Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tutorial - Extruded Swirl Cane

A couple of weeks ago I was experimenting with my extruder and discovered a fun type cane that has a sort of yin yang pattern.  I then discovered that Sandy (Simple Inspirations) and Cara Hayman of Surfingcat were experimenting with something very similar around the same time.  I wonder if it was a full moon that week or what -- I like to think that it was just some great minds thinking a-like.

I redid my experiment and created this black and white pattern and put it in the form of a tutorial.

1.  Roll out 2 sheets of clay in contrasting colors on the #2 (second thickest) setting on your pasta machine.  Cut each sheet into a 3" x 3" square.

2.  Stack one sheet on top of the other and cut in half.

3. Stack the 2 pieces, cut in half and then stack again.  There should be 8 layers.

4. Form the stacked clay into a round log.

5. Roll the log and twist each end several times in opposite directions.

6.  If the log becomes too thin, manipulate and roll the log with your hands bringing them closer together so the log is about the same thickness that will fit into your extruder.  Trim each of the ends and cut your log in half.

7.  Insert one of the halves into your extruder with the small square die.

8.  Extrude the entire amount of clay.

9.  Trim each of the ends until you get a nice pattern inside.

10. Use these individually as a small cane or cut into sections and stack to create a larger cane.

11.  Here I sliced my stacked cane to create a veneer sheet.

12.  And here are some fun pieces ready to bake.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A New Tartan Plaid

I met a lady who was volunteering at the World Masters when we were there.  The tartan plaid jewelry we had on display had caught her eye and I explained to her how it was made.  She asked if I could make some pieces that would match her family's tartan and I was glad for the challenge.

She brought in a book with her family history and an old worn Scottish cap or tam.

This happened to be more of a challenge than I expected with the seven colors and larger pattern.  I explained how the lines tend to become a little crooked or wonky when reducing the tartan cane and she felt that would be okay as long as the colors were close and it was similar to the pattern.  I've been working on several methods of reducing the tartan canes without too much distortion and I found that packing it in extra clay (scrap) before reducing helped a fair bit.

I was quite pleased with the overall colors and decided to reduce the cane further so I could create more of a mirrored plaid pattern like in the cap.  By the time I was finished I still had a fair bit of cane to work with but I had a tone of "scrap clay" left over.  Of course when I say scrap clay that doesn't mean it gets thrown out but it can still be used in other ways.

Carol requested a bangle and a tartan "cloth" style pendant each for her and her sister and she was very pleased with how the finished products finally came out:



One of our neighbors popped in the other day while I was working on this set.  She was totally fascinated by it and asked if I could do something for her if she did some research to find out her family tartan.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Designs in Tomato Puree

I've been busy catching up with some custom orders to fill from our last show as well as finishing off and  listing some new pieces on Etsy and Art Fire.  My favorite color is the yellow-greens and when I'm working with my clay I have to occasionally remind myself that there are other colors in the rainbow.

I noticed we didn't have very much in red and so created some new pieces in the Pantone Spring 2010 color of Tomato Puree.  I combined it with  Fusion Coral and Pink Champagne which really softened the red for a nice romantic spring and summer combination.

Both of the pendants are on the ruby red softglass cords with Czech Fire-polished crystals.


I like to make all our own sterling and gold-filled earwires as I can create the earwire to suit the actual earring for the overall design.  I have much more control in the finished product this way.

I really like the new Pantone Spring colors this year and have had a lot of fun in combining them in many ways and have been happy with the results.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lend Me An Ear

Good photographs are so important when selling on the internet so I am always trying to improve them whenever I can.  My new lightbox has helped tremendously but I was in need of some good props for displaying my pieces.  I like to present a variety of photos of the item I am selling to show all the angles as well as how it would actually hang and help visualize the size and length.

I recently purchased this display which I thought would be perfect for showing off a choker style necklace as well as an earring.  I was sadly disappointed, however, when I discovered that there wasn't a single type of earring that would fit through the hole on the ear.  The hole was at the wrong angle and the "ear" was too thick for any ear wire to go through.  Since the display is made from plaster, drilling a larger hole was not an option.  The piece sat on my shelf for several months before I finally came up with an idea.

I took some photographs of the display.  I reprinted the picture in life-size on a heavy cardstock and punched a small hole in it.  I then placed my earring in the hole and photographed it again.


I like how it shows the proper size and length of the earring and it works for both dangle and post styles. I've learned that if something doesn't work just the way you want it to, it always helps to improvise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finishing Touches

Now that we have recovered from all the excitement of the World Masters it is time to catch up on the many things on my to do list.  I've been sorting through our latest pieces that still need finishing off and taking photos as they are completed.  There are so many ways to finish our pieces and so how do we decide?

When we look at a finished clay piece we like to feature it in it's best light.  Some of our pieces are purposely designed to hang on a nylon coated stainless cable.  We like how it causes you to focus on the bead or pendant and the cord is almost invisible.  We will try our pieces on a variety of colors to see which gives the best effect as in the ones in the photo shown below.

