Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Polymer Pendants

I'm making large batches of these flattish pendants for various venues. Glad they are catching on as they are fun to make and the variations are endless. Keeping the design simple--stringing it on buna cord with a lobster clasp on the end.

Sometimes I wonder where a particular pursuit is taking me. In this case, I wonder how these pendants will evolve, will they lead to something else? I've made hundreds of them in just a few months and I've seen my positive progress in refining the technique when I look back at the first ones I made.

A few years ago I read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. It's a great book but I hadn't looked at it in awhile...I opened it up the other day to some words on page 110 that I highlighted years ago: "Be willing to start without seeing the whole path...you must be willing to lean into it and see how it unfolds."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Polymer Pendants

I'm working on a large wholesale order of polymer pendants. I like the simplicity of these pendants, I just string them on a rubber cord and they speak for themselves with their color and shape.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Translucent Layering Pendants

3" and 4" polymer pendants with horse image transfer

Here are two pendants I made using the translucent layering and image transfer techniques I learned from Kathleen Dustin. They are a ways from perfection, mainly the translucent is not as clear as I wanted it to be...maybe it's too thick...but anyway it's an exciting technique that has given me lots of ideas as I roll along on my polymer journey!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Polymer Pendants From Here To Infinity

I'm busy making rorschach style pendants, making a bunch then narrowing it down to the best ones for a project I am working on. These are addictive and I get better and better with each one I make, incorporating new ideas as I move along.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Something Out Of Nothing

Rorschach Pendant

...make something out of nothing, I do that every day. I just read an Ornament magazine article about Tory Hughes with that title. Tory is known for her polymer but I like that she said the work is about the artist, not the material.

I swap between polymer and painting. In my recent paintings, I start with watercolor but find more and more mixed media getting put into the piece, so it no longer can be categorized as a watercolor. Though I have yet to incorporate polymer into my paintings, I have found that making skinner blends and mixing colors has informed my painting, and I have discovered color combinations through polymer that I want to use in painting.

In polymer, I have been making natasha or rorschach pendants lately. The fun is in the "what if"color combinations and the accidental nature of the finished piece. Some of my rorschach pendants achieved the intent I started out with, such as the bright, fun piece at the top which came out of making skinner blend spirals, striped canes, and checkerboards within a color scheme.

But then there are leftovers.

scrap pile-"nothing"?

After spending considerable amount of time being "intentional", I wound up with a large pile of scraps. I grabbed some and made these two pieces without regard for any kind of color scheme or superimposing my will over the pattern.

scrap pile pendants- "something"?

It's all good. It's all fun. Keep making something out of nothing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Skinner Blend

I haven't posted in several weeks but I am busy working on polymer clay ideas, I'm just not ready to post the results yet. But here is my pasta machine, busily processing a skinner blend! I think Judith Skinner did the polymer world the biggest favor ever by creating an easy way to make gradations. Where, oh where is Judith Skinner? Her website was started several years ago, and it hasn't been touched in long while. Is she on Facebook? Does she Twitter or blog?

Back soon!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Kathleen Dustin Container Workshop

The second Kathleen Dustin two day workshop I took in Albuquerque in June '09 was about making a hollow form, in most cases a purse. After talking about design principles, Kathleen started us off the first day by making a small hollow pendant, so we could learn the process before we tackled the larger scale of a purse.

Then in preparation for the purse, she had us make two different skinner blends.

These are my skinner blends that later became the outer decoration on my purse

Kathleen making her skinner blends, she did a beautiful blue blend and a red/gold blend.

Kathleen putting her purse together

After making the purse form, the inner lining, we put it all together. This process takes multiple bakings, but the design possibilities are endless. I have not quite finished the purse I started in the class but when I do, I will post it here. The skinner blend stripes is not something I would have thought of, it's a really beautiful end result. Also, I have been wanting to make polymer purses so I can apply my horse imagery to a 3D, functional form, so I am excited about the possibilities of making these great purses in different shapes, colors and sizes. I will be fusing what I learned in both the Translucent Techniques and purse workshops.

Taking a workshop from Kathleen Dustin is a rare opportunity, I was thrilled to get the chance to travel to Albuquerque which is less than 400 miles from where I live, and grateful that she is willing to teach the techniques she has worked so hard to develop.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kathleen Dustin Translucent Layering Workshop

Three pendants I made during the two day workshop. Two are not quite finished.

I just did a two day Kathleen Dustin workshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we learned her translucent layering techniques. It was great! Kathleen has an art background, which gives her instruction more depth beyond polymer, she talks about design and bringing your pieces to the next level beyond the ordinary.

