Monday, November 11, 2013

Red Buttons...the pictures not the person

Despite the recent change in temperature, there's a lot of heat being produced at my craft table.  After the sale at the University women's Club this past weekend, it is time to replenish my inventory.  Buttons like the ones below were very popular, and fortunately, I have a bit more of the cane so I can make new ones. 
I actually put the smaller ones in sets of four on cards, and the larger ones are on individual cards. As for the ones pictured here, the smaller ones are about 1" to 1 1/4", while the larger ones are about two inches square or round.  The elongated one is about 1 1/4" wide by a little over 2 " long.

I realize these are a bit big for buttons, but they are meant to be real "Accent Pieces", so they add pizzazz to any garment, hat, bag, quilt or other handmade item. I will be making lots of other styles to add to your favorite item. 

Some folks who were at the sale on Saturday said they will be using the buttons as decorative elements for scrapbooking, while others were going to sew them on jackets and sweaters.  Other talented folks said they are going to use them on felted the use for buttons is limited only by one's imagination. I mentioned to several folks that want to use them as pins, that they could use a little trick for attaching them.  Instead of sewing the button on with needle and thread, I suggested attaching the button with fifteen pound fishing line (or heavier).  Simply thread a larger eyed needle with fishing line and instead of sewing the button on, just tie the line in the back of the garment (or what have you) and secure with a double or triple knot.  Then, if desired, it is easy to just snip the fishing line off and attach to a different article.  It really doesn't take much time at all!

I hope you can see the range of color in these. Some have a decided coral background and others are on a true red base. The cane itself includes a rich blend of alizarin, purple, gold, orange and red. All the buttons are textured in a variety of different's difficult to describe them all.

It was so great to see a lot of my friends and colleagues at Ralph Connor House. If you weren't close by and still want to visit and see my other creations, I will be in several more sales over the next four weekends.  This coming Saturday, November 16th, I will be in Kenora, at the Lakeside Inn (that round hotel on Lake of the Woods).  Looking forward to seeing my Northwest Ontario friends at that one...  I will post more locations and dates in the upcoming weeks.

But now, it's back to the drawing board...I have more fish to design.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Fall Rush is ON

All I should say is WHEW!  Even with an extra hour this weekend, time is flying by so quickly as I prepare for the fall sales.  This Friday and Saturday, November 8th and 9th, I will be at Ralph Connor House, located at 54 Westgate near Misericordia Hospital for the annual University Women's Club Sale.  My items will be available in the beautiful Wedgewood Room on the second floor, which overlooks the river. 
Naturally, these fish won't be swimming in the river there, but they may be available as tree ornaments among the other things I'll have available.  I will have a wide selection of buttons, light switch covers, home décor items, serving pieces as well as lots of one of a kind pieces like handmade books, and other items suitable as gifts.  I will also have a few woven purses, a limited selection of jewelry, and other types of hanging items.  I hope that lots of you will be able to stop by.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Just push the Polymer Clay Button...

Let's Face It, and other Polymer Clay Buttons 
I can hardly believe that it's six weeks since I last posted here. I have the usual list of excuses, but sadly, none of them are very good or out of the ordinary.  I'd love to say that I have been on some magical tour of a foreign land, but it's just the same old, same old. 

So, without any more of that, I will get to my point. This is the ART and CRAFT season. It actually began on October 4th with the Dryden Art Sale and it continues on. This weekend is the Headingley Craft Sale, held almost simultaneously with the Scattered Seeds Show.  It is quite coincidental that there is also "The Big One" in Brandon, which would have been another option for me to display my stuff.  But, I chose this year to participate in the Headingley Sale. 

There, you can see me and a number of other artisans in a relaxed atmosphere, with great lighting, ample parking, tasty snacks  and no elbows  pushing you where you might not want to go.   The organizers there put on a very tidy show...okay it is not as big as some, but that makes it much more ambient for both vendors and folks to browse through at their leisure.  The admission is minimal and there is a nice selection of articles to choose from in the Rainbow Auction.  The location is a few miles past the Assiniboia Downs, on Portage Avenue.  So it is possible for folks to do both the Scattered Seeds event and the Headingley sale. The times and dates for Headingley are on Friday, the 18th of October from Noon until 8 pm and Saturday, the 19th from 10 am until mid-afternoon.  I hope to see lots of you out there.

I have been busy restocking my supply of buttons, light switch plates and all the other things I make...and if I have too much stuff, well, I have a good number of other  upcoming events starting on November 8th where they will also be displayed.  On that weekend, Friday and Saturday, I will be at Ralph Connor House, at 54 Westgate, near the Misericordia Hospital for the University Womens' Club Annual Christmas Sale.  If you haven't been to this event, you will be certain to enjoy browsing through this old mansion and enjoying the warmth of a house built when houses were really something!

The following Saturday, the 16th of November will see us venturing out to Kenora, for the Beta Sigma Phi Event at the Lakeside Inn, that round hotel on the Lake of the Woods waterfront.  This is a first time there for me and I am really looking forward to it.  I look forward to seeing friends from Dryden, Sioux Narrows and other Northwestern Ontario locations there.  That particular sale runs from (I believe) 10 am until 4 pm.  Following that, I plan on getting together with my niece to catch up on family stuff. 

On the 23rd of November, I will be back in "The Peg" at a local event hosted by the Good Neighbours Club of East Kildonan.  Their sale will be in the multipurpose building in the 700 block of Henderson Highway.  It formerly was where the Bronx Park Community Centre was located and their building is a great venue.  I have taken a class there and it's very nice.  Good thing about this one is that it is only a ten minute drive from our place.  Yay.

The following weekend is going to be really busy.  On the Friday evening, I'll be at the Opera, (watching and silently humming along) to Don Pasquale, (or as I am loathe to report like the present state of my work table...Don Pa Squalor).  Then, early (very early) Saturday morning on the 30th of November we'll be heading out to Brandon to the Art Gallery of Southwest Manitoba for their Gala of Gifts event. We haven't been to this show for a couple of years, and sorely missed the beautiful room, with the musicians strumming their harps.   It runs Saturday from 10 until 4 and then again on Sunday, December 1st,  from noon until five pm.  Hopefully it won't be too cold and not snowing so that the ride there and back won't be too taxing.

