Friday, August 31, 2012

"Upcycled Magic" Plastic Earrings

A couple of years ago, I started blogging about #6 plastic, and how it can be shrunk in the oven to make really neat earrings. Since I started, there are a few things I've learned about this stuff.

The lids and containers these are made from: The way those were made in the first place is by being stretched into gigantic, thin sheets. The material reacts on memory. So when you shrink it again, it wants to reverse in the same direction.
That's why I get some rectangles that come out longer, and some wider. This can make it very difficult to control. And, as in the case of earrings where I'm wanting matching pairs, somewhat frustrating. I will get a better yield if I keep adjacent pieces from the same sheets, that were cut in the same direction, together.

Safety: Shrinking this plastic without use of proper ventilation may be very harmful! Where I used to live, the exhaust on my oven was very effective at venting any fumes outside. Once, I thought using a toaster oven might provide a more even heat source or something-but the fumes had no vent! It was horrible. I had to turn on a bunch of fans and get out of the house. So please, if you must use a toaster oven, set it up outside.

Other notes: It would be fun if we could cut out other shapes, like letters, or triangles, swirls. Of course you could try that, but I've found that more corners or angles tend to curl up when they shrink. Once my brother and I cut a #6 plastic foggy-type drinking cup. A piece of the curved side. It shrunk to a white, curled up piece like a thick tortillion or a seashell.

If you need more details on this home-made shrinky dink, see this old post-I'm sorry about the missing pictures, please forgive me =(

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Progressing In Polymer Clay

    Two years ago this month, I started experimenting with polymer clay. I was fascinated by the things I saw people making with it, and all I knew was that I wanted to do it too! As a jewelry artisan who does not bead-weave or wire wrap, I was really tired of the limited selection of mass-produced beads and pendants. I needed to design my own. The only thing I regret is not having discovered this wonderful medium a long time ago.

    Since 2010, I've slowly gathered different tools and materials, learned a few popular techniques, and had lots of trial and error. I'm still a beginner in the grand scheme of things, and I love it. All day I see things that inspire ideas in some shape or form, and I can't wait to get back to my clay station.

I've practiced at a wee bit of everything. Here is a list of some of my favorite techniques and materials so far:


    The first lesson is, let your canes rest and cool before reducing, and reduce slowly. I learned this the hard way. Phase out Sculpey III, it's too soft. Some tools and equipment that are imperative are: pasta machine and tissue blades. Some that are really helpful but not as imperative are: brayer, shape cutters, and extruder gun. The extra tools (and patience) are the ones that will help make your work look more clean and precise. I still need to get shape cutters and a brayer.

    Choose highly contrasting colors for caning. Slice thinly and consistently, keeping in mind the "spread factor" when the slices are flattened. Don't be afraid of waste, with polymer clay there is no waste. I should follow my own advice here, my problem is not wanting to run out of specific colors. Then I have to drive in rush hour traffic, screaming out the window, "I need RED damnit, RED!!" That's normal, right?

Alcohol Inks

     Alcohol inks like Tim Holtz Ranger Inks or Pinata are great for tinting polymer clay or creating cool effects. Personally, my favorite thing to do with them is dye my own pearl and mica clays-so I have a wider variety of metallic colors. I love combining different pearl colors for mokume gane and mica shift. Oh, and that's another reason that I prefer rubbing alcohol and coffee filters over baby wipes, since these inks need to be cleaned up with it anyway. The alcohol is a lot more thorough at cleaning my hands between colors (even without inks) and the filters are more cost effective.

 I like pearls for general sculpting too:

This last one is pretty simple, but still worth mention. "Backfilling" with acrylic paints to make a texture pop. I'm not sure if that's the correct term, but hey. You paint on your cured piece, filling in the cracks, and then quickly wipe the paint off the raised surface with a damp filter. You'll want to have tested the paint beforehand, for compatibility. Most acrylic paints will work, but you may find one that refuses to dry-like, ever. 

Pieces like these that have a surface pigment can't be sanded and buffed (for obvious reasons), and need some kind of sealant. I use a Varathane brand water based polyurethane gloss. (Avoid Sculpey glaze that comes in the little jar, it's garbage) Future floor polish is popular. I have yet to sand and buff my pieces, but from what I understand, no varnish known to man will produce the glassy shine that you get from sanding and buffing. Guess that's next on my list...

Well, that's all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed my little article-since my posts are so few and far between these days, I'd better try to make them worth the read.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's Not Painted On-It's Cane Work!

You've seen it on many things, from beads, to vases and beautiful jewelry boxes. Intricate and repeating patterns that look like they were meticulously painted onto a surface. Meticulous, they certainly are, but not painted. When you understand how polymer clay canes are made, you acquire a whole new appreciation for the amazing results.
Polymer clay canes are made by arranging and stacking clay in different colors so that a certain pattern or image will appear every time it is sliced. If you imagine making a rainbow cake that consists of five layers, each layer a different color, the concept is easy to understand. Every slice of the cake will have the same pattern.
Canes can be made for simple spiral, or "jellyroll" patterns, or as intricate as flowers and faces. Renaissance Gal of San Antonio created this mime cane that I absolutely adore:
From the example above, you can see how canes like that are made in several stages. A cane for the mouth, eyes, nose, etc. are made separately and then combined to form one log. The images are large at the beginning, and then the cane can be "reduced." That's the process of gentle stretching and pulling that reduces the cane to a smaller scale.
I have drawn a diagram that demonstrates the basic steps in one of the simplest kinds of cane, the leaf:
It begins with one cylindrical "plug" of clay, which is cut and inserted with a sheet of another clay color, represented by the blue. This is done three times until in step B, when a fourth sheet is added, that half of the cylinder is flipped over before putting the pieces back together. Now the blue lines converge. In step C, a final wrap of the whole log is made. This log can now be pinched along the top to change the round shape into a leafier one. My tutorial for making a leaf cane is here. Now, every time this log is sliced, this leaf will appear:
Here are some earrings I made from slices of my first, somewhat floral, cane:
So now you know the details behind these intricate patterns in polymer clay. Cane work takes a lot of practice and patience to master. There are other special techniques that produce interesting pattens too, that also appear "painted." Mokume Gane is one with many variations and striking effects.
I made the above bracelet using the polymer clay mokume gane technique. This is a good method for artisans like myself who are still struggling with caning.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more of my creations, please check out Ecclectic LadyLand on Facebook or visit my jewelry shop on Artfire.
Cheers =D