Saturday, June 27, 2009

June Challenge for the Art Fire Artisan Jeweler Guild

I've entered another challenge with our Art Fire Artisan Jeweler Guild and this month the theme is in celebration of the beginning of summer.  There are many talented artisan jewelers in our group as you can see by all of the entries.  That would be great if you can take a moment and visit our blog (click on the link above) where they are all posted and vote for your favorite one.  The poll closes at midnight June 30th.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mixing Colors

A lot of people are surprised when they see my work and discover they were not painted.  They have a difficult time understanding how it can be done without involving paint whatsoever and so each week I will share with you how this is done through various techniques I use.

This is what the clay I work with looks like.  They contain pure pigments and come in a variety of colors.

You can use these colors straight out of the package or mix your own.  I have my own "recipe" book for my clay so when I mix a color I like, I will bake a sample and glue it onto my "recipe" cards for future reference when I want to make that exact color again.  I have each recipe numbered -- on my card and my left-over mix stored in ziploc bags.

I create my color recipes by first making sheets of colored clays all in the same thickness.  I use a pasta machine for this and I can adjust the settings to whatever thickness I want.

I then use a tool like a cookie cutter to cut out my pieces.  For instance, recipe #12-3 calls for 2 parts Kato Ultra Blue and 1 part White.  I cut out 2 circles in the blue and 1 circle in the white. When I mix those together, I end up with the exact color I want.

I can then do a blend of colors.  For instance, I started with choosing my own mix of primary colors:

YELLOW (a nice golden yellow)
RED (I choose a magenta pink in this case)
BLUE (a turquoise shade)

For the project I was working on, I wanted a little more control over the secondary colors so I mixed up my own blends for those and now I have 6 colors that are all balanced.

I took a strip of each of those colors and placed them side by side (like in a rainbow) and ran them through my pasta machine several times and created this blend.

And this is what I created from the above blended colors.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will try to answer.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Introducing our "How we do it" Series

Since summer has arrived, we have been spending a lot of time outdoors and getting to know many of our great neighbors living around us.  One of our new neighbor friends was visiting the other day and I was showing her my work in the studio.  What surprised her the most was how much work was involved in making each piece and she thought that a lot of it was painted.

She then asked a question that made me stop and think.  She wondered if people who see my art really understand how much work goes into each item I make.   So that got me thinking of how I can share with you what goes into creating a piece.  I know that our work sells much easier when a person can actually hold it in their hands and touch and feel it or even try it on.  One cannot do that when buying over the internet (as in our Art Fire Studio) and they must rely on photographs only.  That is maybe why most of our customers are repeat ones as they already know first hand the quality of our work.

So I decided to post a series on our blog where once a week I will give you an insider's view of our studio and how our pieces are made right down to the finishing details, so hopefully you will come away with a better understanding of our techniques and the materials we use.  Tomorrow I will start by sharing with you how I arrive at the colors I use and eventually how it is possible to create the flowers on the pieces shown above without using a drop of paint.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shiny Bead Tutorial

I've had some people ask me how you can get shiny beads without having to sand and buff. There are finishes you can use like Future (an acrylic floor polish) or Varathane, both of which we have experimented with, but we still prefer to wet sand and buff (with a dremel) each piece by hand. 

Some pieces, however you cannot sand and buff so you need to use another method.  For instance, when you use mica powders or metalic leaf, you must seal them afterwards so they do not rub off. In these cases I prefer to use another method and that is sealing it with a liquid polymer clay.  I found with this method you need to use liquid Kato since you need a heat gun for the last stage and the other liquid clays (Fimo or Sculpey) will not work in the same way as they cannot take the high heat and do not go as crystal clear as the liquid Kato.  I've been busy making some signature beads to finish off some of our jewelry pieces so decided to use this method and show you the process at the same time.

