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Dragon birthIsn’t it amazing how one’s muse can lead you off in a direction not of your choosing? First it was the scarabs – I’m not done with those yet. There are so many more I want to make! BUT!!!! and it’s a big BUT….

This morning I woke up and all I can see and think of is a dragon. Orange, red and copper – these are sooooo not my colours! So off we toddled to the beach to find dragon rocks. Several rocks, pieces of driftwood, a GORGEOUS shell and a couple of mermaids purses later, I am in front of the clay table, choosing which rock suits my purpose best. Finallydragon rocks chose 3 – or was it 4? – washed and sealed them. I want that lovely wet stone look with all the colours as rich and vibrant as can be. Naturally all the pieces of rock I came home with had rust and copper tinges in them. I did NOT choose them because of that – I chose them because of their shape! Understand – I am not in control of this adventure.

BaseNext question was the base – what to use? I just happened to have a round glass coaster, expressly bought to cover with a cane sheet and use as a coaster, but no! Muse had other ideas. Some grey shark scrap, a rock to texture and some acrylic paint later and the whole thing looks like a stone base. 🙂 Sealed and drying as I type.

The chosen dragon rock has an orange dragon growing on it! Body shaped, head sculpted, crystal eyes inserted, spines done, tail spiked and draped and arranged over the rock as she – he? – is comfortable. Next I’ll position it on the base and texture the body, then add the legs. Once all that’s done there are some gorgeous pearl ex colours screaming to be used.

What do I do about the wings? I want them looking transparent and delicate, but strong! Hmmmm…….. Thin sheets of translucent clay over copper ribbing? Light dusting of pearl ex? Possible. Need to give them some more thought.

I’m not going to fight my muse – not worth it! I’ll ride this roller-coaster and see where I end up! 🙂

The Essential Porcupine QuillWhere would I be without my collection of porcupine quills?  I think I have about 20 in varying sizes and thicknesses.  Some I’ve picked up, some I’ve bought.  They stand in a clay covered jar on my table within sight and easy reach.  There isn’t a single project I’ve done that they haven’t come into play one way or the other.  I don’t have clay shapers and the rubber tip brushes I do have are huge, bought to work with plaster of paris in big art projects and a long way from being suitable for clay at this stage.  My cake decorating tools – jem tools – are wonderful, but in some cases too big.  The porcupine quills enable me to work really fine and get far greater detail.

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The first photo (far left) shows the barb end.  In mature quills it’s fairly broad and blunt, but in the tiny quills it’s dangerously sharp!  The wedge shape allows me to use it the same way as a clay shaper, smoothing joins, making indentations into the clay – as in impressed flower and leaf images – and in the100_2435 case of the tiny quills, lovely clear sharp stitch lines for the embroidered clay.  They also play a vital part in the formation of the embroidery stitches.

The middle photo shows the tapered edge.  I often use those to do coin edge finishes to jewelry mountings, tiny pinprick holes, hatching lines, textures and if used flat, to emphasis and smooth indentations in items. I’ve tried doing some fine writing with them, but they tend to “drag” pieces of the clay up.  That’s a job best left for tiny ball tools.  Phoenician style “wedge” writing though is lovely to do with the quills.100_2440

The next picture (far right) shows the similarity to the cake decorating tools I work with, at the same time showing how much finer the quills are.  I use the tapered end for veining petals and leaves, the barb for shaping and cupping petals – especially in the tiny blossoms.  I use the barb end in some of the finer quills to actually position the petals of the flowers100_2446 and also use the barb end to position and indent tiny balls of clay in the flower centres.  It gives the appearance at times of tiny little beads.  In the photo on the right you can see a combination of all the different things – cross hatching as in a basket weave, coin edging, stitch lines, “frill” on the one end of the square, the tiny flower centres and the petals of a flower, veined and being positioned.

It’s a truly versatile tool and my favorite.

The next series of photos show an example of how I would use the quill in combination with various cutters to make a daisy earring.  The backing is a simple post finding and the clay is attached with some Fimo Gel.  I’ve used a piece of scrap clay to support the post which makes it easier to work when assembling the flower and also supports the flower while being cured. Remember that once cured said scrap clay support can be re-used for many pairs of earrings. 🙂

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Photo 1:  A selection of flower cutters.

Photo 2: Daisy cut out – the dime shows the size. Each petal is split in half using a craft knife.

Photo 3:  Using the tapered end of the quill to vein and shape the daisy petals.

Photo 4:  The daisy base shaped and attached to the earring post.

Photo 5:  Next flower cut out.  It’s small! 🙂

Photo 6:  Cupping the petals using the barb end of the quill.

Photo 7:  Positioned on top of the daisy base, using a little fimo gel.

Photo 8:  The tiniest cut out – 1/8 inch diameter!  That’s the centre of the flower.

Photo 9:  Using the barb on a smaller quill to cup the petals.

Photo 10:  The tiny flower in place and position a tiny ball of clay at the centre using the barb on a small quill.

