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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Birthday Giveaway

I announced a while back that I would be doing a new year giveaway.  I decided to start it today, as it's my birthday!
Most of the responses I got from my initial post about what to give away (here) preferred the first heart so that is the one I'm giving away.
The heart is made from dark red polymer clay, partly overlaid with pink and silver polymer clay. I've made this by laying metal leaf onto pink clay and rolling it to crack the metal surface.
It's strung on a rubber cord necklace approx 17inches long with a 1.5inch extender chain.  
I will announce the winner on Valentine's day - seems appropriate - 14th Feb, in two weeks.
All you need to do is comment here on this blog post.  Make sure I can contact you if you win.  The latest time to enter will be 8am on the 14th. (UK time)
I'll choose the winner using a random number generator.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A Monthly Make - January, part two

I've got the canes and beads made, and have just baked them.  It will take me a day or two to get them tumbled - sanded and buffed, so I won't get anything made with them until sometime next week.
So I've decided to use the beads as my January make.  I won't use the jewellery as February's make, I'll do something else from scratch.  I have photos of some of the canes and the beads before they were baked and I will blog again when I make them up into jewellery.  Unfortunately I forgot to photograph all the canes before I made them up into more complex canes.  I made a series of simple jellyroll canes using various combinations of the colour palette, then combined them into several bigger canes.

I've used up most of the canes making these and have saved the leftovers for possible future use.  I managed not to produce a great deal of scrap clay - I must be getting better at this!

Friday, 28 January 2011

A Monthly Make 2011 - January, part one.

If you look down the right side of this blog you will see a badge that says A Monthly Make 2011. It's being organised by The Felt Fairy.
I only found out about this a week or so ago and it's nearly the end of January, so I need to get a move on!
I made a start today, and mixed some colours of polymer clay.  I plan to make a set of different canes with the colours, and use them to make some jewellery.  I make jewellery anyway so it feels like a bit of a cheat to use it for my monthly make, but I haven't had time to think of anything different.  I will try to make something that isn't jewellery some months though! 
If you scroll down you will see my post about colour.  I still haven't found a way to print out my colour swatches from the Kuler website but I based my colours on one of them, taken from a photo of a coneflower/echinacea.

Over the weekend I'll post a photo of the beads I make, I don't know if I'll have the jewellery made before the end of the month but I'll try.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tumbling Polymer Clay Beads

I've been thinking for some time about getting a tumbler to sand and polish my polymer clay beads.  I've done some sanding by hand but soon realised that the amount of work involved to get good results is just too much for me.  So I've been varnishing beads without much, if any, sanding and I'm not entirely happy with the results.  The beads still look good but I know they could be better.
I did some research, and started a thread on the Folksy forum.  No one who answered me had a tumbler but it definitely confirmed that there is nothing better than thorough sanding to get a good finish.
I had a good look on the internet, some sites I already had bookmarked and some that were recommended by Folksy polyclayers.
I then searched for UK suppliers for tumblers.  There are several sites that sell tumblers for rock polishing, and a couple that sell them with a view to polishing and hardening metal jewellery.  I decided that the Lortane which was recommended by polymer clay users, though more expensive than others, was the best for my use.
I found one on Palmer Metals. It's tricky to find as putting 'tumbler' into their search function doesn't bring it up. You have to look in their precious metal clay tools section.
It is designed to hold up to 3lbs weight. It's certainly big enough for me.  If you use it for tumbling silver or copper jewellery components (which I intend to at some point) you use it with stainless steel shot which is quite heavy.  I've bought 500g, which sounds like a lot but it's heavy so isn't very much! It's expensive though so I didn't want to buy 1kg.   I'll only be tumbling small amounts of metal so I hope the 500g will be plenty.
The barrel is made of thick rubber which will muffle the noise when it's tumbling metal.  The motor is pretty quiet but I wouldn't want it in the room with me, it would get annoying.  I used it in my hallway and with the living room door shut I couldn't hear it.
  Here is the barrel filled with my beads and chopped up pieces of sandpaper.  I only had 3 grades prepared,  600, 800  and 1000 grade.  The lower the number the coarser the grade.  I have now got some 400 grade as well which I'll use next time.
I had to glue sheets of wet and dry sandpaper back to back then when dry cut it into small pieces. I'm not sure if the size matters, I'll have to go back to my research and check what was recommended! I'm also not sure if I had enough sandpaper in there.  To sand, you add water and a drop of washing up liquid and tumble starting with the coarser grade, working up to the very fine grade.  I tumbled for about 3 hours with each grade but I think it  needs as long as 6 or more hours for each grade to get a really good surface. I will be less impatient in future!  I was thinking of adding a sandpaper liner to the barrel as well but when I opened the barrel, most of the sandpaper was stuck round the edges of the barrel, so it maybe isn't worth bothering with that.  It's a very long winded process so would take a couple of days for me to get beads properly sanded but should be worth it.  I was pretty happy with the results. Here is one of the tutorials that I found really helpful - http://www.desiredcreations.com/howTo_TLTumbleSandPaper.htm

