Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Mommy and May" or" How I Learned to Love the Extruder Again"

For my latest project I am going to do another portrait.  This time it is of a friend and and her new born baby, May.  I have been wanting to do a duo portrait and since my children haven't given me any grand children (although I remain hopeful) I had to borrow from my good friend.  I think the photographer (I have her permission to use this photo) did a wonderful job and I knew when I saw it that I wanted to see if I could capture this in clay.  

For this project I knew I wanted to go back to the extruder.  I would need around 4000 pieces to complete this picture.   Today's post is all about the czextruder.  This is the new extruder that comes from Lucy tools in the Czech Republic.  Here is a link for the site in Europe.Lucy Tools.   The distributor here in the USA is Kimi's jewelry and gifts.

I bought an extruder from Kim quite awhile ago.  To tell you the truth I didn't love it.  I had put it aside and pulled out my handy green makins if I needed anything extruded.  My last portrait of my son Kevin wasn't extruded but I planned on using the extruder for my latest portrait.  I knew I was going to be cranking out a lot of extruded pieces I thought I'd give  Lucy's another try.  I am glad I did.  I had much better results this time and I owe it all to this little jar of lubricant.

Now it's been a while since lubricant gave me such pleasure, but that's not a story for this blog.  How can lubricant be so great in this instance is that it makes the czextruder work like it's suppose to.  When I first tried the extruder I found three major problems.
  1. It was very hard to hold in your hand.  I tried putting it into a vise but I was afraid I was bending the barrel.
  2. When I tried using the drill with it, the end cap got very hot and I had to work the drill very slowly.
  3. While using the crank I found that the end cap would tighten up to the barrel so much that I had to use pliers to get the cap off.  And I times I was afraid it wouldn't come off at all.
As I said I had purchased my extruder from Kim.  I also bought the conversion from the T-handle to the crank handle.  Kim knew of my massive extruded projects and also included the newer model.  Now to be honest I never figured out which is the newer model but I knew I had both a crank type and a T-handle version.  The crank version is the one that kept getting the end cap stuck so I haven't tried it again.  But I did give my pink T-handled extruder a try.  Armed with the small jar of lubricant (I applied some lubricant to the long screw shaft of the extruder) and another important addition -  the extruder vise, I gave it another go.

I frankly don't see how you could use the extruder without this little clamp.  I just screwed mine into a piece of wood and then clamped the wood to my work table.  I started out slowly using the T-handle to extrude my clay.  I then got brave and pulled out the drill.  SUCCESS!

I sometimes have to use my pliers to take the extruder off of the vise but it's not that hard.  The one thing I still don't like about the czextruder is that the "plunger" is a separate piece.  This means that you have to take the whole thing apart every time.  there are times that I may only want to extrude an inch or so of clay.  Well you can't just back up the extruder and inch and load the clay.  The plunger will not back up into the barrel since it is not attached.  Here is a picture of my extruder ( I have the larger one), my clay ready to go into the barrel, the separate plunger, the T-handle and the other item I recommend purchasing, the cleaning brush.

To help clarify here is a picture of the crank handle version.

Now I need to get back to work on my portrait.  Here are some of the containers that I have filled with slices taken from the extruded clay.  Wish me luck.....

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Labor of Love

Wow it's a good thing I didn't make a New Year's resolution to post more often to my blog. (insert smiley face)  It's amazing how fast time flies when you're having fun.  Today I'm going to talk about my latest project, it is a portrait of my son Kevin.  I started working on this way back in December and just now finally finished it and it's up on the wall.  The finished portrait is 3' x 4' tall.  I guess I made upwards of 100 different canes that went into this project.  The hardest part of this project was determining how many canes that I needed to make.

They're all black and white and shades of gray. Hmm. ....50 shades of gray times it was torturous ...but I also liked it....hmmm maybe there's a book here.

I created this project by first creating 12 in. Sq blocks of scrap clay that I created a bubbly surface on.  I then applied thin slices of my canes to match a photograph that was taken by my sister-in-law when Kevin was just a little tyke.  It is my favorite photograph that I have of him.

