Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's (Been) A Slice

The other day I posted about the cane I had made for my guild's swap last weekend.  It wasn't exactly a new cane for me, just a revisitation and revamping with a few little deviations here and there.  Here is another picture of the cane that I made again yesterday.
This is the finished cane that I made, using the headdress cane and the window pane cane sandwiched in between the horns of the headdress.  I made up a tutorial for it and decided to work through the tute exactly according to the directions to see if it would work without the 'innate knowledge' I have, having made it so many times before just out of my head.  I had some pictures taken while it was being made so I could include some illustrations to help folks follow.  I haven't decided what will become of it...I have considered a couple of options, but right now, my plate is just too full to work on it. 
I have a couple of 'events' coming up and need to have some pictures ready to submit for shows, so the cane business will have to stay on the back burner.

The uses for the cane are many and I am illustrating here a few simple things that I made so you can see the versatility of it.  Please keep in mind, that most of these items were made from the ends of the cane, and some of them just use the pieces that were sliced off. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flat Out

Today was not a normal day. 

Did you know that you can put your back out just picking up a bowl off the table at breakfast?  That was what happened to DH this morning after we finished our delicious French Toast breakfast.  He was in sheer agony and flat out on his back for about four hours until the pain 'miraculously' subsided.  It just went away, or at least 90% of the pain did.  Thank goodness. 

So, with that behind us, around noon, hubby decided he needed to go to exchange some picture frames he had purchased a few days ago.  I asked him to wait for me because I also needed to pick up a couple of items.  Good thing I went.  As we were driving along on the freeway, we heard a sudden "pop".  DH thought it sounded like the gunshots of a couple of weeks ago but this one sounded like it came from under the wheel well. Yep...within about a minute, just as we were exiting the freeway, we could feel the back rear tire just thumping along.  Flat as my French Toast.  Fortunately, a couple from Oregon noticed as we limped into the lot of Discount Tire.  Discount Tire is closed on Sundays.  But, luck was with us, and the lady offered to loan us her cellular phone (my Blackberry doesn't function here!!!) and we were going to call AAA.  Hubby searched his wallet...NO CARD.  I did find mine, and even though it wasn't an up to date card, the number was still the same and our local franchise of the AAA (it was actually CAA) said that the number was good and our premium coverage would look after the cost of a tow, a Rental car for one day and a stay at a hotel if we needed. We passed on the rental and the hotel, but  Molly and I did find riding in the front of the tow truck to the nearby Pep Boys a new adventure.  And the tow truck was there within ten minutes...not the 1 to 2 hours the local representative said it might take.  So I shopped a little at Pep Boys, because I actually needed some ArmorAll for a project I am going to be making this week.  Within the hour the back two tires were replaced (only one was bad) and we were back on our way.

After we got home, I set to work on some light switch covers that I had promised to a friend last week.  She had given them to me this past Thursday, and not thinking anything of it, I set to covering three of them in the faux rocks technique.  I looked in the oven about fifteen minutes into the baking, (I try to monitor the oven regularly) and saw this mushroom growing inside.  I never had a light switch cover go THAT wonky on me.  I have noticed about 1 in 50 will get a few bubbles underneath, but this one literally rose in the centre and the holes for the toggles shrank. It's got a huge wave in it and try as I did, it would not flatten out.  I am gonna save it, to remind me of the Sunday before Lent begins. 

 "FLAT-U-LENT"  Sunday

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Guild Swap Details

This is a little bit about 'swaps' and if you belong to a guild or online clay community, you probably know what this is all about.  If not, then read on...
I have been making this cane and derivations of it for about three or four years.  It is really rather simple as I don't profess to be big on making canes, mostly because I think I am too impatient to make a really huge one.  I am one of those unfortunate people who want it NOW! I have sat through days of instruction to make one huge cane and that was an excellent experience.  However, in my line of polymer clay, I don't have need for five feet of the same design, and three days of workshop caning usually yields such a result.  I love the idea of learning the techniques though, so that is why I do occasionally sign up for workshops of this nature.