First you form your beads -- whatever style or shape you prefer.  For the beads I'm making here, I have taken metallic colored clays and add a slice of our signature cane to each bead.  Pierce your holes in the beads.  I always make my holes (or at least a guide hole for drilling afterwards) before firing and in this case it will be easier to handle your beads for the finishing stages.

You can texture your beads if you like.  I like to add a design on the other half of our signature beads so while still on the piercing tool, I stamp it by pressing down with something smooth to flatten the bead slightly.  This changes the shape of my bead (which I like) and gives them a swirl pattern on the one side.

I generally stop at this point and bake my beads and sand and buff after firing but in this case, I decided to add some more detail.  I just use the tip of my finger and lightly dust some mica powders onto the raised area of the beads to make the swirl stand out more.  I then bake these beads for 20-30 minutes at 250 F to set the mica powders.

After the beads have cooled, I lightly brush on a very thin coat of liquid Kato onto each bead.  The key word here is "thin".  You just want enough to coat the bead and mica powders but not more than that or they will drip.  Preheat your oven again but this time at 275 F and when hot, place your beads back in to bake for another 20-30 minutes.  You might want to place some tin foil over top as a tent to prevent your beads from burning.  I also place my bead rack onto a ceramic tile when baking for more even heating and for the final stage after they are baked.

before the heat gun                               after the heat gun

When the beads come out of the oven they can look a little dull (see the left photo).  That is where the heat gun comes in.  I just take the heat gun and while the beads are still hot, just flash over them for a few seconds (turning to get all sides) until they go shiny.  Make sure the beads are over a ceramic tile to protect your table surface from the heat gun.  The photo on the right shows the beads after the heat gun process but they don't show up too well in this photo so here they are finished.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More work completed

We are making progress on our yard -- one of the reasons I'm not getting too much claying done these days -- This is our cute little "plastic" shed we put together.  Took 3 of us to build over a day and a half.  We still had a bag of screws left over -- hmm I wonder if that was a good thing?  It is cute though and looks like a playhouse!

I finally got back to my clay yesterday and working on a couple more tutorials in between.  Will hopefully have them done in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clay it Again did it again!  She not only passed on the Beautiful Blogger Award to us she did an interview of myself (2goodclaymates) on her blog.  If you want to read more about us, feel free to check it out.  Cindi has a great blog herself with even some recipes.  Check out her World Famous Tacos -- yumm!

We have been featured as well (that is our Polymer Clay Smooshers Guild that is) in Hand Made News.  Thanks to Star (Coltpixy), our guildmaster who did a wonderful interview on all of our behalf.  She has been doing a great job and thanks to her our guild is very active and having a real great time with lots of fun and activities.  If you play with polymer clay and sell on Art Fire (a verified member that is) you may want to join in!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

We have been so overwelmed lately with so much going on -- building our deck. gardening, patio blocks, collecting rocks for our rock garden and dry riverbed at the front of our house, organizing all the jewelry to sell at the art festival next month, finishing off my pieces I entered into the art festival, household chores in between.  To top it all off we are not use to the extreme heat we've had and so we just don't get as much done in a day as we would like.  Not that we are complaining about the warm weather -- since that is why we moved here -- we wanted to get away from all the rain and lack of sunshine on the coast.  But I'm sure once things are a little more settled we will get our sanity back!

When we received this award from Coltpixy last week, I was too busy and exhausted to do anything about it.  But now we received it a second time, this time from Clay It Again, I figured I'd better not put it off any longer.  Thanks to both of you by the way.

Sooo, here is what we are to do when we receive this award:

1.  Accept the award
2. Post it on your blog together with the name of the person (or persons) who has granted the award, along with their blog link.
3. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.   (And don't forget to contact them that they have been chosen for this award.)

I will list 15 of my favorite blogs here that I've discovered lately.  Most are due to joining several guilds since selling through Art Fire.  Not all of them have to do with polymer clay but I do find them interesting and hope you will too.  Unfortunately, some of them may have already received this award but I didn't see in the rules they couldn't receive it more than once!