 If I'm ever to do another project or mosaic like this again I think I will prebake my squares rather than trying to put them on raw.  It was hard getting the 12 in.² blocks to match up as nicely as I would like them too.
Here are pictures I took along the way. There's also a final picture of Kevin standing near his portrait.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Ok apparently I can't do any better.  March 26th then August 11th and that was it for the year?  I am so sorry to keep y'all hanging.  So in addition to my yearly new year's resolution diet I vow to post more regularly in 2014.  Let's hope that last longer than my diet usually does. 
So what's been happening?  My "delft" class in Vegas went great.  I think Clay Carnival is going to be in August again next year. Donna has some teachers coming from Europe to show us what's happening over there.  I hope to be there as a student again.  I believe I "misplaced" some money and I have to go and get it back. (If I knew how to insert one of those smiley face guys I would!)
While I was in Vegas I able to take Diane Keeler's doll head class when I wasn't teaching.  I had a great time.  My head didn't even look like Benjamin Button.  I have been telling myself that I need to do another one.  My face has what I call a lobotomy scare across her head.  She had gotten a little dirty and when I added some more clay to her forehead there developed a line.  Oh well, as I tell my students the class is just a journey.  The end doesn't come right away.  I will try to get some photos of my head added to this post.
right now I have to tell you about an upcoming teaching gig that I have outside of Tampa, Fl.  That's right sunny, temperatures in the seventies, Florida.  I will be down at McKilliams studios on Jan 11 and 12.  I will be teaching my "Cathedral Window Framing Class".  Come join me!  If the temperature and Me isn't enough, Alice Stroppel will be teaching a class on Friday Jan 10.  She is teaching her pen and ink on polymer class.  She swears you don't have to be able to draw......We'll see.  If you want to know more about either class contact Contact Sammie Williams at

Here are some examples of what you might create in my class.  We will spend one day creating canes for our pendants.  I will teach how to reduce your canes down to "micro-cane" size.  I will give tips on reducing, combining canes, slicing and construction.  The second day we will create the frames and put them all together for your pendant. What a great way to start 2014.  Hope to see you there! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Playing With the Hand That Was "Delft" You

First off let me say....MARCH 26th !@#$#@  Come on Julie you can do better than this.  What have you been doing that keeps you away from your blog that ten's of people read?  Well quite a bit actually.  I've been to Toulouse, Dufort and Paris France.  (didn't see anyone's underpants) I've been to Washington DC with Meisha Barbee.  I've spent a marvelous week at a retreat in Virginia and next week I head to Las Vegas, Sin City, Clay Carnival to teach my class that gets its inspiration from delft pottery.  Most of you know what delft pottery is but if you don't it's that blue and white pottery that makes you think of tulips, wooden shoes and the boy with his finger in the dike.  Well that is what it makes me think of.  For the class I am under constraints of time and clay.  It is a four hour class and we will be using shades of blue and white. Here is the picture I sent Donna Kato for the class description.

It can be made using only one cane that you take slices from at different stages of the reduction.  In coming up with the class I made several blue and white canes using a fairly simple cane technique that I came up with while I was working on my Chuck Close portrait.  I decided I would try to challenge myself to see how many different ways I could use these blue and white canes.  Now I wish I could say that all of these projects are finished but remember who you are dealing with here.  Her last blog was March 26 for $#$% sake.

This necklace is mostly finished.  I have to add some beads and a clasp.  I am taking a findings class with Kathleen Dustin and hoping I can get some inspiration after the class.  The focal "bead" is done like my framed mosaic pieces but with a more simple cane slice in the center.  You can't see but the sides have cane slices too.  Now normally I would have put in on a cord and called it a day.  I think it is beautiful on its own.  I have some dear friends who have encouraged me to complete my necklaces with more beads (in order to make them more saleable) so that is what I have done here.....well....that is what I am going to do here.  Do you see my problem?  Maybe this is why I am not in the business to make money.  Or maybe that's why I am not making money. 