This little cane (and I will show more of its relatives in further posts) was what I came up with at "My Quick and Dirty Cane School" in an effort to create something that I could use, that was sort of a 'signature' if you will, and that could be made in under an hour. Usually I use only one half of it, the part with the three (sometimes five) petal shaped thingies with the little swirl at the end.  Quite often, it becomes the headdress for my little face buttons or dolls.  Normally I reduce this cane to about one-half inch sizes which becomes a good little component that can be made into a formation.  I have used it in light switch covers, button encapsulators, fish scales and in head dresses.

As far as the swap is concerned, I will be participating in it today at our guild's monthly meeting.  I had all my canes finished earlier this week, except for one which I hastily completed at 9 pm last night.  Who says you can't work well under pressure!!!

Participating in a swap is a wonderful learning experience for so many reasons.  First of all, it involves planning what you are going to make, keeping in mind that you need to make several (in our case twelve) similar or related objects. It helps to streamline your efficiency, and you quickly catch on to the fact that if you condition all your white clay (for example) in one sitting, that you will have enough for the entire batch.  You also learn how to save time in other ways, by figuring out how much of each component you need to make so that the eventual item will come out in the desired size, so a ruler is critical.  Our canes were to be three inches in length and approximately the size of a quarter coin or about one inch across. I have to admit that mine are slightly less, but I hope the participants will forgive me, as the individual components don't look that good if they are any larger.  I found out in making the cane that it worked best if my initial components were three to four inches long and about an inch tall.  That way they could be divided up and filled and the end result, after a bit of reducing, was three inches, with minimal waste.  Fortunately, the end waste of most of my canes was incorporated into the surrounding packing.  I found a way to utilize most of the left overs in a Klimt-type cane which I used as the packing, something I also have trouble with in making focal canes.  It never fails that I run out of the packing color, or it's too soft, or some other misery that only polymer clayers can identify with.  I saved most of my scraps for future projects and have already used some of it in buttons that are already in the hands of my friend quilters.  It is difficult to discern the actual cane in those buttons, but I have others on the table that illustrate it more clearly. 

Other considerations to keep in mind of course is your supply of colors...if you are going to make the entire batch the same, you need to have a load of  your major colors...thankfully there have been a few sales at Hobby Lobby and Michaels so that buying lots of one color was affordable. You need to figure out  how you are going to package and wrap your cane so that it doesn't get dirty.  Originally I thought of making a Christmas-type Cracker, but in the end, wrapped each portion in waxed paper and surrounded it with my label paper which included my name, particulars, and date of the swap.  I found a bit of ribbon that held it all together, so there's a neat little  package for each person.  Of course, if you are going to be mailing the swap canes to someone, you need to pack them in something like a pill bottle so that it doesn't get squished in handling.

I have participated in at least twenty swaps over my polymer history, probably more, but who's counting.  The best is yet to is the joy and sheer delight of receiving a bit of everyone else's dedication and artistry in this passion which is polymer clay. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

When the West Was Won

So this boot hangs up.  It's all done in polymer clay in a combination of techniques including scribing, stamping, texturing, metal leafing and maybe some others I've forgotten.  I used some of my leftover clay for the lining and interior of the boot and the heel part was just made from that.  The heel part looks surprisingly like a real heel and it wasn't even necessary to backfill or antique it...the look of a warn boot is so natural it looks like it could be a century old.  That was the impetus for construction of this particular boot, even though I have made others like it before.  For those in the desert southwest, you would be aware that this week marks the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Arizona's statehood.  I made this boot as a personal 'momento' to the place we have visited for the last decade...We've been here one tenth of the time  that the state has.

Surprisingly enough, there hasn't been a lot of hoop-la...I would have figured there would have been a whole lot more whoop-de-doing and official recognition of the centennial.  There are a few litte signs of the 100th but not nearly as much as I expected.  I think there was a kind of celebration this past weekend of an arty type, but the general hype is very low key.  Maybe I am just so fixed on making buttons and stuff that I haven't noticed, lol.

