be polymer from now on--I have had too many disappointments with my ceramic beads, putting hours of work into a load only to have the glaze firing not come out as I hoped. Mixing polymer colors to create beads is much more rewarding, because wysiwyg.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Press Mold Polymer Horse Beads

Sometimes you forget where the seed of a new direction comes from. But before I get too deep into polymer and forget what started it for me, this post is about what really launched me into polymer. I have been working in ceramics since the 1990s, and have made lots of horse beads in ceramic clay.

Then this fall I bought a custom tooled leather purse from Beas Bargains on etsy. I decided to make a purse dangle to put on it, stringing some eclectic vintage beads. Over the years my beading tastes have evolved, and though I started out doing bead embroidery with seed beads, I have grown to love old, earthy beads that look like they were dug up from an archaeological dig.

So anyway, here I am making a dangle with an eclectic group of beads from around the world, and I needed to put my individual stamp on it with my own handmade beads. Since this was going to be a purse dangle, I wanted my bead to be less breakable than the ceramic beads I normally make, so that's where polymer came in. (I had used polymer on and off just a bit over the years, but nothing serious. I didn't see the potential and wasn't aware of the great art being made with polymer.)

Falling back on my ceramic mold making experience, I made a two-sided press mold using Sculpey Super Elasticlay MoldMaker. I had an original sculpture I made from Chavant oil based modeling clay (I was making plaster molds for ceramic slip casting with the little horse sculpture) that I pressed into one side of the mold material. I then removed the horse sculpture and baked one side of the mold. When it cooled, I put the horse sculpture back in the first side and pressed the mold material into the second side. Removed the horse and baked the second side.

Now I have a two sided press mold, so my resulting polymer horses are fully dimensional.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stained Glass Cane

This polymer cane is not what my ultimate vision is, but I found a stained glass tutorial that looked intriguing so I tried it. I actually dislike the color combination and don't see myself using this cane for anything. But again, I'm new to polymer so this is just a trial cane. It's all about the journey, right?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My First Polymer Cane

It's easy to find simple polymer tutorials on the web, I ended up following Desiree McCrorey's bullseye lace cane tutorial to create my first cane. I'm just trying things right now, getting the feel of polymer and seeing where it takes me. It's easy to be impatient and want smashing results right off the bat, but I understand there is a lot to know, and a lot of different directions to go with polymer so my early efforts are strictly educational.

I know a few things for sure about what I seek in polymer: making beads is my top preference, and I like an organic, asymmetric look over symmetry and geometric shapes.

Here is my black and gold lace cane and some unpolished beads I made from the cane. I found out that curing beads in the oven on a foil lined cookie sheet leaves flat shiny spots. I'll be doing something different in the future to avoid that problem.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Launch Into Polymer

I got this idea to make my own polymer beads the other day.

I tried working with polymer in the mid 1990s, but it didn't click with me. I didn't think it had that much potential, so I moved on to working with ceramic clay. Luckily there were lots of artists and crafters out there who saw what I didn't see in polymer. They have spent the last many years honing, perfecting, experimenting, and most importantly, sharing what they have learned to do with polymer clay.

Who are "they"?

As time goes on, I'm going to name names and give credit to those who's creativity and willingness to share helps other artists learn. These polymer artists are all over the 'net sharing tutorials, writing books, blogging, teaching workshops, and recording how-to DVDs on polymer.

I want to share information, too, as well as record my adventures into a new medium right from the beginning. So this blog is not about being an expert in polymer, but rather my own path of discovery as I learn from polymer experts.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

August Beaded Journal Page

6" x 8"

Continuing on with my "Inspired By Horses" theme, my August page incorporates a beaded bucking horse that has been languishing in a drawer since I made it in October, 2000. This is not just any old unfinished piece, it's the first beadwork I ever did!

I launched into beading based on a photo I saw in a western style magazine in the fall of 2000. It was a bead embroidered bucking horse and I did not know how it was done, but I jumped on the internet to find out. I discovered these little beads were called seed beads. Honestly, I didn't know anything about beads! I ended up ordering my first seed beads online and was so excited when they arrived.

I learned how to do backstitch from a bead book I bought, and my first beaded piece was this bucking horse on ultrasuede. I planned to appliqué the finished beadwork onto a leather vest I was going to make. I never did make the vest, I instead started working on other beading ideas for Christmas presents that year.

So the beaded bucking horse on ultrasuede got put aside for seven years but now has a home as the August page in my Bead Journal Project. As I look at it today, I realize how far I have come in my ability to bead embroider and plan how the design is going to come out. With figural subjects, I now outline the design first, then fill in with beads row by rows. In this first piece, I did not outline first, and ended up losing control of how I wanted it to look.