And then there's just one more after that...a new venue for me...the Last Chance Sale at the Canad Inn on Regent, which is adjacent to Club Regent.  That one is also on a Sunday, and it will be the 8th of December.  It's in the hotel and I am in the big area on the second level.  Fortunately, the elevators make it easily accessible, and the lighting on that floor is more amenable than that of the Blue Lagoon, another room where vendors will be located.  I am not sure of the hours, but I am pretty certain that if you drop by between noon and four p.m. that we'll be there.

From time to time I have considered opening up an Etsy shop....a couple of years ago I even went as far as to register my name, but that's all that became of that.  I don't know if my stuff would appeal to online customers.  Most folks seem to want polymer clay jewellery, and since I do not do a whole lot of that genre of items, I am reluctant to start something on line.  If I got a lot of requests, I might, but not expecting that to be the case, I will play the waiting game and just do direct stuff.

Now, if I don't hurry and get to work, I won't have anything ready for this Friday, so I am off to that clay table!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sharing something to make

From time to time, I have a chance to share something that may (or may not) be of use to polymer clay people and other artisans.  Today, I have a little something that I have been using for years and it might be helpful to some of you.  I used to make these out of darning needles, but have found a less expensive method.  Once you read through all my 'blah-gging' you can make the tool.  I use them all the time.  Needle tools are very useful in teaching polymer clay, and a good supply of them can be a costly expense. 

I often have classes in schools or camps where children are involved, and although the item I will be featuring is probably not for GENERAL child use, it has been safely used by children when they are supervised, and can even be made by them, thus encouraging them to come up with ways to be creative and inventive.  (As if some of them need encouragement, lol!)

When I was a girl of maybe five or so, I wasn't allowed to play with my mom's scissors, because they were for cloth and dressmaking only, not for cutting paper.  So I found a way to trim pieces of paper to sizes that I could use.  Later in life, I found that concept utilized in a commercially manufactured machine...yet I had "invented" it for my own personal use over forty years earlier. 

With that being said, over the course of my acquaintance with polymer clay, I have fixed and made many 'useful commodities' known only to me and a few close friends.  Polymer clay works wonderfully for me and maybe it will be useful for you too. 

Of course, I have many purchased tools and gizmos that I use in my clay playing, but some of my favourites are the 'el cheapos' that I either find amongst my goodies or make from scratch.  This tool is one of those.

Here is the finished tool:
It is a simple needle tool or awl, that can be used for making holes in leather, for poking holes in signatures in bookmaking, for boring holes in polymer clay beads before curing, and as a decorating tool for creating scratches, impressions, and carvings in unbaked polymer.  I venture to say that with a blunt tip, it could also be used by folk art painters to add those little dots that are oh so necessary for embellishing paintings.

To make the tool, you will need
a thin wire clothes hanger, the kind you get from the dry cleaners
some heavy duty wire cutters
needle nose or other small pliers
a bench grinder with a grinding wheel
safety glasses
thin gauge wire (I used 20 gauge)
floral tape or masking tape (6 - 10 inches)
polymer clay, some scrap and a small amount of your favourite color
clay cane slices (optional)

Here are the steps:
Using the heavy duty wire cutters, cut the clothes hanger into approximately four inch pieces.  You can make many (about 10 or more) tools from one hanger.
Once you have cut your wires, the fun begins.  Wearing safety goggles, burnish one end of each stiff wire by sharpening it along the grinding stone of your bench grinder.  It's fun because when the sparks fly, you'd think you've invented sparklers!  You need to angle the wire a bit to get a nice point, and it's important to twirl the wire a bit to get an even point on the end of the wire.  If you are making several, (which I do) they will be done in minutes. 
Even if the wires are a bit 'crooked' they can still be used, because much of the wire will be incorporated into the handle of the 'awl' or needle tool.
Cut approximately 8 inches of 20 gauge wire and wrap it about six times around the non-sharpened end of the wire.  Make a short loop, and then rewind the remaining wire over the other wire.
Starting on the wrapped business, tightly wrap some floral tape all the length of the loop and the wire, securing it to the wire.  If you don't have floral tape, masking tape works just as well.
Once the thin wire is completely encased in either masking or floral tape, it is time to start covering the tape with some polymer clay.  First I use a small amount (about a 3/4 inch size sphere) of scrap clay, well conditioned, and rolled to a fairly thin sheet.  I cover the taped up part securely and form it into a smooth handle.  It doesn't have any curly end to it, just a cigar shape with a slightly pointed end.  Then I roll a thin sheet of a coloured clay, which can be embellished with a few cane slices. Trim this to approximately 2 inches by 3 inches, or large enough to cover all the scrap clay. Place the decorated side of this sheet face down on the work surface.  Cover the scrap clay with the decorated clay and seal the edges.  If desired, you can elongate the end to a fine point and roll it up like a spiral as I have done.  I added my name stamp to the side of the holder, flattening it just a bit.
Bake the tool in a pre-set oven (270 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately thirty minutes.  Allow it to cool and you are ready to roll...beads or whatever. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Morden Here We Come!

Only two more days until set up at the Morden Corn and Apple Festival.  It looks like it is going to be three very warm days so there will be times when I will want to act like this little gal and just dive into some refreshing lake. 

Unfortunately for me, the only one who will be free to do that will be Molly, and now that she is blind, she is much more fearful of diving into the water than she used to be.  But she will be sitting near the lake with DH who says he is bound to catch a fish.  It will be catch and release, but he won't be catching the swimmers like this gal does.  You see by her fins, that she can swim right up to the fish, cuddle them for a moment or two, and then release them.  When she is not in the water, she can hang on the wall and her fish can be played with and then returned to her arms. 