I did this boot to commemorate how the early settlers would have travelled this part of the continent, mainly on foot and horseback.  Well, I suppose they used both feet, but I only made one boot. The one I made is slightly different on the other side, which I am showing here.  Usually when I make these boots, they have little metal 'spurs' near the heel,  but I neglected to put them in while I was forming the interior. 
When constructing this type of item, it is necessary to add the metal 'outcroppings' before putting on any decorative layers of clay, so it does involve considerable forethought and planning.  If you do not "implant" the metal spur, it will not be firmly attached, and runs the risk of coming off if it is not imbedded in the body of the clay mass. In previous editions of similar boots, I added a spiral coil of wire to represent the spur.  But that was when I had forethought. I did remember to put the hangers in the top and bottom; but for this boot, it'll  just have to go spurless. (Lucky horse would probably be thanking me and all those others who would have chosen to make cowboy boots with no spurs attached.)  
I wonder if the early settlers of the state had also experienced similar lapses of forethought when they were wandering out west.  Did they keep in mind (or did they know of) the rugged terrain, the prickly cacti, the arid conditions...(well they did call it ARID + ZONE for a reason I guess) the rattlers, the scorpions and the javelinas, just to mention some of the negatives.  And did they also foresee the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, the brightly colored mountains, the abundance of amazing wildlife, the pleasant winters, and the peace that comes with walking through this vast and pleasant land. 

Woops...sounds like I'm waxing into a song.  Think I'll leave the song writing to Adele and the other Grammy recipients.  So now, these boots are gonna walk right into the shed and start on some new polymer projects...that is after I finish making the last of my four canes for the polymer guild swap for this Saturday.  Hmmm...canes and walking boots...does that sound like I'm gonna be a hundred years old too this week?. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pushing all the buttons

After the excitement around here two weeks ago, things have calmed down considerably and I am free to pursue my (more mundane) interests like making buttons and light switch covers.  I don't want to say much about this one, except it is different. It is layered like the majority of my other buttons, but has a slight kaleidoscopic effect on one side.  I can't say much more, because one of the other things I am presently working on is making twelve canes for a swap for our guild.  Of course this button isn't exactly the cane that I am making, but rather part of a prototype that I have been figuring out in the wee hours of the morning when I am not sleeping. I don't usually make a lot of canes, or very large ones, as I have no use for three feet of one singular design. The one I am working on has a lot of derivations and interpretations, so at least I am happy that I can use up its leftovers.  I am wondering what the other guild members will be doing with the canes when they get them! Here are a few other buttons I made, mostly from the same cane, except for the central one.

Super Bowl Sunday was once again a chance for us to host a get together.  It was much smaller this year, and rather impromptu.  We only decided to ask a couple over in the morning the day of the game and then another couple, whom we thought were going elsewhere, joined us.  Of course, sports organizer extraordinaire had made his usual pools, but on a much more limited basis this year.  The prizes were smaller and the number of participants smaller, so much easier to look after following the game.  One of the winners of a quarter score opted for one of my light switch plates.  Wonder how she got the notion that they were as valuable as winning a football pool, lol?

Speaking of light switch plates, I met a gal a couple of weeks ago, who wasn't very happy with the painted light switch plates she had in her mobile home.   She and her hubby  had just put new tile in their kitchen  and they opted for the 'stones' type for that room. I was able to match up the colors for the bathroom ones, (see the cool little drinking cup that has the southwest motif?)  I decided not to carry out the theme too much...I could have done a kokopelli and/or a turtle, but she didn't particularly want the animals, so that was just as well with me.  Matching the colors was not much of a problem... just mixed up what I thought would work, baked a couple of samples and with just a wee bit of tweaking, I was all set. They`ve been installed in her place and she was very happy with the match up of the colors.

Now, it's back to the shed to mix up a new batch of colors for my swap canes.  I am basically doing the same 'theme' for them, but rather than do them all with one palette, I have decided to make a few in a couple of different colors.  Hope I am not bending the rules of the swap too much...making them all the same might be easier, but this way I can make them in small batches rather than one huge operation.  And it saves my `cranking`arm not having to condition entire packages of clay.  I don`t have a motor...woe is me, I didn`t get my Christmas wish, and since I have burned out three of them, I think Santa must consider me a risky recipient when it comes to dishing out pasta machine motors. So I just do my work the old fashioned grunt way...No, I don`t just use the straight sided drinking glass  except for the odd beverage.