Photo 11:  The completed earring.

Photo 12:  The earring and everything used to make it.

So…. now you’ve had a glimpse “behind the scenes” as it were and can understand why I absolutely LOVE my porcupine quills.  Can’t have enough of them!

While I was making the leaf veiners, I found a corn cob in the fridge that still had it’s leaves. Now from past experience I know that the corn leaves are very useful for texturing so I decided to make a texture sheet from it. I can see all sorts of uses for it. Basket weave, leaves etc. etc.

Read the photos from left to right please.

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What you’ll need:

Pasta machine, tissue blade, tile, scrap clay and a corn leaf.

What to do:

Condition some scrap clay and put through the pasta machine on the 4th thickest setting. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the surface.

Gently unroll the corn leaf – they tend to curl – and wipe it with a clean cloth to make sure there is no residual grit or dirt. Stretch it slightly and place it on the clay sheet.

Position the sheet of clay and corn leaf between the rollers of the pasta machine at the same setting you used for your sheet of clay. Carefully roll it through keeping the corn leaf stretched and even. See how mine creased slightly? Carefully separate the leaf from the sheet of clay.

Trim the edges of the texture sheet using a tissue blade, place on a tile and cure according to the manufacturers instructions.

Nifty don’t you think?

I’ve been working with a lot of polymer clay flowers and leaves lately.  They always look so much nicer when the have veins added.  Suitable leaves aren’t always available – that silly little think called “seasons” often interferes – or it’s raining, or as is usually the case with me – it’s too darn dark to see what you’re looking for!  I can’t find where I’ve buried all my veiners from my cake decorating days, so I decided to make a whole batch.

Read the pictures from left to right as you go and hopefully it all makes sense to you.

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What you need to get started:

Tools are minimal – a work tile, a tile for curing the veiners, a brayer, craft knife and tissue blade and your pasta machine.

A good selections of strong veined leaves – the more defined the leaves, the better the impression you get.

A supply of scrap clay.

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What to do:

Condition the clay and roll through the pasta machine.  Your prepared sheet should be rolled through at the 3rd or 4th thickest setting.  You need a certain amount of flexibility in the finished veiner.

Position the leaves with the back of the leaf on the clay till you’re satisfied with the spacing, then roll gently but firmly with a brayer.

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Make sure the edges of the leaves are well defined by smoothing gently, but firmly with your fingertips.  If there are any areas which appear  ‘bubbled’ and have not impressed cleanly, press down with your finger tips so that all the vein detail can be captured in the clay.

Carefully separate the leaves and the clay sheet.

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Place the sheet with the leaf impressions on your work tile and using a craft knife carefully cut around the outline of the leaves.  Remove all the surrounding scrap clay and set it aside.  If you need to trim any areas around the impression, now is the time to do it.

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Place the cut out leaf impressions on a tile and cure per the manufacturers instructions.  The photo on the right is the pile of impressions I made.  These are all positive impressions.  Now we move onto the next stage!

What?  You thought that was it? No, sorry – not yet! 🙂

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Prepare a second sheet of scrap clay the same way as the first.  This time brush it lightly with a release agent like talcum powder.  Place the cured impressions face down on the sheet.  Hold down the impression with one hand and carefully cut around the outside with a craft knife.

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Carefully align the two cut outs, making sure that the cured impression is on top.  Firmly press down on the top, making sure that the impression is transferred to the bottom sheet.  Separate and if needs be trim the edges, before curing.  You now have a selection of positive and negative veiners.  The negative impression is what you use to texture your leaves.

Pearls galore

Pearls galore

I played around with faux pearls yesterday and after a few people saw the pics that I posted I was asked “tute please?”  So here goes.  This is really not a difficult project, loads of fun and is suitable for all levels of polymer clay skill.

What you need:

Materials and equipment

Materials and equipment

White, pale gold, pale pink or pale blue pearlescent or pearlex powders.

Premo Pearl or similar polymer clay.

Minwax Polycrylic Clear Gloss Sealer or similar.

Blade, tile for curing, soft brush, craft knife and a soft cloth for buffing.

How to Make the Pearls:

Getting started

Getting started

Thoroughly condition a piece of pearl polymer clay about the size of a golf ball.

Roll it into a log about 3/8 inch in diameter.

Cut sections

Cut sections

Cut slices of varying thickness off the log.  These will form the pearls.  The smaller the pearl the thinner the slice.  If needs be cut the slices in half if you want even smaller pearls.

Formed pearls

Formed pearls

Roll the slices of clay between your hands to form a round ball.  Don’t worry about the mica shift that happens at this stage.  That will give the tonal variations in the colour of the finished pearl.

Pearlescent powders

Pearlescent powders

Place a tiny bit of the pearlex or pearlescent powder into a small ziplock baggie.  If the base colour is too intense use a ratio of 1 part colour to 3 parts white and mix thoroughly.  That will make the colour a lot softer.