She is about seven inches tall to the tip of her tail fin and her 'locks' are a combination of wool roving and some decorative yarn I picked up in my travels who knows where.  The face and arms, although primitive, emit a Mona Lisa type smile (can I say that?) and she seems thoroughly in a place where all is well with the world.  \\

I wish all was well with me...well I really shouldn't complain because I am well...just busy.  But then again what else is new. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is it school of fish or School for "Fishy"?

I thought I had posted this a while back but upon checking this blog, realize that I was remiss.  When I did the composition for the Uniquely Manitoba Boxed-in Gallery Display at the Red River Exhibition, this was the group (I called it a school ;-) of fish that was displayed.  Unfortunately, the display was less than what I had expected.  I am not going to go through all the sorry details ... I've already done that in "background" a few posts ago.
The fish themselves and the buna cord survived, thankfully, and for a while, the school hung over the fireplace on the brick wall. 

This view shows the other sides of the fish and they're flanked by a standing fish which  I had purchased, and on the right, by a beautiful hand-dyed, batiked pike, made by my very talented batik artist friend, Karen Johannsson.

I had another photograph taken against a plain wall to provide more contrast and also did some close-ups of the fish individually.  I have actually sold three of the individual mobiles since, which was what I originally intended, since I was pretty certain that the entire composition would not have sold the way the display came out.  Who says the whole (fish) has to be better than the sum of its parts?

I will be making a couple more of the individual 'mobiles' to take to the Sioux Narrows Arts Festival this coming weekend.  I will be working late into the nights to be sure, but I love making these fish.  The region where the Festival is located is very resort-like, and this type of creation is quite weather proof making it ideal for a porch, patio, verandah, hanging from a tree or wherever a Fish Gallery exists. 

Since camp ended this week I am back from outer space, and back on terra firma, or at least in the backyard plastic pool.  The camp was very good...all but one of the participants were boys.  Needless to say we did not make polymer clay jewellery, but I did make them all a 'commemorative pendant' sort of like the Live Long and Prosper insignia. 

 On Monday, the kids made celestial light switch covers, to get an introduction to the nuances of the clay and they learned a cool technique with metal leaf which imparted a star-like quality to their creations.  They loved using the pasta machines. 

Then, on Tuesday, I demonstrated how to make a cane like a nebula and that was so successful I am going to use it in some of my own creations.  They used the slices of the cane to decorate pens.  They also crafted 'needle tools' out of wire coat hangers which I had cut at home and sharpened on the non-buffing part of my bench grinder.  Of course, they would use those the next day. 

On Wednesday, they used their needle tools to fashion wire loops upon which to sculpt the heads of their little aliens.  I had pre-baked the eyeballs. (They had a good laugh on that one because our class was at 12:30 so I said they were having Eyeballs for Lunch.  Anyone who has taught middle school should recognize that title, lol.)  Then they inserted the eyeballs into the sockets and then carried on with the rest of the head sculpting.  I took the heads home to bake...and to answer one of their questions, no they did not shrink.  But they were wired!

Thursday's class saw us finish sculpting the bodies of the alien figures, and we continued painting the covers of recycled books with acrylic paint.  I devised a technique whereby they could paint a nebula on the front and back cover and thanks to some glitter glue, the stars appeared as if by magic.  Another technique I think I will incorporate into some of my work. 

Thursday evening, I started coming down with a cold, and had a headache to boot.  So I went to bed early, knowing I would have to get up before dawn to finish my 'homework'.  I had to drill the holes in the book covers, bake the aliens, photograph the aliens, cut the pages for the journals since each book was a different size, and wax the cording for binding the book. And find enough needles for seven books to be bound simultaneously.  Of course, that meant getting up at two in the morning...need I say more.

But then on Friday morning, I still had to go grocery shopping as I had promised the kids a healthy earthly snack because we had to start early.  I had already asked them to come a half hour earlier than their schedule because the 'stuff' we had to do was kind of demanding and it required more time than the 1 1/2 hours that my session ran.  So at 7 a.m. I was out the door and off to the market to fetch fruit, veggies, dips, drinks, crackers, popcorn and a lot of other goodies pre-teeners like to eat. 

I had predicted Friday would be a knotty day. I was right.  Even though their binding threads were well waxed, the kids weren't accustomed to working with long lengths of the stuff, and I spent considerable time undoing knots.  They all managed to thread their needles and got the holes punched in the signatures.  They used their needle tools again, this time as an awl.  (I secretly called it "AWL FOR KNOT" because I knew the binding would be too challenging for them...).  I demo'd as slowly and carefully as I could, but even the initial stages of coptic binding can be humbling, even for adults.  So, I ended up binding six books while they waited patiently...Thank Goodness for Tyler, the champion crafter, who followed all the steps and was able to do his own.  Otherwise I might still be there binding!!!  It was good though, because they did 'start' and 'finish' the binding, and then they threaded the beads they had made to attach to the threads on the exposed spine.  They also glued the pictures of their aliens inside and hopefully at home gave their journals a suitable title so they can make log entries about their week at camp, or how they 'alienated' summer with polymer clay.

Yesterday and today, I have been trying to get caught up with some of my clay orders and also am preparing for the upcoming Festival.  I think I have sufficient inventory.  But I will supplement with a few more light switch covers and buttons.  Today, I made a couple of water-color effect plaques. 

The one on the left was inspired by the town of Portofino, Italy. I have not been there personally, but I saw a PBS production starring Andrea Bocelli, and although I am not a great fan of his, I loved the setting of the town. I did a day scene, but the enchanted night one would have been lovlier, but much more difficult to capture in polymer clay.  I envisioned that one of the little dories (is that a term for a small boat?) could have been used to go fish, but my little fishy here is smiling.  He is just playing in the bottom, cuz the boats are moored, right?  As for the fish, I did it in a two step process.  I first did the watercolor effect in clay on some leftover mdf board (wonder where that came from, lol).  After baking, I used a V-gouge to carve the fish, then backfilled it in soft gold polymer and sent him back in to bake.   The stones and weeds are dimensional, while the rest of the plaques are untextured, except for a bit of intensional impressions I made in the cobbled stonework of the Portofino Plaque.   

