Have you seen and tried the new Sculpey texture sheets?
There are many very versatile patterns included, in a variety of scale and fun patterns. I have been playing with them for several months and thought I'd share a project that combines some simple techniques to good (I think anyway ) effect...
I started with a layer of the brick pattern in black clay. This was accented with green metallic paint on the high points.
The next layer is the honeycomb stamp in Ecru premo antiqued with brown acrylic paint for a faux wood look.
The top layer is my version of faux cinnabar using the cherry blossom stamp on Pomegranate clay. I first brush the surface with mica powder and then apply a wash of black alcohol ink.
After baking, the cinnabar layer is sanded and polished.
The last few years at the Bead & Button show, I've been shopping for interesting small bead frames to fill with clay or a small bead. This one is pewter. I drill fairly low on the piece for the wire and bend it upward and through the frame and accent bead. Form a wrapped loop at the top over both the upward and downward wires and trim the upward wire flush with the wrap.
While working on projects this week, I realized how often I use a few items in the studio that weren't tools to begin with.
My mom was a saver and re-user of many things, including plastic bags, rubber bands, and the like. She never bought plastic containers, just reused ice cream buckets and yogurt containers; used envelopes became scratch paper, and I wore lots of re-made hand-me-down clothes as a kid.
Since as a teen, I hated having to wash and dry plastic bread bags, I've not gone to such conservative lengths as Mom, but I do save a lot of things because I look at them with different eyes. I look at what I can do with things in the studio before I throw them out...
Here are a couple of my most often used "trash tools":
I keep a few burned out lightbulbs of every shape I've ever used for different contours and forms. I love the little mini round bulbs (usually 40 watt) from appliances or ceiling fans. They are smaller than standard and most of the surface is convex except for the stem. This size is great for forming cut clay circles into domes for two halves of a lentil bead.
The standard size bulb is good for larger lentils, but the depth of the contour is not as great as the little bulbs.
I also use medium and large flood bulbs for a gentle curve for things like brooches or pendants.
10 years ago, I made my living room window treatments using a large flood bulb as the base for a clay piece that was attached on the back to a cabinet knob. Here's an old page from my designer portfolio:
Finally, the long bulb is useful for creating a tube or half cylinder shape in a clay. And the small, christmas type bulbs are useful for their curves and as armature for sculptures.
My other often used trash item is the paper backing from a roll of stamps. It is a great thing to have on hand for wrapping around a form which will be covered with clay, such as a wooden cylinder, can, or shape cutter.
Yes, that is a polymer clay stamp holder that sits on my desk. Two closed ended cylinders each with a slit in the side nest and hold my stamps at the ready. When I get 6 to 8 inches of empty paper strip, I roll it up and tuck it into an empty film canister that sits on my work table (another saved trash item, but I don't use film anymore, so that shows you how long I've been doing this!)
Anyway, you can use plain paper as a release layer between clay and a form or two layers, but I like the stamp paper best because with the smooth, plastic-y surface on one side, the clay sticks to it better than plain paper. It is usually necessary to have the clay adhere tightly to whatever you are doing before baking. And it peels of easily after baking.
At the Bead and Button Show, or in any class I teach, I like to tell stories while I'm demonstrating. I talk about my experiences, my work and where it comes from, as well as funny things that have happened in my family related to my art over the past 20+ years.
Often when I teach classes using my collection of leaf molds, I tell what kind of leaf it is, where it came from, etc. One of my favorite leaves are rose leaves like the ones in the two pins shown here.
When my husband and I were visiting a winery in Greve, Italy on our recent trip to Italy celebrating our 25th anniversary, I noticed a miniature rose bush in the landscaping. I picked one tiny leaf and tucked it into my wallet to mold it when I got home. I haven't had time to make anything with the mold yet, but it will make a great story, don't you agree?
Stories are important because they connect us to the work, and through the work to each other. I remind my students that if they are developing work for sale, to find ways to tell their stories. I learned the importance of the story years ago when I taught a series of classes at a nearby Stamp/scrapbook store...