Coating the pearl

Coating the pearl

Drop the clay ball into the bag (do one at a time!) and shake thoroughly.  Remove the “pearl” from the bag and roll on a flat surface to work the pearlescent powder into the surface of the clay.

Adjusting the shape

Adjusting the shape

This is where you decide what shape your pearl is going to be.  If you want round pearls, simply keep the coated clay balls round.  You can pierce holes before hand or drill them through afterwards.  I recommend you bake the pearls on a layer of cornstarch if you want to keep the rounded shape perfect.  If you are making mabe pearls, flatten the ball slightly, so that the top is rounded and the base flat.  If needs be tweak the shape of the pearl between your fingers.  Mabe pearls are not perfectly round.

Curing the Pearls

Curing the Pearls

Using a flat blade lift the pearls onto a tile for baking.  Smooth the surface of the pearl so there are no fingerprints or scratches to mar the lustre of the pearl.  If needs be use a piece of cling film or a soft brush.  A sheet of paper under the pearls will eliminate  any shiny spots on the underside.

The finished pearls

The finished pearls

Once the cured pearls have cooled down LIGHTLY buff with a very soft cloth to remove any excess powder from the surface.  Use in whatever setting you desire and coat with one or two coats of a water based sealer such as the Minwax Polycrylic Clear Gloss Sealer.

Faux Dichroic Glass ExperimentI’ve always loved dichroic glass and I’ve been wanting to try and make it in polymer clay for some time now. I couldn’t find a suitable tutorial anywhere on the internet, that gave the effect I was looking for. I know I’ve seen one, I just don’t know where!

I decided to go ahead a try anyway – after all, I have all these gorgeous foils and glitters just dying to be played with. So what if I don’t have Kato clear medium (yet!) – right? I’ve got other stuff and where there’s a will, there’s a way. Of course there’s the right way and the wrong way too, but these are the things you learn in the course of an experiment. <grin>

First off I hauled out the black clay, got that conditioned and rolled out onPrepared and cured dichroic pieces the thickest setting on the pasta machine. Then came the fun part. Some pearlescent inks randomly applied in patches, some gold and silver leaf even more randomly applied. Jones Tones foils – rubbed on. Some worked, some didn’t. Those were re-assigned to the stamping stuff! I rolled the sheet through the pasta machine first in one direction – 1 setting thinner – and then in the opposite direction, another setting thinner.

At this stage it was looking pretty awesome with bits of black showing through nicely. Hmmm…… getting where I wanted it to be, but!… the layered look was still missing.

The craft knife came out and I started cutting random shapes from the sheet and cured those on a flat ceramic tile. The next challenge was to get the layered glossy look. I’ve been sitting with a bottle of Polyglaze forever. It didn’t work out for the minis, but maybe it would work for this experiment. It got hauled out and I applied the first layer of glaze to a piece of the cured sheet. It was rather like doing flood icing I found. Pipe the outer edge then carefully fill in the centre, making sure there were no air bubbles and that the application was even. When it was almost dry I hauled out my glitters – holographic silver, fine blue and ultra fine gold. I used a paint brush to scatter glitter onto some areas of the piece. Then I applied a second coat of the polyglaze and let it dry completely.

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Some of the pieces I surrounded with a rope of clay and cured before applying the glaze, since the pieces can’t be baked again once the polyglaze is applied.

In the course of researching the polyglaze I discovered that if you touch theOOPS! glaze while drying and before sealing, it reacts to the oils from your hands and goes cloudy. I’ld been warned, but got to see the effects first hand! So we learn!! I used fimo varnish to seal the pieces. In the photo you can see the cloudiness in the centre of the “k”.

Dichroic scraps used to make the base of a note standAll in all I’m happy with the way they turned out. I want to experiment with different colour backgrounds to see what happens. It’s fun! All the little scraps that were left over when I cut the sheets also resulted in some lovely little desk accessories for myself and the kids.

This is not intended as a tutorial, but responds to a question asking how on earth I make these hanging baskets. I’ve got some photos taken, and the rest will have to come as I take them so as to complete the actual visual steps. For now, here’s what I have. I’ll continue working on this post as I make more flowers and baskets

Making the baskets.

Buckram, canvas or other suitable material is cut into small squares, wet and shaped over suitable molds and secured till they’re dry. Once dry, the squares are eased off the molds and trimmed to the correct shape. Fine cord, bunka or string is used to edge the basket. Handles are attached or jump rings inserted in the case of hanging baskets. I tend to make a selection of baskets at a time and fill a drawer with them till they’re needed.

Next comes the process of making the flowers.

These are single impatiens – a variegated variety that has a white line running down the centre of the petal. The flower is shaped and glued to the stem. Once the glue has dried thoroughly I use white paint and a 20/0 paintbrush to paint lines from the centre to the edge of each petal. Lastly the black centre dot is placed using a fine liner or black paint and a very fine ball tool.

Single Impatiens ready to be potted. In amongst the impatiens are tiny narcissus and stems with african violets. Similar structure to the flowers.