Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Did! OOHHH! What I Did!

OK. So I was having a great week. I was playing great tennis (for me) on Monday. Something that hasn't happened for awhile. I finished my mosaic cane and I liked they was she came out. I took pictures and posted to my blog. I was getting great feedback. (thanks for all the nice comments) I got an email that they were going to be putting me up on Polymer Clay Daily. I was thrilled. I'll admit it - I am a media whore. I love the attention. I am the "Bubble Boy" of polymer clay. I check my stat counter several times a day to see how many people have visited my site. My head swells so much I have to duck walking into rooms. I know I am the "next big thing in polymer clay". I think to myself "people will spend hundreds of dollars (well make that tens of dollars) to see me do a video. INSERT LIGHT BULB HERE! A brilliant idea. People love my blog. I'll add a video of me taking a slice off my mosaic cane.
So now I have this great idea just how am I going to take a slice of this mother of a cane. I am not very good at slicing canes. Most of the time it doesn't matter for what I am doing. When I am using some of my face cane slices I usually cut fairly thick slices because I have to do some tweaking to the cane. You know - pull up a droopy mouth or eyebrow. Fill in a gap etc. So I know I am going to have to take a thick slice off my mosaic cane. Too often in times past I have tried to get more use out of my canes by slicing thin. Well as I said I am not a great cane slicer and very often I end up screwing up the "thin" slice and wasting more of the cane. So I have this cane that is approx 5 X 8 X 2 inches. The first thing I did was add a layer of translucent around the entire cane. One reason is so that I can take a thicker slice and not use as much of the actual cane. Later I found a better reason and that was the all the little extruded pieces wanted to fall apart and I was glad that I had a layer of translucent to help hold them together. But I get ahead of myself.
I decide I need to make some sort of contraption to help me take this slice. I take a trip to Hobby Lobby to see what I can find there. I purchase some foam core, wood slats, and an acrylic ruler. My brilliant plan is to cut out the shape of my cane into the foam core. I can make several of these and stack them up to help support the cane while I slice. Picture in your mind a several picture frames stacked up with the cane in the middle. Then I used the wood slats on either side of the cane to get to the right height for slicing and offering support for my blade. Ah the blade. Here was the first problem with my plan. My cane is over 5 inches wide and so is my blade. There just wasn't enough blade to hold on to. I thought it over. I could try to reduce the cane just a little or add handles to the blade. (of course option 3 would have been to search for a longer blade but I didn't even know if any existed and besides I was on a roll. You know I was "the next best thing in polymer clay" the world couldn't wait.) Now when I reduce a cane I add a lot of scrap clay and beat the heck out of it. There is always more waste each time you stop to take a slice and then restart the reduction. Now since I have decided that I was going to reduce the cane (how much still isn't decided) I really didn't want to start and stop just for one slice. Besides I was TNBTIPC. (think about it it will come to you!) So I decide to bake on some handles to hold the blade.
Now I have the holes cut out of the foam. I have the wood pieces in place. Lastly I put an acrylic ruler on either side of the cane so that my blade will slide easily across the ruler to make this precise slice. I have the whole thing clamped down. I am ready to go! Since I am TNBTIPC I get my camera ready to record the "slicing event". INSERT DRUM ROLL HERE!
Well as for what happened next...let's just say you don't see a video posted do ya? Oh I set it up and recorded TNBTIPC describing my slicing contraption. I even move everything into the spare bedroom so that the video won't show my trashy work room in the background. I put the camera on a tripod and get ready to make history. I start to make the first incision. Incision? Ha? I laugh at the comparison to a surgical procedure. I have to start and stop the video several times while I make adjustments. Taking out some wood pieces adding back foam core pieces. Well it was not going well! I decide to turn off the camera. (maybe I was getting nervous) So I start to make the slice and I am finally making some headway. So I decide to turn the camera back on. Big mistake. Since I had stopped the slice the blade was stuck in mid-slice and I didn't have that "free flow" of the blade. I don't know how to describe it but if you have ever sliced canes you should know what I am talking about. Oh yes and I should mention my brilliant idea of the handles...not so much! There just wasn't enough of the blade to hold on to and they kept falling off. At this point the camera gets shut off for good and what can only be described as a hatchet job ensues. Cleaner cuts were made on "The Texas Chain Massacre". The blade bent. There were gouges made. The term "uniform slice" never was spoken. The extruded slices were coming apart. As I said earlier this is where I was glad I had put a layer of translucent on first because it helped hold the hatchet job together. When it was over I had a slice of my three weeks to build mosaic cane. It varied in thickness from about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. And I am not talking about a gradual increase in size. There were hills and valleys and gouges galore. I took a deep breath and very carefully proceeded to take small slices off the main slice and using them back on the remaining cane to fill up holes. By the time I was done I finally had my slice (albeit a honking big slice) and a cane that was about 1 1/2 inches thick. This is not a lot to work with but I am going to try to reduce that. I have it there waiting for me but I wanted to get this posted first just in case it comes out even worse. I think I am more nervous about this reduction than I have ever been.
OK so this is the end of my ramblings. If you are still reading I thank you for sticking by me. I guess I am not TNBTIPC but just someone learning and sharing what I know about polymer clay.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What to do? What to do?