To sum up, I have learned a LOT this week, about things to do, about being resourceful, about being patient, and about new techniques that are always abounding in the fascinating world (and beyond) of polymer clay.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The aliens have landed

After a hectic July, we have news.  This little group of aliens have arrived!They have names but I never thought to write them down.  This collection  of extraterrestrial visitors was created by a group of youngsters at the recent (and on-going until today) Art Camp that I was doing down at the Stonewall Quarry Park about 40 kilometers from here. 

Along with the aliens, the kids made nebular canes (which they used to decorate pens and the creatures you see here), they made a light switch of celestial quality and we are working on
"Captain's Log Books".  It is hoped that these will be used  to recount the journeys and happenings that the little creatures embark upon during their visit on this planet. 

This has been a great experience with only one regret.  The polymer clay class lasts 1.5 hours and that is just not enough time for enthusiastic kids to complete their projects.  With the assistance of the director and the parents we lengthened the last few days to a two hour class and probably should try to make the sessions even longer.  Maybe the next camp we will opt for an entire afternoon, which will mean more relaxed claying time, and not so much 'hurry up to get done'.  It would also give us more time to work on additional projects. 

Stay tuned for further communication.  Beam us up!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lighting up the place

So last night (Canada Day Celebration) after coming back from the weekend's 'festivities' we drove down to the Waterfront (actually it was the Red River) to watch the fireworks after the sun set.  Many people in the south don't realize that it stays light here until well after 10 pm (at least for a while yet) and the fireworks show didn't start until 11 pm.  To be honest, I was not that impressed, having seen better displays years ago in France and other countries.  It was inspiring though, and I did take a couple of videos with my camera.  Unfortunately, lots of things (like recently constructed buildings) were in the way.  I suppose we could have changed our vantage point, but once we were there, we were kind of hemmed in and couldn't really move until after the show.  Next year, we will watch from a different angle.  Then they'll probably move the place where they set off the display.

In any case, all the hoopla is done for another year.  I managed to make some 'light covers' though, for a gal who wants to match up the colors in her décor.  She requested green, lime, teal, orange and purple so this is what I came up with. 
I apologize for cutting the edge off the top right hand one.  In the original scan it was all there but while transforming it in my photo edit program, I chopped it off. 

While I am on the subject of 'transformations', I noticed that I am not able to access my picture files in the same method as I formerly did.  I am not going to try to understand what happened; all I know is that I now have to include an extra step when I want to make pictures available to post to this blog.  It is somewhat disconcerting, as I don't have a lot of time to mess around with that kind of thing.  But as I am not a certified expert, (certifiable yes, certified no) in the field of computerness, I will just have to make do with things as they are. 

I still have a number of these to complete, in double and triple format, but I thought I would check with the potential owner to see if these were suitable before I go whole hog into producing the larger plates.  At least now that the holidays are here, I can work on them sort of at my leisure and not have to burn the midnight oil in my "studio" which has less than adequate light at the best of times. 

So I will try to post to this blog a little more frequently now that we're in summer mode.  No 'job' commitments to speak of except for camp which runs from July 22 to 26.  That should be a blast!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


I am underwhelmed by the blah background papers I have used for business cards and other printed stuff, so quite frequently I use different background materials that I've either manipulated, painted, or scanned. This one is a collaborative effort from stuff in the old bookcase (a handmade paper book folder), the closet (bits of ripped and torn wallpaper) and the wrapping paper drawer (the cellophane with daisies) which I put on the scanner recently.  I deliberately wanted a very muted background so that my business cards or other information  I want to print would dominate, but still with something interesting for the eyes to rest on when not focusing on the print. 

Speaking of background, I would love to include images of my most recent 'exhibition' piece, but unfortunately there is waaaaaaay too much background in any of the pictures I have of the current piece.  You see, I was invited to participate in a challenge recently at the Red River Exhibition, our city's annual (for want of a better name) FAIR.  It's mostly a carnival of rides, over-indulgence of cotton candy, mini-donuts and other stomach wrenching stuff and noisy, raucous music; but in by-gone days it really was an exposition of stuff hand-made and a small element of that still remains.  I doubt that many people will visit the Boxed 'n Extreme Gallery, but that is where my "School of Fish" is located.

It was a work completed in an inordinate amount of time (a week of evenings)...something I never should have done because I really couldn't do justice to it, but all in all, I had accepted the challenge and so yes, I had to do it.  The instructions were to display a piece of artwork that could fit in a five by five foot outdoor space.  YIKES!  Most of my stuff can fit in a five by five INCH space.  So I decided to make a large mobile type structure.

I know  that cured polymer is not adversely affected by the elements, except for prolonged exposure to intense sun and heat.  How do I know that? Well, when it comes to home decorating, I am basically lazy and once I hang a thing outside, that is its home "for-ev-er" and some of my mobiles have been hanging in our front entryway or on the patio for several years.  Through wind, rain, snow, 40 below and sun.  It rarely gets to 100 degrees Fahrenheit here  or 40 Celsius, so I figured our cool spring heat would not be an issue if I were to construct such a structure from polymer  clay. 

How would it be  hanging was another consideration for this composition.  I couldn't use my normal waxed linen or cotton cording...I was afraid that would succumb to heat (but hadn't tested it so wasn't sure) so I took the high road and opted for the reputable but much costlier Buna cord....for those of you who are unfamiliar, that is the stuff from which they make O-rings and gaskets etc.  It is a rubber like material that's pretty strong, a bit stretchy and well, just THE stuff that's so compatible with polymer things.  I needed at least fifty feet for my five-fish-mobile composition. Of course I didn't have that much and the local distributor had to order it from thousands of miles away.  And wouldn't you know, the stuff I ordered was WAY too thick.  Maybe I should have gone with that line.  Cheap.  Almost invisible.  And as the wife (and daughter) of a fisherperson,  it was plenty available.  In the end, I opted for some thinner Buna that I got on a quick exchange. 