We learned about the elements of composition within an abstract piece, translucent layering, polishing, drilling, and finishing.

One of Kathleen Dustin's pieces.

I have taken several polymer workshops and enjoyed them all, but Kathleen's techniques really helped shape a vision I have of getting my own personal imagery onto polymer. I know exactly what I want to do now as soon as I get home!

Kathleen putting gold leaf onto clay.

Student's finished pendants

Annie Hooten organized and made this workshop happen, which was a year in the making. Annie does a great job of keeping students updated prior to the workshop, and everything went smoothly. She organizes workshops on a regular basis, I highly recommend you attend one Annie is putting together.

I am attending the second Kathleen Dustin workshop this weekend, and will report my experience next week!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Why Making Natasha Beads Are Like Painting Watercolors

Natasha Beads

One main reason I paint in watercolor is because I love the magic that happens when colors flow into each other and create interesting abstract patterns and textures. Once upon a time those backwashes and accidental textures were frowned upon with watercolor. Everything had to be perfect. Nowadays more and more painters are shunning perfection and going with the flow by letting things happen in an abstract or partially abstract manner using ingredients such as saran wrap, salt, gesso, etc.

In polymer clay, there are lawless rogues, too--such as Natasha who created the magical Natasha bead. I have fun with these in the same way I anticipate the serendipity of watercolor. Below is a tutorial for making Natasha beads out of scraps of clay.

I cut off ends of several spiral canes and lined them up together. You don't need canes to make a Natasha bead, but at least a few cane ends can add interest the end result.

I rolled them into a log, then twisted the log several times to get the ingredients spiraling around. I then squared the log using a brayer or acrylic roller.

Cut the squared log in half.

The pattern is exposed.

Leaving the two halves in the open-face position, I then cut the halves in half again.

I flip the two outside quarter pieces onto the back, taking time to line up the design. After lining it up, I then shape it into a long, slightly squared bead, shown in the photo at the top.

So oddly enough, this bead may look to some like an intricate pattern, when in fact it is the smushing together of polymer scraps to create a one of a kind original. As in watercolor painting, all the planning in the world can not surpass the excitement of the results you often get when letting things happen by just guiding the process along.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Donna Kato Workshop Bangle

This is the bangle I made during the recent Donna Kato workshop in Denver. See my previous posting for more photos and details.

It's hard to tell the size of the bangle from the photo but when I put it on my wrist it's bigger and clunkier than something I would normally wear. Heck, I don't normally wear bangles at all but the design possibilities are intriguing so I'd like to pursue making more. I just want to refine future bangles to be a bit more wearable than the one I made here.

I consider this bangle to be a prototype example, because in trying to get as much done in the one-day workshop, we had to rush a bit to get through all the steps. So my application was sloppy in places, with edges not meeting up perfectly. But at least I know what to do now!

The canes used in this bangle are unquestionably Donna Kato style, those who know her work recognize the zipper cane and the use of stripes in the triangle "fang" cane against a the drama of a black background. I chose to follow her color scheme in the workshop as Donna suggested to save time in not having to do too much color mixing. Donna told us how she mixed these colors, but interestingly, despite the precision of her cane making, the way she told us to go about mixing colors was less precise: "a lot of this, less of that, and a dash of this."

What was cool about the red and orange in the zipper and fang cane is that up close the stripes are undoubtedly two different colors, but viewed from further away the red and orange merge and look rust colored, which is a color I love combined with lime green.

I also like the wavy shape of the base, I am not into perfection or symmetry so the free form shape is right up my alley. The zipper cane pulls it together though into a bit of order and it really makes a nice border, leaving the door open for interpretation inside those borders.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Donna Kato Workshop- Denver '09

Ok, you know about the Skinner Blend, the Natasha Bead...have you ever done the Jana Whack? Named for Jana Roberts Benzon's method of conditioning the notoriously stiff Kato clay, that's how we started off our recent Donna Kato workshop in Denver. We brought our rubber mallets and pounded the Kato clay while still in it's package until it was partially flattened, then we were able to continue conditioning with our hand rolling devices and pasta machines.

The Jana Whack on Kato Clay

This workshop was about building bangles. Most of my own polymer work is small and doesn't have too many steps, I finish things quickly and move on to the next thing. But Donna's bangles are quite a beautiful sight to behold and it was informative and worthwhile to spend the day making one item, which required many steps and many trips to the baking oven.