I cannot believe how light and comfortable the cables are.  I made one of these for myself and I had to keep checking to see if it was still in place.

I love making these stripe blends and have created bangles and beads for bracelets and earrings to match.

Another type of cord we like to use is the "softglass" which is like a rubber cord but has a silky look and feel to it.  You can see how they look with the variety of pendants below.

At times the cable or softglass cord just doesn't seem to fit with certain pieces.  I'm always scouting around for just the right materials.  I found these beautiful organza ribbons and a light bulb came on!  I pulled out my sewing machine and stitched some into cords and voila!  Soft, elegant and yet comfortable.

So how do we decide on what to use?  This part is generally a joint effort between Dave and I.  We sometimes create a prototype first and I will actually wear it to "test it out".  We will take note of how it fits or if it hangs properly.  Sometimes we are satisfied and other times we go back to the drawing board  if it needs any tweaking.  I have a drawer full of these prototypes that have become part of my wardrobe.  I must say my hubby has a keen sense for design and style and I tease him that he has a pretty "good" eye for a straight guy!  It is really great to work together like we do and bounce things back and forth.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Amparo Blue, Violet and Aurora

We are still recovering from our show we did at the World Masters last week.  We had no idea how much a 72 hour (8 days) long show can take out of you and we are feeling quite drained right now.

I thought I would show you some more of our new jewelry pieces.  The colors I used here are the Pantone Spring colors of Amparo Blue, Violet and Aurora (yellow).

Last week we had the opportunity to sell to such a cross section of people, we were keen to see how well our new spring collection would be accepted.  Needless to say, we are going to start making a lot more pieces right away.  I found these designs to be a lot of fun to make and I have many more color combinations I can't wait to try out.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

World Masters Finale!

What a great week we had!  Our show was such a success in so many ways.  We had such a fun and fantastic time meeting and talking with so many wonderful people.  For the last few days, they relocated the medal ceremonies over to our area so we were fortunate to share the experience as well.  We were even singing along with the many national anthems being played each time a gold medal was awarded.  It was very uplifting and such an emotional experience.

We kept a list of the many different countries of the athletes that made purchases from us . . .

Austria, Australia, Barbados, Bulgaria, Canada (5 provinces), China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine,
U.S. (7 states)

I feel like one of my favorite TV characters (Quark from Deep Space Nine ) where a little piece of me is being distributed around the globe -- but I didn't have to die first. lol !

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

5th Day at the World Masters

We had another exhausting yet fun day at the World Masters today.  This is Dave with Vybostok Vladimir from Slovakia holding the gold medal he won in the 60 meter dash.

This is me with Paul Reinhold from Germany.  He won the gold medal in the Javalin throw and it was his second world masters title.  He had just purchased something special for his wife, Angelica.

We are totally exhausted and plan to crash a little earlier this evening but I first have to make up a few things for some special orders to be picked up tomorrow.  This has been such an exciting event to sell at with so many wonderful people we have met and enjoyed visiting with.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

4th Day at the World Masters

Wow!  What another great day!  It was really exciting talking to more of the athletes today.  I asked one gentleman who was shopping for a gift to take home to his wife if he knew what type of jewelry she wears.  He told me they have been married for over 60 years and he knew exactly what she likes.  I thought that was so sweet and he looked quite young and energetic to be married that long!  He then told me he won several medals yesterday and one was his first gold.  He was quite excited and I think I was just as excited for him!

Dave and I took a couple of breaks to sneak away and watch some of the events.  We were both impressed by the excellent facilities at the University and how everything is so organized.  With so many people and different languages, it is amazing how everything seems to be running so smoothly (from our point of view, anyhow).

Today we sold to someone from Barbados -- he bought some of our handcrafted beads to take home to his sister who makes jewelry.  We also sold to someone from Finland and Germany both shopping for gifts for their wives and daughters.  We really do seem to be working our way through the alphabet!   I wonder who will be coming by tomorrow?!   We can hardly wait!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 3 at the World Masters

We had another long but enjoyable day today at the World Masters.  This is a photo from a "bird's eye view" of our booths.  We are set up in one of the Kamloops University gymnasiums where all the athletes come to register for each event and return to see their results so we see many of them several times throughout the week and is nice to hear how they did.  Many of the athletes use to compete in the Olympics and now continue on competing in the World Masters.  I met a lady close to my age with her 86 year old mother from Germany who told me they were both competing in several events.

With so many languages, there are official translators who volunteer for this event.  There are more than 20 of them that travel around to all the Masters Indoor and Outdoor Championships to volunteer in this capacity.

I spoke with a University student from Japan who is volunteering as a translator.  She was interested in the clay jewelry and how it was made.  She was really surprised to see the Japanese writing I showed her on the blocks of Kato clay we had on display and said she had never seen anything like it before.

We really got to know some Austrians and Australians today and we will work our way through the alphabet throughout the week!