When I started this BJP, I wanted to try to use beads and fabric I already own, and not run out and buy more stuff. Some of the other BJP participants are doing this, too. Though the rest of the year's worth of BJP pages are likely to be original, I am happy I was able to pluck a forgotten piece out of the drawer and breathe new life into it.

Please stop by my art blog,, and vote in the "what's your favorite horse color" poll I have posted. The results will affect a future BJP piece.

Monday, July 30, 2007

July Beaded Journal Page

Cinder And Me In The Summer Of '69

6" x 8"

Continuing on with my "Inspired By Horses" theme, for July's page I step back in time to 1969.

I was twelve that year, and had been horse crazy since birth. My sister and I campaigned our parents for years to buy us a horse, and finally in April, 1969, we got a horse named Bobby. My sister and I took turns riding Bobby, and then my parents realized that it might be wise to get a second horse. In July, we bought a pony. She was black as coal, and I named her Cinder. Cinder became mine alone, and we fit together like a glove.

me and Cinder in the summer of 1969 at Flying W Stables in Paramount, California

We were told Cinder was originally from Wyoming, although I was never able to confirm that. But as a kid born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Wyoming was the wide open spaces where cowboys roamed the prairies....far away from the concrete riverbeds and railroad tracks where I rode horses with my friends.

I rode Cinder for years in local gymkhanas, (barrel racing, pole bending, and other events) we won lots of ribbons and trophies despite the fact she was much smaller than the other horses we competed against. She was fast and agile, and I thought she was the best horse on earth.

I owned Cinder until I graduated from high school, when I sold her to another girl who loved Cinder almost as much as I did. Eventually Cinder was sold to someone else, and I lost track of her at that point. If I had to do it over again of course, I would have kept her forever.

This is not the first time I have created this image. Many times over the years I have done drawings and paintings of a barefoot girl on a horse flying through the air, with no saddle, no bridle. It's all about freedom and the carefree days of youth, it's a very personal theme for me and as close as I ever come to doing a self portrait.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

June Beaded Journal Page

Here is my June BJP. My theme and journal title is "Inspired By Horses". My journal pages are all going to be 6" x 8", and will be bound together (somehow!) at the end the twelve month run.

My lifelong interests have been art and horses, you can see my horse paintings at my main blog. I decided to dedicate this journal project to a horse each month that inspires me in some way.

The first month of this project is Street Sense, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby. My husband, Clint and I are close friends with Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger. We attended the Derby and were overjoyed when Street Sense won! Clint and I both used to work for Carl, Clint was an assistant trainer and I was an exercise rider. You can find out more about Street Sense via my livejournal blog, where I made lots of entries during Derby week (in April and May) regarding Street Sense's progress and the whole adventure of attending the Derby.

Monday, June 25, 2007

My Beady Beginnings

I started beading in 2001 after seeing a leather vest with some beadwork on it in Cowboys and Indians magazine. I wanted a vest like that, but couldn't find any information on it's maker, so I decided I would make my own vest.

I didn't even know what a seed bead was back then, but soon found out via the internet. I ordered many different colors of size 11 seed beads from Out On A Whim. Once they arrived, I started teaching myself to bead embroider. I never did get the vest made, but I have been beading ever since.

I thought I was late to the beading party by starting in 2001, but beading has become even more popular since I started. Over the years I have taken classes in different bead approaches including lampwork and PMC, but bead embroidery is still my favorite way to bead. I like free form and I like pictorals, so bead embroidery says it best for me. I still order seed beads from Out On A Whim, but I also like to go to bead stores while traveling around the country.

A high point for me was getting a beaded piece accepted into a 2002-2003 traveling exhibit called The Beaded Cloth, (my piece is Bunny Garden, at the top of page two in this link) sponsored by Beadwork Magazine. That was also a low point for me--as my beadwork was lost when it was sent back to me by Beadwork magazine because they sent it to my old address where I no longer lived. I never recovered it even though the folks at Beadwork Magazine and I tried very hard to track it down. I am currently re-making that piece but it's hard to cover the same ground, so it has been a work in progress for longer than I care to admit. It was done with Delica beads, which are tiny and time consuming. When I finish it, I'll post it here!

In May, 2007, I joined an online group called the Bead Journal Project, started by Robin Atkins (a juror for aforementioned The Beaded Cloth!). For the next twelve months I will be posting monthly bead and fabric journal pages. My next posting will show my first completed page of this journal project.