Here is another unfinished necklace.  After seeing posts about Melanie West's traveling necklace I thought I'd make some big shiny balls.  So I did.  Now what?  I put the three of them together on a cord.   Didn't like the way that looked.  Put in some spacer beads.  Better but still no good.  Then I decided I would try a multi-strand necklace.  Still playing around with that.  Of course I dropped one end and all of the small beads went flying when I was trying to set it up to photograph.  Taking this necklace with me to a retreat for more advice.  Please feel free to add some comments on what you think. 

I decided to make a few necklaces and pendants that might sell at Clay Carnival.  So if you are going be sure to stop by the store before you hit the slots!  These are more likely what I would wear....What can I say I am a casual girl.

As you can see I am getting quite a lot out of a few rather simple canes.  Well, simple when compared to my face canes.  I like bracelets so I did a couple of cuff bracelets.

Then I went way outside my box and made a  Actually I covered a ceramic box that I bought at Michaels.

Then I really blew the box up and made this piece (that really isn't anything yet because it has no holes or a pin back yet) that is a cross between an organic piece and a framed piece.

I have some earrings that I know you will be shocked to hear are not finished but they weren't even close enough to photograph.  I hope you forgive me (and I am talking to you, Barb D.) for being so late but that you have enjoyed my blue and white period.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

After The Ball

Synergy 3 is over.  The Ball is over. There were ups and downs at the ball.   I gave you a hint at the last post of what my my most recent cane was.  Did anyone guess Cinderella?  This was a doozy of a cane to build.  I'd say that there was at least 15 different canes that were made, reduced and then incorporated into the final cane.  I really wanted to get this cane finished prior to Synergy.  Unfortunately I didn't have much time to come up with some necklaces so I could have something to sell in the gallery.  I came up with this design.

 I created one for each of my fairy tale themed canes.  They included my little sayings for each.  Cinderella's says "As she sat lone in the ashes, the ball seemed a fading memory".  For Little Red Riding Hood "As you're pretty so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise".  "She looked into the beast's eyes and saw the beauty in his soul" goes with Beauty and the Beast.  I had time enough to finish four necklaces.  One of each with the sayings and one without that I donated to the auction.  I liked the way they came out but I guess I was the only one.  Or else I was delusional with my price point.  I felt like I was participating in  Project Runway and Heidi was questioning my taste level.  Of course when you are competing with sales with Kathleen Dustin and others I shouldn't have placed my hopes so high.  Oh well it was a reality check but then I had another possible disappointment. I had placed my auction piece to be included in the live auction.  By Friday I was getting into panic mode because I was afraid no one would bid on my piece.  Fortunately Tracy was a great auctioneer and some friends came thru and my piece sold at auction for close to $300.  Thank you to those who bid.  Again I take my hat off to those who sell their artwork.  Putting your heart into something and then feeling rejected can be tough.  This was the down part of the ball.  In the next post I will talk about the ups.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Barb, this is for you.

A friend of mine who is also a member of the Asheville guild always make a point of telling me she checks my blog everyday.  At first I thought she was just being nice and telling me she enjoys my blog.  It took me a while to catch on.  What she was really saying was "I check your blog every day.  Why don't you post more often you lazy @#$%^!"  Well maybe not that last part.  But she is right I don't post often enough.  But there is a reason.  I have been really busy getting ready of the up coming Synergy 3 in Atlanta.  As you know (if you are a frequent reader like Barb) I don't sell my wares too often but this is going to be one of those times.  In order to do that I need to have some wares to sell.  Being one to push the caning envelope I decided to make another cane with the fairy tale theme.  I also had an idea for a mosaic wall piece.  I have been working on these two creations for the past three weeks.  Sometime I wonder about me.  What was I thinking?  The mosaic is almost done and I have finished the cane.  I don't have any finished pieces made with the cane yet (Synergy is days away!) but I wanted to give you a preview/sneak peek of that cane.  There is also a picture of my wall mosaic during the process.