Why are some of us so self-critical? I mean we all know the phrase about being our own worst critic but why does it seem so hard to turn that part of ourselves off? A while back I was going through my studio and came across a small bin of some things I made when I first started in polymer clay. I stared at them thinking how awful they were and headed towards the garbage when I thought of something a teacher once told me. I was in a class when the teacher noticed I was getting upset with how my piece was turning out, which happens frequently when you’re a perfectionist, and she told me to remember that the first piece is never the masterpiece. That was one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given and when I recalled that I decided to keep that bin of my first pieces. That bin now resides in a drawer in my workbench. I’ve decided that each time I make a piece that I look over and scrunch my face at I’ll pull out my bin of pieces and use them as a reminder of how far I’ve come and that the only way to go from here is up.
Challenges are challenging, and right now you are thinking to yourself “Duh! Of course they are, that’s why they are called challenges”. I was looking over some of the comments on the Polyform Facebook page that were generated when the Design Squad challenge pieces were posted and it made me start thinking. I can really only speak for myself but I know I tend to stick with certain techniques, colors, and styles. When I received the box from Polyform with the challenge materials I definitely felt like “yikes!” While struggling to come up with an idea I had to keep telling myself that this was good for me, like eating my vegetables. Challenging one’s self is one thing but somehow having someone else issue the challenge feels more intense.
After making my piece I realized it was a very beneficial experience and one that would benefit anyone. Keeping this in mind I am going to make a suggestion to all of you reading this right now. Grab your best clay-buddy and drive to your favorite craft supply store. When the two of you enter the store, head in opposite directions and starting shopping for unusual items. Keep in mind what you know to be the other person’s personal style and go for items you know won’t fall into that category. Grab only a couple of items other than clay and then go grab some clay. Be as random as you can and don’t get too many things since that might be overwhelming to the other person. Head to the checkout but make sure you don’t see each other’s items. When you’re back in the car swap bags and promise each other you won’t open your bags until you are home later. Surprise, it’s a challenge! The best part will be when you show each other what you came up with. You’ll be surprised by how well your imagination works and by how the other person’s work will inspire you.
Mokume gane is not just for adults! As a step in helping my son and his fellow Webelo Boy Scouts pack acheive their Artist badge, we created Mokume Gane canes. The canes were placed in the premo! Sculpey Purse Hanger as Mother's Day gifts. Before we began making the canes we talke about color theory and the color wheel and how to pair colors. I was a little nervous about presenting color theory to a dozen ten year old boys. Why, I do not know. They were very attentive and actually paid attention and asked great questions.
Once we opened the packages of clay they were thoughtfully picking out their mom's favorite color and adding companion colors. They were very eager to use the clay conditioning machines. Good thing I brought two and had multiples of each color. I brought baggies with me so the boys could take their canes home and make other projects with them. Several said they wanted to make beads out of them too. I wrote up directions and sent them in an email so the parents would know what to do with them. All in all I think I now have a dozen boys introduced to the wonderfule world of polymer clay.
I took the clay filled purse hangers home with me to back since our location does not give us access to the kitchen. I took a picture of each boy with their piece so I could know what belonged to whom. After I uploaded the pictures I thought it would be extra nice if I gave the pictures to the moms too.
They boys were really proud of what they created and so excited to get them back. It really was a great project with the boys and a great gift for mom that she will actually use. If you would like to know how to do the Mokume Gane Technique you can click MOKUME GANE DIRECTIONS by Iris Weiss.
If you are looking for a craft to do with kids I would highly recommend this technique and the jewelry blanks by Sculpey. Them mom's were dellighted and the boys were very proud of their projects. They were so proud of themselves that a few of the other pack leaders have asked me to do a project with their packs since our boys were showing off their creations to everyone.
Our deck and yard (ok and our house) features a lot of tikis. Why not, we live at the beach right?
This is one of our largest and you might have seen him in the background of some of my Sculpey videos. I'm thinking that my project this summer will be to make him some Sculpey eyes. If I want to be accurate for this neighborhood, some blood-shot eyes too!
I can't believe my month is over, so I will try to have the big guy all set with his new eyes on my next month of blogging.
Meanwhile, I'm off to Orlando to teach at the Orlando Clay Fandango. I'm teaching a multimedia class where the students will be embellishing journals with paints, charms, papers, and of course Sculpey!
If you have any ideas for my tiki eyes, post me a message! I'm thinking orange irises...
Whenever you are working at your clay table, I HIGHLY recommend that you photograph each step. You never know when a design is going to be a "hit" and a magazine or company will want your project. Not your thing? Well, how about as a record or a "recipe" for the project? I do this especially when I do a mokume gane project - I take a closeup photo of the stacked layers so that I can recreate it if I wish later. The same for a cane - I like to photograph the end of it just before I reduce it so I can see what layers are #3 and what layers are #1, etc.
The other item that I always take a photograph now is the findings or multimedia items I use. It's amazing how handy it is to have a "Findings" file on my computer. Not just for reference for magazine articles, but sometimes I recall using a little bit or bobble on a project and I have no idea of who made it. I can got into my findings file and find the photo of the package. NOW, I know what I'm looking for. Strings of beads? Who can remember if the beads they used 6 months ago were Blue Moon or Fire Mountain? If you photographed the tab on the string, it really helps. Same goes for craft paint bottles. The labels on my bottles are usually trashed by the time I get to the end of the bottle and I can't read the color. If I go to my subfolder for paints, I can find it and buy the correct color (I need to do this for my nailpolish I think too - I just spent all weekend looking for a particular shade of blue that I had used up. I remembered the brand name, but they have 2 blues very close to each other and I don't know which one I used. Yeah, I have both now..)
I name my photos by what they are, for instance, this one is bead-green-interlocking. An gold chain would be titled chain-gold-bright or something to make it different from the other gold chains. But you see my point - all the chains begin with chain, all the beads begin with bead.
I really wish I had started doing this years ago. It's one of those things that became obvious once I started.