Donna with the base form of her bangle

Everyone made a black base form then we moved on to adding canework. With a lot to do in one day, Donna suggested we stick with her color scheme to save color mixing time. I was happy to do that as I liked the colors she used: orange, red, and lime against the black base form.

The canes we made were the very effective "zipper" cane, and a "fang" cane which incorporated stripes as well as a Skinner Blend plug. Those plugs are great--Donna has the tutorial for them in her latest book, The Art Of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques.

everyone happily working on their bangle forms

Donna shows us the striped cane

Donna puts the finishing touches on her bangle at the end of the day

I didn't quite finish my bangle by the time the class was over, so when I finish it I will post it in my next blog entry. (And I can't wait to make more bangles after I finish the first one.)

It was a fun day, I enjoyed my first-ever workshop with Donna Kato. She is a pro, and it shows in her teaching style as well as her final results.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Julie Picarello Mokume Gane Workshop

Julie Picarello describing her mokume gane technique

I recently attended a Julie Picarello mokume gane workshop in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was part of a ten day road trip so I am just getting home and posting some photos. I enjoyed taking Julie's workshop and highly recommend it even if you have already done mokume gane, it's always informative to learn from someone who specializes in a particular technique. Julie is nice and fun to be around, as are all the members of the Pikes Peak Polymer Clay Guild.

My own mokume gane slices made during the workshop.

Mokume gane beads/pendants made by workshop participants on the first day of the workshop. There are some stunningly good polymer artists with great color sense at this clay guild!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I like to make necklaces to celebrate holidays and other special events. I just finished this one in the nick of time for Easter. It's my own faux ivory rabbit heart focal bead, surrounded by smaller faux ivory and spring/Easter colored polymer beads. The beads hanging at the bottom are glass flower beads, I've had them in my bead stash for quite awhile now and it was nice to find the right place for them in the necklace arrangement.

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Pearl Ex Pigment Test Blobs

Before baking.
Dime sized test blobs using Fimo translucent and Pearl Ex pigment powders.

After baking.

I love my Pearl Ex pigments, but this is the first time I have taken the time to make test colors for reference. I mixed the powder with Fimo translucent. They really do come out special but you can see with these before and after baking photos, when mixing colors with translucent you need to bake to see the end results.

I put my test pieces on an index card, and wrote the Pearl Ex colors beside each piece. After baking, I painted the backside of each piece with white paint, so I could write the color names on the back. (I have not found a pen that will write on polymer. Have you? I've tried Sharpies, they rub off.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Under The Wire Faux

"Under The Wire" Pendant

I made this faux ivory, turquoise, and jade polymer pendant specifically for the Polymer Clay Guild of Etsy April challenge. The theme for April is "Faux". Faux is one of my favorite things to do in polymer, I have had this idea in mind but the PCAGOE challenge prompted me to get it done, just under the wire for the entry deadline. I normally make beads but this pendant came out very nice and it is a great opportunity to combine different looks and colors into one piece.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ivory Hearts

I made these faux ivory hearts the other day, these are pretty much focal beads, being 1 1/2" tall and about 1 1/4" wide. I haven't made anything with them yet, like a necklace or other finished item, but I wanted to post them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day Faux Jade

I made these faux jade beads several months ago, intending to make a bracelet. I planned to use Stretch Magic jewelry cord and finish the bracelet without a clasp. I couldn't figure out how to finish it off so I put the beads away. I still can't figure it out (I may need to use a clasp) but I was looking for something green to post today, St. Patrick's Day, and these faux jade tile beads were just the ticket.

The running horse is my own design, it was the first time I have made tile shaped beads and I like the look. This horse design could appear as faux ivory, too. You never know what I might make next. But maybe I should finish this bracelet first.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Faux Turquoise

Here are some faux turquoise beads I made recently. They will be a component of a bigger project soon, but for now, here's the beads I made with a simple technique. I just chop up turquoise clay (adjust the color to suit your turquoise taste, as it comes in many shades) in a small food processor. Press the small chunks together enough so they hold into a bead shape but still have the crevices. I added some brown chunks and olive green chunks for variety on a few of the beads. Bake, then rub black and or brown acrylic paint into the crevices. Wipe off excess paint. Buff and polish.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Found Polymer Texture Tools

I spent some time in Florida recently, I beach combed and collected some coral and shell pieces with texture stamping tools in mind. I have collected these in past trips to Florida, but this time I really looked for deeply impressed pieces that would make a nice texture in polymer clay. I much prefer finding texture tools in nature over man made ones.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just A Little Carving Experiment