Big signs saying "don't touch" (in a nice way) were printed and laminated.  Good thinking there because it has always been threatening to rain since the "EX" started, and I know we had at least one thundershower.  So far so good.  Everything weather proof.  I even gave the fish themselves three coats of Varathane satin outdoor protection.  (Alas, no SPF 45 for the fish available, and I even forgot to pack some while I was setting up, which meant Miss Pinkie went to school on Friday with cheeks rosier than normal).

The biggest headache of all was when it came to setting up the structure.  Sure...when I am at a Sale or show that's indoors, or even in a tent, I can hang mobiles from my portable clothesrack, suspended from shower curtain hooks.  But those racks have wheels and wouldn't be 'installed'...if you catch my drift.  Moreover, they are pretty flimsy and subject to toppling so the wind element would not be addressed.  We had to quickly come up with a makeshift 'aquarium' of all things that would still make the Ecole des Poissons visible.  Hubby concocted a four by four foot structure, which had to be assembled on site, and for two days, we scoured the roadside ditches for rocks that we could use as a riverbed/base to somewhat simulate a rocky bottom.  (Said rocks also served to weight down the 'container' lest a heavy wind set the box-kite-like structure airborne!)

The entire display is like an open frame with large sides but the final result, (if you don't count the supporting brackets, screws, clamps et al) does look like an open aquarium.  And the fishies...well they are happily turning one way and another in the breeze so that they are visible from all aspects, thus addressing the three dimensional concept of the sculpture component. 

This is all in the name of 'exposure' ... and you talk about background?  I think this is about as much as anyone wants to read or see about the background work that an artist has to do in order to display something.   Will it sell?  Well it really isn't supposed to be for sale.   It is part of a display.  Will I get it back?  Yes, unless some one steals it.  (Which brings me to a whole 'nother' subject (why do people say that) of trying to get insurance on such things.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Father's Day coming up soon

Well, my father passed on several years ago, but  a lot of my 'fishiness' can be attributed to him.  I fished with him quite a bit as a kid--our family spent many weekends in the Whiteshell before it became crowded.  Although I didn't catch a lot of fish, I remember it as a fun time.  Yah, sometimes it was scary, particularly when he said I was going to have to take the boat in to shore...(I learned how to ROW that day) but most of the time it was a good introduction to a sport my DH engages in.  I learned a lot about fish, watching him fillet  and that even helped during University Days in my comparative Zoology classes.

I know lots of kids like to make gifts for their Dads (or grandpas or uncles) and here is a little fish key chain I made up as a project to use next week when I am in some elementary classrooms.  Feel free to adapt!

Polymer Clay Fish Key Chain



¼ package Premo Polymer Clay

Split Key Ring (¾ inch size or larger)

18 inch piece waxed cotton cord (1mm diameter)

Two or three round toothpicks

Larger bore wooden skewer

Roller or pasta machine dedicated to polymer clay (you can use your hands to flatten the clay if you do not have the rolling tools)

Plastic knife

Two similarly sized scallop shells if you have them--otherwise use a round toothpick

Paper clip and pen ‘cap’

Small bit of corn starch

Eye cane - or small bits of white and black clay for eyes

Work surface

Toaster oven 275 degrees

Dedicated baking sheet, or card stock


NOTEJ Make sure your hands are very clean and also remember to wash your hands after using the polymer clay

1. Condition the clay well. Using a roller, flatten the clay into a thin pancake and lay it on your work surface. Use the plastic knife to divide your clay into four equal parts. One of the parts will be used to make the beads and the other three parts will be used for the fish itself.

2. Use the one fourth section of clay and divide it into three equal parts. Roll each part into a simple round bead. Place a small amount of cornstarch on the end of the tooth pick. Insert the tooth pick into each bead and twist to form a hole. Remove the toothpick and insert it from the other side. Repeat with the other two beads. Dip the thicker bore skewer into the cornstarch. With this skewer, make the opening slightly larger. Leave the three beads on this skewer to bake.

3. Reserve a small bit of clay for later, and form it into a ball/sphere about ¼ inch across. Gather the remaining three sections of polymer clay and compact them together. Roll them into a firm ball (sphere) and then into a cylinder. Dip a toothpick in cornstarch and insert the toothpick into the cylinder. Twist it gently and make sure it goes all the way through the centre of the cylinder. With your fingers, form a cone shaped point on one end. Roll this smooth by rolling slightly on the smooth work surface. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the cylinder slightly to a flatter form.

4. Make a small dorsal (top) fin by slightly stretching the top part of one side. Round this off. Squeeze the tail by flattening it slightly and flaring out the ends on either side of the toothpick. Do not make it too thin. It should have a slight “V” by pinching the tips of the tail.

5. Place the tail between the two shells and make ridges or rays in the fins. If you do not have shells, make slight parallel marks in the tail fin using a toothpick marking several lines going in the same direction as the fish. Do the same for the dorsal fin, but this time make the rays at right angles to the fish’s body. Make sure to mark the fins on both sides if you are using a toothpick instead of the shell.

6. If you have an eye cane, take two small slices and position them on the head, not too near the opening on the cone shape (head). If you do not have an eye cane, roll two small bits of white clay into tiny little balls no larger than 1/8 inch across. Place these where eyes would be located. Flatten them slightly by gently pressing them with your fingers. Using two even smaller bits of black clay, roll into even smaller balls, flatten them and place these inside the white circles. Move the fish up to the end of the toothpick on the head end.

7. Take the small sphere of colored clay you reserved from step 3 and flatten it slightly. Place a toothpick in the middle of it and place this little circle over the hole where the mouth would be. Adhere it to the fish’s head securely. Make two indents so it looks like the fish is smiling.

8. Transfer the fish to the larger skewer, where the beads are. Enlarge the hole by gently twisting the skewer through the fish’s body.

9. Fish need to breathe, and they do so by gills. Take a paper clip and open it up. Reform the wire into a gentle curve by forming it around a pencil. Place the rounded part behind the eye and Make an imprint like a “C” with the ends pointing toward the fish’s mouth. Do this on both sides.

