it's been a hard clay's night

31 January 2009

Two of Us

These items were designed my hands while I was employed by She Beads  a fine jewelry company. How I miss that job. Anyway, these were custom ordered by clients. One is a Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness theme; the other, a fall, masculine color theme. These salt and pepper shakers are woodbased. I want to say walnut? but I honestly can't remember.

They are very intricate and labor intensive.
The company has a wonderful cane maker and I aspire to work so intricately. As patient as I can be, its hard for me to get too involved, usually because I don't have enough clay to supply working very large. Working or starting large, facilitates greater detail and usually a more visually interesting design.

Every Little Thing

This is a post about the importance of good tools. I'm going to get into what I use, but there are plenty of alternatives out there as well. The quality of your tools is going to directly affect the state of your finished work.
- A good mix is an assortment of NuBlades or tissue blades, small single-edged razors, and Exacto knives. Your blades should always be sharp, and you should always remain fully aware of that. Nothing beats a new blade when you need to cut cane slices. I like to keep one strictly for slicing cane, and a couple others in rotation for all other uses.
- For aiding in getting uniform sizes, I've always found the 'Marxit' tool (by Donna Kato) EXTREMELY helpful for obtaining uniform slices.
- The importance of your work surface is second only to the pasta machine. Something like glass, tile or even mirror, nice and smooth, so the blade is unaffected. Even those self-healing cutting mats are pretty good til they eventually do get marked up. You'll find what works best for you.
- There is also a template for measuring out the bricks of clay.
- A metal ruler, perfect in so many ways.
- An acrylic rod/rolling pin, or a hand brayer for rolling and smoothing.
- And of course, the workhorse, the pasta machine. I have yet to upgrade to the motor, but I kind of like cranking. When I think of the palm and pad soreness I'd go through, conditioning REGULAR 1990' era crumbly FIMO in only my hands. But now, with formulas slightly softer, and methods for machinery...ahhhh, faster, less painfully gained, uniform slabs. Without a good pasta machine, the Skinner blend* will most definitely elude you!
- It's also useful to have an assortment of old dental tools, nut picks, toothpicks, skewers and needles to use for texturing or for piercing beads. These are easily found at garage sales as well as the hobby stores.
- Also, strips of plastic to rest lengths of clay that you might be working on. That way you won't have to scrape or cajole it from the work surface(risking rips) if you step away or take a break.
- And my favorite tip, don't ever trash scrap clay unless its dirty or hairy or otherwise unusable. Scrap can always be used as the underlayer or inner layer of something.

Good lighting for the work surface. And comfort. I have yet to achieve this. I've worked standing at the work table, I've sat level with it, I sit with it too low. So I stretch a LOT. And I try to give my hands, eyes, neck and back a rest as often as I can while working. Take natural breaks and and walk around to regain blood flow. I am guilty of just going and going and going and going. Don't do that! According to this photo, I also like to keep the ipod, beverage of choice and phone all within reach. So I'm off to work on some beads from scrap. And then I'm going to take a break :)

*a Skinner Blend is named for Judith Skinner, who developed a pretty much perfect blending technique for two or more colors of clay.

28 January 2009

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

This box is was originally going to be an exercise in sanding, buffing and glazing.  The colors were scrap and the box is a standard sized mint box.  One of the dark colors was actually a pearltone and had lots of streaky sparkles running through it.  They just jumped out after I sanded the surface.  The buffing brought a nice shine, and the Future Floor Polish sealed the deal.  This one is actually lined in felt to keep from being too noisy.  I kept this one in the personal collection.

27 January 2009

Within You, Without You

This is a hinged mint box that I made for a friend.  He specified the color scheme, but left me to my own design.  It's a bit of this, a bit of that. He still has it too, must be about 4 years later.  A few jellyrolls, lots of translucent, always layering.  Sanding really does help the appearance when you're heavy with translucent.  Also, plunging the item, (nothing with glass mind you) into an ice bath after curing is good for optimizing translucency.

19 January 2009


Custom for Julie. Can you tell which one is not the real turquoise? OK you probably can, (the middle one) but I tried really hard to make it look as real as I could. I made a mold of one of the beads, and then mixed up a matching color. I wanted it to have the facets and cut marks that the other two did. Julie was pleased with it and that's pretty much all that mattered.

I'm Looking Through You

Much of my ongoing experimentation is due to my desire to seriously manipulate color with transparent clay. Things of a prismatic or holographic nature are key. Or even better, opalescent or iridescent. Achieving something satisfactory keeps me trying. I have had wonderful success with mokume gane techniques, some have shown a remarkable illusion of depth. But I still haven't gotten something worthy as far as mega-sparkle. Not sure if I should be trying to do this through the clay itself, or through the glazing. Or maybe both?!!

18 January 2009

Baby Its You

The last time I made beads, I made these. They are pretty small, maybe about a quarter inch. Usually, I'll go for the swirly, but this time, I tried to keep the striping straight and lined up with where the hole would go. Every 5th bead is half-spiral, half-black. Some of them have a homemade iridescent glaze run haphazardly across. I don't know what I'll make with them yet, maybe 2 bracelets.

17 January 2009


I've been claying pretty consistently ever since I was introduced to the medium. Let's call it the 'early 1990's' YIKES. It was in a high school class, I think my junior or senior year and I was smitten. It was portable, even if you had to go somewhere to bake, you could still tote your clay wherever. I used to bring a tiny tacklebox to my coat check job and roll colors for beads while the people danced, ate and drank the night away. Hopefully by the end of the night, I could go home and bake up some beads.
From beads and jewelry, I moved to pretty much everything else. If it could withstand the baking (sometimes called 'curing') process, I would try. Anything wooden, glass, metal, even some other plastics were game. Ornaments, trinket boxes, pocket mirrors and the glass candle globes. I've been in kind of a rut as far as the candles go. And that's OK. I'm fascinated with making things very translucent, but still intensely colorful, which gives a whole other personality to the piece, as opposed to when its not lit. Or, on pieces that aren't backlit, the illusion of depth that can be achieved.

16 January 2009

First things first

Welcome to the first installment of the new blog. I hope to use this as a place to share what I'm doing, as well as work things out in progress. I'll try my darndest to keep it about polymer clay, but I already know that there will be non-clay topics. That's just life.
This is my favorite candle, it's part of my personal collection. I find it awesome just because it has so much color in it and it really comes alive once a candle is lit. It seems to be a lot of other people's favorite too. And rightfully so ;)