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.