10. Fish have scaly bodies. To make the impression of scales, use the rounded part of a pen cap (the little part that juts out). Make alternating rows of three or four scales each, on the sides of the fish’s body. Again, these should have the ends pointing toward the fish’s mouth.

Make sure the fish can twist around the skewer. Gently move it back and forth. Also, make sure the beads are loose enough to be removed after baking.

11. Place the skewer, with the fish and beads on the card stock. Set the oven for 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature regularly using a reliable oven thermometer. Some toaster ovens have a tendency to spike (go to a high heat) and do not heat accurately according to the dial on the outside of the oven. Bake the fish and beads on the skewer at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. Turn the oven off and let the items cool in the oven. Remove when cool.

Assemble the key chain as follows:

Fold the piece of cord in half. Make a lark’s head loop over the key ring and secure the cord. Put one bead on the two cords. Make a tight overhand knot right up close to the bead. Place the fish on next. Make another tight overhand knot close to the fish’s tail. Put on another bead. Make another knot. Put on the last bead. Make a final knot. Trim any remaining cord close to the knot. You may wish to put a small bit of crazy glue or clear nail polish on the ends of the cord to prevent fraying.

Enjoy your fishy key chain.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Word Invention (I think) almost the first to be aware of the new 'phrase/word' I think I've coined.  Mr. Webster, are you listening?

I coined the word for to use with friends, family members or confidantes with whom you can enjoy a little food, frivolity, fuming and whatever else is on your mind.

It is   "GALA-VENTING"  So the gala part is that you can go to a place with a gal pal, that need not be fancy (but it could, depending on your budget) and the venting part comes in...well I don't need to explain that too, do I?

My mom, who would be slightly over 101 now, always used to accuse us of going 'galavanting' and I was never sure of its precise definition.  So I changed it a little, and made up my own definition. 

I  think it should belong to the genre of words that is peculiar to family members...we had lots of them that no one else understood.  I didn't realize how colorful some of them were until I used them with those who didn't really know me ... and the words were completely foreign to them as well as others. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New items and New fishing season

The apple tree blossoms are just about to burst on the tree outside the kitchen window.  The pinks will last for only a week, but for that one week they'll be a glorious profusion of color.  We probably won't be able to see the birds or other animals that visit that tree (for treats) but it will still be a wonderful sight.

On the creative front, just bursting out of the oven are some of my latest compositions.  You didn't think I was awol and not doing something.  I have been very occupied getting some new gallery things ready and in between clay sessions, staying in touch with my buds and doing a fair bit of substituting.

I've managed to do a couple of new fish, using a painterly technique along with the usual caned slices for embellishment.  I apologize for the way they are appearing here...I'd really like to have them side by side so you can see the obverse sides, but I think you can probably figure out which one goes with which, lol.   
One of the difficulties I encounter when doing the 'big fin' type fish is dealing with the wire that is inside the fish.  It serves a double purpose:  for hanging the fish when it is complete, and also as an armature to lend support to the body of the clay.  It is pretty thick wire, and even if I use my customary triple layer of fish insides (I call them 'geckles'), the outline of the wire still seems to make its way to the outer part of the fish.  That of course calls for creative placement of cane slices, some ingenious imprinting and texturing, which comes out in the end as  decorations.  These fish are about 10 inches from lips to the tail fin and the girth of each one demands that they be classified (at least in fishing terms) as keepers.  I used the same canes for the lips and eyes in each of the views, although I did reduce one part of the eye cane so it wasn't so large. 

Caning is not something I have a lot of patience for.  Never again will I make a six foot cane like I did in one class several years ago.  I still have a yard of that one left and quite frankly, I am tired of it and haven't found it all that useful in my designs.  I do like to make small canes, in colors that complement the overal hue of the fish or whatever figure I am using them on.  So, my canes tend to be rather small, usually no more than six inches in length and sometimes smaller depending on how much color I blend up to start. 

Speaking of color blends, I don't have a motor for my pasta machine, and conditioning pounds of clay into Skinner and other blends is too hard on my cranking arm.  For a while in Arizona, hubby lent his right arm to help out with the grunt work of cranking, but ever since he tore a ligament in that arm three weeks ago, he hasn't been able to crank...or do much else with it.  He can't even lift dear Miss Molly, (our bichon frise) up to administer her daily doses of insulin, upon which she depends.  Boy am I rambling!!!

To get on to the other creations I have been working on, they are somewhat repeats of previous works. 

Ms. Malone, "She was a Fish Monger", is a coccoon type figure who has plenty o' detail.  Although she is only about eight inches tall, all her accoutrements make her plenty big.  Her wire arms surround her woven "basket" of fish which is composed of a polymer clay base, some wire for the 'weft' and simple polymer clay and glass  beads strung on to light weight wire that are woven in and out around the basket's perimeter.  Inside the basket are several loose fish, similar to the ones that are hanging from the side of the basket.  In keeping with the fish theme, I used part of a fishing leader (from hubby's tackle box) to attach the hanging fish to the side of the basket.  (Heck, he can't use his casting arm anyway, so some of the stuff in that case needs to be used somehow!) The "sign" on her basket is an image transfer of a sketch I did a few years ago of some fish types.  Ya just never know when all the stuff you have comes together and is incorporated into a total composition.  The detail of the basket is shown in the bottom picture.  Once again, I'd like to manipulate it so that it is nearer to the actual figure, but I haven't time to play with pictures on the computer. 

To Ms. Malone's right, is Mr. Sixtapus, taking a Tai Chi Class.
His upward look begs the question..."what am I supposed to be doing with all these legs?  I've got the arm movements pretty well figured out, but, OMG, I don't know how to position my weight in the most "chi" way so that I am balanced!!!"

      (Detail of basket o' fish)

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Having not written for nearly two months, I feel a little guilty, but honestly, the time for blogging has been non-existent.  Now there may have been a few times that I could have sat down and written something, but I didn't want to rant about the usual humdrum and boring elements of life here in the great white north.  Yah, the snow is gone, but it's still rather cool and rainy, and no one wants to read about that.