The series was a 3hour class on a different technique at the store once a month over several months. I did several techniques using my leaf molds. I pointed out one of the molds that was made from a marigold leaf. The special leaf came from a plant grown from seed by my son at preschool. My husband also planted a row of marigolds along our vegetable garden each year, so that year, my son's plant went on the end of the row. The hybrids were different, and it just so happened that my son's plant grew twice as tall as all of daddy's... of course! I preserved this story in my leaf mold and remember it each time I used that mold. (that son is now 16! time flies, but my mold is still effective--bake & bend is great!)
Now, for the lesson on the importance of the story: one of the students in my stamp store class listened to the story and at the end of class, bought one of my samples that was made with the marigold mold. She was touched by the story and it increased my sales.
AND...the next month, I was teaching a different technique, but again using leaf molds. That student re-told the story for me to another woman who hadn't attended the previous class. And I made another sale of a sample made with that mold!
When you make things for friends and family, share the story with them about making the piece along with the gift. If you sell some of your work, perhaps at a craft show, tell your stories. If you sell through a local shop, make sure to get to know the sales personnel so that they can talk about you and your work. And think about creative ways to include your stories on hang tags or other marketing pieces.
When you clay with kids, show them how to express a story through their work. It will open a new world to a child. Our stories are what make art meaningful and desirable.
(On the right are the marigold and rose leaf in my faux wedgewood technique)
At the Bead & Button Show, here I am doing a demo during a class titled Mokume Gane at least 5 ways. We organized the different techniques according to two variables: 1: How and what comprises the clay "strata" (ex. solid vs. translucent layers, inclusions, etc) and 2: How the Strata is manipulated or textured and sliced. The students quickly grasped that the possibilities are much more than 5!
Several of the students were familiar with at least one method of Mokume Gane. But they were pleased to find so many variations to explore and expand upon their skills.
That's the ideal, I think. To take a class that takes you out of your comfort zone. The title of this blog comes from a returning student who I've gotten to know over the years. She takes a variety of classes in beadwork, wirework, and metals, but polymerclay is her main medium. So she told me that my classes were "In her comfort zone, with a nudge". She's not a beginner, so she's comfortable with clay, but she looks for a forward nudge into exploring and expanding her technique and skill.
Likewise, in a class called "Riveting polymer and metal clay" students expanded into new territory. Here's a couple student works from the class:
Most of the students in this class had not previously worked with metal clay. And most probably won't do so at home, but they were interested in the material and in learning the basics.
But getting into metal clay isn't necessary to make use of some of what the students learned. As we discussed in class, the same principles of construction and technique using riveted cold connections putting metal and polymer together can be applied when using purchased metal components instead. So that nudge out of the comfort zone doesn't have to be a leap over the ledge into a whole new medium. It can be an experience with a new medium that can be applied to what you are already comfortable with.
Unpacked! Is it a law of physics that it takes 3 times as long to pack as unpack?
All my tools and supplies are back in their places in the studio. The suitcase that weighed at least 75 lbs. this morning is now empty and put away. It really only took an hour or so to put it all away. Why do I take several days of planning and packing before a clay event?
Last week was the Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee WI. The show is the largest consumer bead show in the U. S. and has the most education in the week prior to and during the show of any bead event. This is the 10th year I've attended the show as a teacher. As usual, I had a blast, sharing polymer joy with students! It was a week of long days as I taught 7 classes in 4 days and came home Saturday (a wedding at home took precedence over more shopping time). But I always have a good time at the show, and thanks so much to all my students, especially those who have come back year after year for more polymer!
Here's a few shots of industrious students hard at work:
And finally, here I am helping a student with the metal clay portion of a project that included making a textured piece to solder to a bead frame and fill with polymer clay in a faux stone effect.
My most gracious thanks to Polyform for the clay that these students used in class, and to Iris, for her able assistance and oven monitoring!!
If you've never been to the show, check it out for next year. Hope to see you there!