Col's Creations    --  I discovered this blog through Moe, one of my favorite polymer clay and blogger friends.
Sassy Clay Creations  --  Dori is a member of the Polymer Clay Smooshers that I joined and I don't think she received this award yet.
Softflexgirl  --  I just discovered this blog the other day by linking through other bloggers.  This one is definitely worth checking out -- especially if you are in to beading.
Bead Beauty Boutique  --  I came across this blog when shopping around in Art Fire for jewelry supplies and noticed he sells beautiful watch faces and other neat findings.  His blog is great to follow as well with tutorials.

All Wired Up Too  --  I discovered Dee's blog through joining the Art Fire Artisan Jeweler Guild.  She does awesome wire work and jewelry creations.

Other blogs of members from the Art Fire Artisan Jeweler Guild:

Cyndie Smith Designs  --  The metal jewelry she creates is just stunning!
The Beaded Bauble -- She creates jewelry with my two favorite stones -- crystals and pearls!
Simply Unique Jewelry  --  This artist creates beautiful jewelry but also shares interesting info and recipes that are gluten-free.
Filed Fingers  --  I love how she shows how she made her gorgeous filigree heart pendant!
Unique You  --  She creates beautiful beadwork.
Willow Walker Designs  --  She creates beautifull dichroic fused glass and jewelry.
Silver River Jewelry  --  unique jewelry with wire wrapping and metal smithing.
Brass monkey Originals  --  Check out her cool jewelry pieces made from acorns and her faces done in polymer clay -- they are hilarious!
Ali Bali Jewellery  --  Alison from the United Kingdom makes contemporary silver jewelry.

And last but not least
Wickwire Jewelry  --  Her Victorian Key Pendant is incredible!

Whew!  That was a bit of work but all of the above are definitely worth a visit to see what they are all about.

Have fun!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2 Tut Clay Mats

It was such a busy weekend with all the building that went on but our grandson and I managed to squeeze some time in to clay together.  

He is interested in ancient Egypt and thought it would be cool to see how our name would be spelled in hieroglyphics.  We researched it on the internet and copied the images into clay and placed them on some clay tiles we made together.  So if we were in business 4000 years ago, this would be 2 Good Claymates in Egyptian:

Imagine carrying that business card in your wallet!!  lol

Alec also wanted a beaded necklace so I helped him make all the beads and texture them.  He then strung them into the necklace he is wearing.  He did an excellent job on his beads -- and this was his first time ever. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Our New Little Friends ?

It's been pretty hot here these days -- (30 C / 90 F) and is getting hotter.  Hard to clay or do too much except in early mornings or evenings.  We were sitting outside last night trying to cool off when we saw some heads popping up among the rocks on the mountain across the street from our house. I snuck up a little closer with my camera to get some pics of the mama marmot and her 4 little babies.  They are so cute!  Maybe they won't be so cute when they eat up our garden!   We love the wildlife and nature here.  It is such a peaceful place to live.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Winners for May Challenges

I'm happy to announce the winners for the two challenges I entered.  First off, Into the Dawn Designs won for the Yellow challenge with the Polymer Clay Smooshers.  I just loved her Swirly Summer Sun Brooch.  The winner gets to pick what next month's challenge will be.

I won the Artisan Jewelers Guild Cinco de Mayo Challenge.  I had a lot of fun putting this necklace together.  I made the rock (the one that floats) first that I was originally going to use in the Festival of the Arts show this July, but Dave suggested I enter the coffee table I was working on instead (along with several other jewelry pieces).  So I decided this rock with the gecko on it fit in perfectly with the Cinco de Mayo theme.  The necklace is made up of polymer clay beads (the imitation rock and green marbled), fresh water pearls, Czech fire-polished crystals and sponge coral.  The clasp is another polymer clay rock bead with a barrel clasp hidden inside.  You can see more photos of it on Flickr.