I have been doing quite a bit of teaching the past while, and I have enjoyed that.  I haven't let my polymer clay be idle, but mostly it's been work of a repetitious nature, and nothing novel.  I was invited to show at a new gallery, and that will be later on this month.  For it I am going to be working on three figures (doll-type-things) and three fish.  I did a couple of sketches for the facial features and am going to try to incorporate them in some way.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'll drink to that

So I haven't posted for a while...many reasons.  Mostly because I have had some pretty severe back spasms and it was hard for me to move.  Finally the pain has subsided a lot and I am pretty well back to normal.  Still taking it a bit easy but at least I can walk, stand, sit, lie down...sounds 'like doggie commands' lol.  Even Molly knew I was suffering...she was extra patient when it came to putting on her lead and stepping down the one step to go outside.  Imagine if I was in a multi story house!!

I have been trying to keep up with a bit of claying but to no avail.  I made four  buttons yesterday and couldn't even sand and buff them.  That is NOT production.  I think they are still in the oven.

Last week however, I finished some glasses for a gal who got one last year.  We made a little video and I tried to upload it here, but it was WAY too huge.  So you'll just have to settle for a glimpse of a couple of the glasses.

This one features a multicolor flower that I made from the cane decoration that is at the top of the polymer.  I do the extruded cane, then cut about five slices and make it into a little 'quilt'.  Then I cut the petals out of the decorated sheet and adhere them to the unbaked polymer on the side of the glass.  In this case (you can't see it) the greenery extends to a leaf which is somewhat sculpted on the other side of the glass. There are many colors in the covering of the glass and I hope she likes the combination, even though it looks a little 'strange' in this picture.

Maria also wanted a glass that was entirely pink. As you can see in the photo below, I made a small flower cane slightly reminiscent of the cane I learned from Donna Kato many years ago (I didn't do the entire thing) and embedded a few petals in a sheet of pink background clay.  Of course the petals grew quite large as I rolled them in, but hopefully they're still delicate enough.  I could never reduce my canes small enough without distorting them.  My fingers are big and when it gets into a tight squeeze, I just can't do it. But they are a  pretty pink color!!!
Hmmm...I wonder what kind of blush or rosé one would serve in these?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baggin' It

In between creating buttons in the clayroom, on the off-chance that it's too cold in there, I usually work on something inside the house.  I haven't done ANY knitting this year, but just finished another bag.  I normally don't do yellow for myself, but the button on this bag (and the beads) are just delicious.  In this woven one, I also added a little rivulet of felting, with a few felted beads on one side.  The other side has the meandering rivulet in felting, but no stops along the way.  I hope it's not too I am! 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cane inspiration

I finally completed reducing and packing all my canes for tomorrow's swap.  I would like to post them all here, but am only going to put one picture here. They are not all the same, but I am including ones similar to this in everyone's package, as well as some 'other' canes to make up the three inches of cane that will be going to each person.  I baked a few slices...guess I wasn't all that attentive to how I sliced them and put them in to  Some are a little darker on one side.  Danged toaster overn.
It is a rather simple looking cane, and probably won't be as terrific as the ones I will be receiving, but it could look good if used in the right configuration. 

I wonder if anyone in the greater Phoenix area knows what inspired this cane?  I realize it doesn't look a lot like the actual source due to the shifting that took place in my reducing, but the inspiration is  architectural and it never fails to intrigue me when I see it.

I would love to be able to make it like it really is supposed to look like, but those who know me realize that I haven't the patience to get all the elements in exactly.  As well, I tend to make rather small canes (in comparison to some people) as I don't have use for lots and lots for production purposes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two Hearts; Two Textures

I know I posted earlier about the swap and speediness of the delivery of the items.  Today I received my heart and texture from Kelly. The green grouping is the gorgeous set I got from Kelly and the ivory coffret is part of what I sent.  Is it kind of coincidental that we both did zentangle type of textures, although I think Kelly did her textures before she baked the sheets, whereas I carved mine after the sheet was baked.  I am going to enjoy wearing the heart she sent me as I do have a lot of clothing that is in the aqua and turquoise color palette.  I love the bail she made.  It is soooo cool.  It is kind of like an infinity symbol and embeds in the pendant and then two loops emerge out of the center of the heart..  I have never tried that method  before but it looks like something that I could try out with the sets of jewellery pliers and tools I got as a Christmas gift.

The hearts are similar too, in that they are both textured and have some curly/swirly features.  The one I made is double sided and it opens.  You can't tell from this overhead view, but I tried it several times just to make sure it would close properly.

This was the heart coffret I sent to Kelly.
How lucky I was to be in this swap.  The co-ordinators once again are to be congratulated for administering the group and doing all the behind the scenes organizing.  Having been a swap mistress more than once, I know it 'seems' a lot easier than it is, even if it is all done electronically. 
So Kudos to Tina and Vanessa, and all you others who made this swap so much fun.  Thanks!

A Purse by any other name

I finally completed the 'bag' that I had woven and posted on here several times.  With the cooler weather, I had to find some 'indooor' work to complete, since claying in the shed, at least before 2 pm is a bit cold.
I found a fat quarter at Jo-ann's the other day and hauled out the sewing machine to make the lining and a  pocket.  The strap is rather long, but on speaking to a couple of gals who are interested in either making them or wearing them, I determined that they like the idea of being able to wear it as a 'crossover' bag.  When I tried one on, the strap 'crossed over' right between the cleavage area and the bag ended up at a very inconvenient place.  So, that is something to keep in mind when making the cord, either by crochet or whatever other method being used.  I made about 5 or 6 very large holed beads and the beads can be moved, but they are pretty stationary since I used four strands to crochet the strap.  The button is one of my favorites and I made it to catch some of the colors in the bag.  As for the lining it is a wild paisley print with all of the shades, (plus a few) that are in the weaving.

I have one more bag that I have finished weaving and have the buttons and the beads all made--just have to sew it all together.  Another one is in the 'planning' stage, but I am going to leave that one for a while. 