Here are some pictures of my latest face cane. As you can imagine it was quite tedious to make but I am really happy with the way it turned out. It only took about three weeks to finish. It took quite a lot of planning. As you may have guessed I used an extruder. Over and over and over and over...... The finished cane is 5.5 X 8 X 2 and weighs just under 4 pounds. Now I have to decide what to do next. I really want to take a slice off of it at its current size. Not an easy thing to do. Plus the more I take off of its height the less I have to work with and the harder it will be to reduce. So then I have to ask what I want the end result to be. I could reduce it and make jewelry out of it or leave it large, see how many slices I can get out of it and make wall art. Maybe both? Decision! Decisions! Of course there is no greater fear than to put that much work into a cane and either screw up the reduction or take the reduction too far and lose the effect or the details. I am also worried about the gaps between the mosaics. Of course I tried to eliminate them as much as possible but I know that there are gaps. Stay tuned to find out what I end up doing next.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Queen City Clayers

Well we had our Queen City Clayers meeting here in Charlotte last Sat and I taught my poinsettia cane. I believe a good time was had by all. We had hoped for a contingent from Asheville to come to our meeting but unfortunately they had about a foot of snow dumped on them and they couldn't make it. Here in Charlotte the roads were clear so we pressed on without them. I promise to teach them at a later time if they want me to. Now even though I approached the cane as a tutorial and took pictures I had never really "taught" it before and I learned some things along the way. Since many have read the tutorial (and I thank all of those who took the time to leave such nice comments!) I thought I'd pass on a few more tips.

1) OK I know we all have our clay preferences. But really if you are going to cane I would have to suggest that you use Kato clay. Or a least combine Kato with Premo. I know Premo is easier to get at Michael's and A. C. Moore but several brought Premo and to be honest I just don't see how you use it for caning. I think they all get sick of hearing me call it MOOSH! (a new claying technical term) Yes it easier to condition (that's because it's moosh!) Yes it comes in more colors. But really if you are conditioning the clay anyway how much harder is it to add colors together. And trust me the time you spend conditioning is worth it if you canes maintain their shape after all the work you have done! Now to those Premo lovers out there I must confess that I am using Premo more and more. I use it often to back my pieces or when making beads and other stuff. I know there are people who cane with Premo. Kathleen Dustin (who I consider one of the greates polymer clay artists out there) canes with Premo. I would have to bet she leeches tfirst and this takes time when teaching and trying to get something finished in 3-4 hours. CLUMP!!! What's that you ask? That's the sound of me getting off my soapbox!

2) There seemed to be some confusion when it came to assembling the half petal shape. I have a posted a picture which I hope helps explain the process. Cut all of the reduced cane into about nine segments. Start with the smallest piece. put the next largest segment next to it with the flattened side facing the same way. Stack the remaining segments in the same way. I hope this helps.

Well that's enough on the poinsettia cane. You can see pictures from our meeting if you visit our blog I hope you all enjoyed the tutorial and I'd love to see pictures if any of you made your own canes.I am going back to work on my latest project. I have already worked on it for a week and I'd guess I am about one third of the way finished.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

poinsettia part 5

OK so now you have your completed cane. Now what? Well I will now show you how I finished off some pendants. First I made a Skinner blend that went from dark blue to light blue. I kept the blend thin (3 - 4 inches from darkest to lightest) I cut off a portion of the blend and wrapped gold foil around both sides. I then ran this thru the past machine several times to work the foil into the clay. (remember to maintain the skinner blend) The first ones I made taught me a few things not to do on the next ones.
First I made my slices too thick. Polymer clay artist Lynne Ann Swartzenberg says she can get a ridiculous amount to slices off an inch cane. I can see now why that is important. My first slices were too thick and they kinda got smooshy when I applied them to the background. Thinner also keeps you from getting bumps where the canes are applied.
Second The first ones I surrounded with scrap clay before rolling in. Later I decided this wasn't necessary.
You can see that I added some poinsettia leaves and holly leaves and berries. I didn't go over how to make them but if you search the net you can find many tutorials on making leaves. One thing I did try with the holly leaves was reducing them with play dough. This worked well for maintaining their shape. I didn't slice them until they were reduced and I didn't take the time to soak off the play dough which I should have done. Oh well it's all about learning.
I used the completed sheets to make pendants/pins.

TRICK - since I didn't soak off the play dough and some slices were too thick I was having a little problem getting the slices completely integrated into the background. There was a persistent groove around some of the slices. I discovered that if I put a thin coating of liquid polymer it filled in these grooves and made the sanding go much smoother. For some reason I couldn't quite get a super shine on them but I was happy with the look (and the less sanding).

I have also posted some photos of some dimensional pendants that I made with the canes too. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that you all have a very Merry Christmas.