A few posts ago, I blogged about my primitive mudcloth beads. I recently got some micro carving tools from polymerclayexpress.com and made this experimental bead. I just carved into the surface before I baked it then rubbed acrylic paint into the carved part after baking. It was easier than carving through the black layer to reach the white underneath as I did in the mudcloth beads. I can imagine these type of chocolate colored carved beads being combined with brighter colored beads to create an eclectic necklace or bracelet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mokume Gane All Season Beads

Mokume Gane Beads. From top: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

Here are some basic mokume gane beads I made last year. I was rifling through my bead stash and when I found these beads I made, I realized how they looked like the four seasons. I don't remember if it was a conscience thought or not!

I will be taking a mokume gane polymer workshop in April 09 taught by Julie Picarello. I am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Blackbird Winter

Blackbird Beads- 1 1/2", 2 1/4", and 2".

The past few weeks there have been a flock of red winged blackbirds hanging around, singing their off-key song in a nearby spruce tree. The unusual thing about this is that you don't often see blackbirds in January and February here in Colorado at 7,900 feet. There are also robins around, which is almost as unusual.

I associate the blackbirds and robins with summer, so it lifted my spirits on cold winter days to see these birds, and I was able to help them out by sprinkling seeds on the ground below my birdfeeder.

The birds also spurred me into action to make a blackbird cane, something I have been wanting to do for quite awhile. So I got the cane made, reduced it, and applied it to the three different backgrounds. The bead on the left is more summery, but the middle and right hand beads represent blackbirds against winter colors and winter sky.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Heart Beads inspired by Donna Kato

I got Donna Kato's new book, The Art Of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques and have spent some time making heart beads inspired by her instruction. I decided on a tropical color scheme, which is a bit out of the norm for me but nevertheless I stuck with it and made several canes using these colors before applying them to the heart beads.

Every cane I made for these heart beads were in Donna's book. The canes I made were bullseye, ikat, component flower cane, klimt, and tile.

Donna's canes are simple, the key is to decide on a color scheme and create several different canes using your chosen colors so they all go together when you apply the thin slices to your project. The exception is the translucent and white bullseye cane. Translucent and white can compliment any color scheme.

The time spent making Donna's canes will springboard me into new directions and ideas. I also want to do more heart beads, it's a universal shape with a meaning that knows no language barriers.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Polymer and Tornados Combined

So here is a necklace with my last two blog entries combined. I made a batch of Winter Solstice beads on December 21st, and then made some tornado beads. I originally strung them together on a cord but didn't like it, so I hung them from a chain with one Winter Solstice bead as a focal. I'm not sure what my next project will be, but I'm almost certain that I'm through with cool winter colors. I can feel the days getting longer already. The bunny charm at the end of the focal bead hints at spring.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Tornado Bead Tutorial

On the first day of 2009 I thought I'd post a tutorial on making a tornado bead. This is a non-polymer posting but I needed these to go with some polymer beads I made recently.

I have been unable to find a tornado bead tutorial online so I figured this one out myself. Hopefully if you are looking for the same thing I was, this will serve as a starting point to making your own tornado beads.

For a one inch bead, you will need:

18" of 20-gauge wire
16" of 22 gauge wire
Various sized seed beads- 11, 8, 6.
A couple of 4mm beads
A mandrel

Beginning in the middle of the 20 gauge wire, wrap wire around a mandrel (I used a small wooden skewer) in both directions until the wrap is one inch long and there is 5"-6" of excess wire on each end. The wraps don't have to be perfectly lined up against each other.

Take the right end of the excess wire and working right to left, wrap it loosely around the base in a somewhat random and disorganized fashion. This isn't about perfection, it's about a tornado!

Take the left end of the excess wire and wrap it around the base from left to right, again in a loose fashion and make the bead slightly fatter in the middle.

Now you are ready to add beads with the 22 gauge wire.

Take 16" of the 22 gauge wire and start a wrap at one end, tucking the end under so it doesn't stick out. Add a few size 11 seed beads in the first revolution.

Start wrapping and adding larger beads to the 22 gauge wire in the gaps between the 20 gauge wire. They will stick out a little at first but become integrated when you continue with the 22 gauge wire.

Continue to wrap and add beads into the gaps, alternating sizes and colors. Take an occasional wire wrap without any beads.

When you reach the other end of the tornado bead, you should have the 22 gauge wire used up. Tuck the end into the bead to conceal the wire end.

Here is the finished bead!