When it warms up a bit more, I am going to complete the work on my canes for the guild swap this Saturday.  I made two different types, and am going to distribute a portion of each to the gals who signed up for the swap.  I won't post pictures until that's all done.

I also wanted to mention that I was amazed at how fast the postal service delivered my Heart and Texture swap to San Diego.  I mailed it Saturday morning and it arrived in Kelly's hands by Monday morning!  I hope she liked the heart.  The little 'mechanism' (the lid in the box) worked so well, that I wish all the projects I tackle came out that good.  It actually makes a little 'click' when it closes too! 

Speaking of hearts, wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day tomorrow just in case I don't get a chance to post.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What's new in February

Can you believe that 10% of 2013 is already gone!  And I've barely posted on this.  Finally, I have a little minute to talk about clay and what has been keeping me away from the computer. 

I have signed up for a couple of Swaps-one is from the Arizona Polymer Clay Guild and it is a Cane swap.  I have finished my canes, but don't want to post pictures yet, until the members get their canes next Saturday, the 16th of February.  I may add a little something to the canes I've concocted, and don't want to let the cats out of the bag just yet. 

Last month I did a demo on making a business card case from polymer clay for the guild.  I am looking forward to seeing if some of the members tried it out.  It's a different twist on a case and I am thinking about approaching a publisher about it.  I took a ton of pictures for the method but sadly can't share any here until I get a definite yes or no from the company.

What I can share is about the other swap I am in.  Yesterday I sent my Heart and texture to my partner is California.  So if you are the recipient and don't want to spoil the surprise, don't look any further.  Otherwise, here it is.  As I mentioned, the theme for this was hearts and since I am not really into pretty and fussy, I made something "organic" and well, not crude, but just kinda different.

This texture plate is pretty hard to see.  I did it on scrap pink clay and made it by carving into the thick piece of  baked polymer with a v-gouge.  I did it in the 'zentangle' mode, so it's very random.  I made a couple of impressions with it and they turned out well.  So you'll just have to imagine the texture unless you have a computer screen with 'feelavision'.

The other part of the swap was the heart which  in this case has two surfaces, on either side of a little hidden box in the interior.  There is a little lid that you also can't see in this picture, but it lifts up and slides along the cords that suspend it. The heart (I call it a coffret-a French term) can be used as a necklace or a wall hanging and is just big enough to house a little treasure.  I tried folding a bill and it just fit in... rather snuggly. I had to use tweezers to get it out, but if you're miserly, maybe it's a good thing, lol.   Inside, I put in a little transfer on a shard of clay of a zentangle that I did.  The recipient can put in whatever. The cord length is adjustable, so lots of options.  The other side is textured differently and the beads are very dissimilar..and totally random.  I find that randomness is a quality that doesn't put as many demands on finished pieces so have chosen that route with a lot of my works.
In other parts of my 'shed/studio', I've been working on buttons and some other larger pieces that I am getting ready for a submission to a call for entries.  None of them are finished yet.  I am also working on some more woven purses, and have three that are almost ready for linings.  I have the beads and buttons made for the closure and decorative parts...just need to haul out the sewing machine and get some fabrics to complement the colors of the fibers.  The one thing that I find limiting about the purses is the size. Right now most of them are about 7 inches by 8 inches and I'd like to make them a little bigger, but might compromise their 'beauty' if they get too large.  So I guess I'll have to stay with the size.  They do expand quite a bit to accommodate lots more goodies than one would  think.   Here is a view of one that is not quite done.  So a work in progress is what it is!

I realize I have posted a picture similar to this one.  I apologize for the repetition.  I just wanted to mention about the silk sari yarns that are interspersed in this weaving.  Although they seem not to 'match' with the rest of the colors, they do have a few 'random' speckles of fibers intertwined.  And silk sari yarn is one of the most 'random' types of fibers I know...Loving it! 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love it, Don't love it

Well, of course I am not doing what I I got caught up with the scanner features and just had to post this.  I was preparing some background cards for my buttons and had some leftover scraps.  So I decided to put them on the scanner in a kind of haphazard woven effect and this is what came up!  It is a little hard to see here, particularly since the image is in such frothy pastel colors, but I need to be able to print over the finished paper so do not want anything too defined, lest it interfere with the typed information.   But just another way to play when it's too cold to really play (golf or whatver!)  And I do love this one feature of my new all in one scanner...but let me also mention that sometimes it just doesn't do what I want...or maybe we both are too stubborn for each other, lol.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Over, under and all around

So it's been a while, huh?  I mean it's not that I haven't thought about blogging but I have been doing stuff.  All kinds of stuff.   Making chicken divan with curry (I had to modify the recipe), playing Balderdash, shopping, visiting with friends and relatives, and all the usual stuff that occupies my life.  And some creative stuff.  Since it's been raining a fair bit here, I decided to use some indoor time to do some preparations of some woven purses.  Here is one I just completed the weaving:

This is one of the  square purses.  I make the 'loom' out of foam core board and then wrap linen warp threads around.  I use all sorts of fibers for the warp.  When I remove the weaving from the loom, it automatically forms an envelope/pocket formation.  From then, after tying the warp threads off as you can see at the top, I crochet a long strap from some of the same threads used in the weaving and attach them to the inner part of the purse.  Following that, from co-ordinating fabric, I make a lining, usually with a couple of pockets and sew that in.  I also make a loop for the button closure, some matching polymer buttons and beads and then put the whole thing together.  I have put pictures of similar bags up on previous blogs. I believe that there was one from December 2011 that I posted in this blog.  It has frothy fibers, silk sari yarn in it, and all kinds of funky stuff. This one has similar fibers.  When I complete this bag with buttons, beads and handle, hopefully I can post another picture of the finished piece. 

So now, all I have to do is decide what colors I am going to use for the polymer embellishments.  That is the fun part.  Think I'll go out and mix up a couple batches of clay to use on this one. 

Stay tuned for 'It's in the bag', which will show the finished purse.