So the next phase is buffing.  Many people recommend buffing with a dremel or similar power tool, using a special buffing wheel made with fabric (I think calico or muslin is generally used). I don't have a dremel, and people did admit it's fiddly and can result sometimes in beads shooting across the room! It does however give stunning results.
I decided to try one method recommended for the tumbler which is using chamois leather.  I bought a chamois from Wilco for about 99p and cut it up into pieces to go into the barrel with the beads.  The other recommended material is denim and I saw on one website that someone had made a liner for the barrel from denim (they used white denim so as not to risk dye getting onto the beads)  I made a liner with the chamois, sewing it to some polyester wadding to give it body. It was easy to make, a strip sewn into a cylinder, and two circles for top and bottom.
I tumbled the beads all day and I'm pretty pleased with the results.  I plan to get some denim (maybe some old jeans from the charity shop) and try using that as well, to see if the results are any different.)
I've finished the beads off with a light coating of Renaissance wax to seal them and here they are.  Sorry the photos aren't better quality, they are a little blurry!

 Now to decide what to do with the beads!  The top beads will make a necklace and hopefully there will be enough to do a bracelet and/or earrings too.
The bottom beads were made to be spacers and I need to make some focals/pendants to go with them.
I'm glad I made the investment in the tumbler, though very time consuming it only takes a minute or two to set up and the tumbler is designed to work non stop so I can run it overnight, or while I'm out.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Colours - but no pictures, sorry.

I've been thinking a lot about colours.  I've read several blog posts by others and there have been forum topics on both Folksy and Artfire, about colour and trends.
Apparently the 'in' colour for 2011 is honeysuckle.  This provoked an interesting discussion on Artfire as many people, myself included, thought of honeysuckle as a yellow colour.  Someone, however, posted links and photos of gorgeous pink honeysuckle, and the colour described as honeysuckle is a very attractive pink.

Some time ago I discovered a website, part of Adobe,  http://kuler.adobe.com  This website helps you to create colour combinations either by picking the colours yourself or from photos/pictures you can upload, or fetch from sites like Flickr. You can also search and view other peoples' swatches.
I had forgotten all about it until I read another blog post about colour, which included a link to a site that made colour swatches from your uploaded photos.  I tried but failed to get it to upload any photos and was giving up in despair and about to try Google to see if there was an alternative when I remembered Kuler.
So this afternoon I whiled away a happy hour playing with it and saved some swatches from various photos on my computer.
I've just spent another fruitless half hour trying to find a way to reproduce these swatches. I was able to save them as files onto my computer, and I have tried every programme I have to open them, however they are 'Adobe Swatch Exchange Files' and nothing will open them.   I assumed that I could open them in Adobe programmes eg Illustrator but I can't!

So here is a link to my Kuler page if you are interested in seeing my swatches. I will continue to search for a way to print out my swatches, and maybe I will see if there is another similar programme somewhere that will let me do this and save the results in a format I can print from.
For now I will have to keep the computer open beside me as I play with clay to see if I can reproduce the colours... watch this space...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Help Me Choose a Giveaway Prize!

Around Christmas time I announced on Facebook that I'd do another giveaway after new year.  I've been making Valentine's hearts and have now finished some of them.  
I can't decide which one to give away so I'd like some help.  
They are all hung on rubber cord necklaces, approx 18inches long, using a pewter bail and each heart is between one and two inches long.

Please leave a comment saying which you would prefer and in a week or two I'll count up and see which is the most popular.  I've no idea what I'll do if no one votes, or if they all get the same number of votes - I'll cross that bridge if I come to it!  I'm aiming to hold the giveaway around my birthday at the end of January.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year - New Work

Happy New Year!  I don't make new year resolutions,  I don't want to set myself up for disappointment and feel like I've let myself down.
This year I just want to enjoy life and keep working. The last two months of 2010 were something of a low point for me, I was ill a lot of the time and did almost no work.  I don't feel too bad about that, I've reached a point now that I accept 'down time' as something I must get through and not let it turn into a spiral of depression and misery.  So I've had a lazy couple of months and am now feeling much better. 
I had a mixed start to the new year,  I got started on some hearts for Valentine's day and some matching beads but then had a horrendous migraine so had to stop work yesterday. A reminder to take it slowly!
Here is a (not very good, sorry) photo of the latest work waiting to be baked.  I'm going to make some more and fill up the trays before I bake so it will probably be next week before any of these become finished items to list on Artfire and Folksy.  
I conditioned a thin sheet of clay and covered it with silver metal leaf (not real silver). Then I placed a sheet of cling film over it and rolled it through the pasta machine at a thinner setting.  This cracks the silver leaf and presses it into the clay.  This can then be cut and applied over clay heart and bead shapes.  I still have some of the silvered clay so will make some more hearts and beads.  When the craft shop opens I must buy some more metal leaf, in copper and maybe gold colours.  I really like the effect and it is similar to the technique for doing faux dichroic. 
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