Thursday, September 30, 2010

First sights of the Spawning Salmon

It was a gorgeous sunny day when Dave and I delivered our art pieces to the gift shop at the Adams river park yesterday.  We took a stroll down the path and over the several bridges to see all the salmon that were spawning and what an awesome sight it was!  The fish were much larger and more majestic than I imagined they would be.  I love their rich red and green colors they transform into by the time they reach their spawning grounds.  The fish were very active, splashing about and literally jumping out of the water.  Both male and female will guard their eggs until they eventually die.

The whole experience was very awe inspiring and with it only taking place every four years is quite exciting to not only see it up close and personal but to participate in such an event is a real privilege.  Here are a couple photos I took of the fish while there.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Return of the Sockeye - Ready or Not!

After a few set-backs this past week with Dave in the hospital for four days, we still managed to have over 100 pieces of various items finished and ready to sell at the Salute to the Sockeye Event.

There is a log cabin at the local provincial park where the Salmon society are setting up a gift shop with various items from local artists.  We provided all sorts of goodies to sell including pens, magnets, jewelry, and even switch plate covers.  I created a good amount of spawning salmon pieces as well as other nature themed items.  Here is a photo of our display set-up --.  They are still working on getting the gift shop ready for it to open this Saturday so I will have more pictures for you later.

Here are some of the items we created for this event:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Totem Inspired Salmon Pins

Here are some more salmon pins I've been making in a different style to sell at the Salute to the Sockeye at Adam's River this year.  The technique is a spin on Julie Picarello's "lizard tails" and even though each fish was created individually in the same way, no two come out exactly alike.

They are in the same bright red and green as the spawning salmon as they turn this color by the time they reach the end of their trip where they spawn.  This style was inspired by the first nations native style art in our area.  The spawning grounds where the salmon return to is very important and sacred to them.  The salmon symbolize dependability and renewal as well as a provider of food.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preparing for the Return of the Sockeye

I've been in full production these days preparing for the Return of the Sockeye  starting October 2nd.  There was an abundance of salmon this summer -- (millions) -- out in the Pacific ocean and a good amount of those are heading our way inland to spawn in the Adam's River.   We were fortunate to be juried into the local artisan gift shop they have set up at the log cabin there each year.  Thought I would show you how my spawning salmon pins are put together -- each one formed by hand so there are no two alike.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Learning New Techniques

I like to work with a variety of techniques and always open to learning something new.  I don't have a favorite but, after all, they say variety is the spice of life.

I'm constantly drawn, however, to textures and what you can do with them.   Helen Breil is a fellow Canadian artist who's work I truly admire.  She has a different style and I love how her jewelry art pieces are created from her own textured designs.  I purchased her recent Radiating Lines tutorial which I found very fascinating and couldn't wait to try it out.

This is the first pendant I made experimenting with my own texture plate I created.  I had the prettiest rivioli crystal in my favorite green which I used for the centre point.

I had a lot of fun making this pendant and I plan to explore this technique a little more and develop my own style.  I'm always looking for work that will coordinate with my double-sided and textured tube beads.  I will be sharing more on that in the future.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Beads - Double-sided Textured and Pearl Rondelles

I've created some new beads using my double-sided bead technique which are now listed in both our ArtFire Studio and Etsy Shop.  If you want to learn how to make these fun type of beads, we have a tutorial available that will teach you how.  They are a lot of fun to make and the designs are endless.

These are our Funky Swirl Beads in a choice of five yummy colors.   The fun stretch bracelet shown is in the Purple Orchid (Pantone fall 2010 color) beads and include some of our new larger-size 10 mm rondelle spacers in the same matching color.


Another new series listed are the Vintage Rose in both dark and light tones.

And here are some fun jewelry pieces created with them:



The rondelles on the bracelet and necklace are part of our new pearl collection.  I have been working on perfecting our rondelle spacers and these ones have mica powders applied that match the textured beads. The luster on them is extremely deep and rich looking and they come out super smooth.

These three colors were the first ones I created and now I'm on to experimenting with more. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Basket Weave Texture

Ever since I discovered how you could create your own moulds and textures from clay, I've been on the lookout for any interesting object to use in this way.  Some time ago I purchased this toothbrush holder at a dollar store to hold some of my clay tools on my work table.  What really caught my eye was the cool woven texture on the sides.  It had been sitting on my clay table and I finally put it to use yesterday and made a texture sheet from it.  When I make texture sheets I like to use the Sculpey Bake & Bend.  If you make it as thin as possible where you still can get a good impression, it can hopefully fit through your pasta machine afterwards since it is very flexible.

I was wondering if this texture would work for the textured tube beads and couldn't wait to try it out.

They came out not too bad.  I created some with mica powders and the others I antiqued with burnt umber paint.  I wanted to see which effect turned out the best.  I think I like them both since they have two totally different looks.

For more ideas like these you can check out my tutorial, Textured Tubes & More...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Textured Tube Bangle Bracelet

I finally finished my first bangle bracelet using my textured tube technique.  (That has a ring to it, heh?)  I love how these ones turned out and are in my favorite color.  The amethyst Czech fire polished crystals I used match beautifully.  Both types of bracelets are strung with elastic making them extremely easy to put on and take off as well as comfy to wear.

This style has 5 curved tube beads which looks very nice but was too large for my very small wrist size.  It would look nice on someone with a larger wrist.

This is my second style when I was trying to find something to fit a smaller to average-size wrist.  I think it is my favorite one.  The black rondelles are clay I made myself as well.  I make a lot of these now and have perfected my technique so they are more consistent in size and shape and quicker to make.

Of course both bracelets match our beaded choker with the same but smaller tube beads:

Want to know what colors and texture I used to create the beads?  If you already purchased my tutorial, "Textured Tubes & More ..." then the recipe is already included on page 18 under "J".  When I created the larger tubes for the bangle I used the same technique as the ones shown in the necklace but slightly thicker and cut a little longer and then curved them before baking.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Double-sided Textured Beads

I was having fun last week creating some new double-sided textured bead designs.  The beads are identical on both sides and there is no seam which is my own technique I developed.  The tutorial is available in our Etsy Shop and ArtFire Studio.

Which design and/or colors do you like best???

Saturday, September 4, 2010

More New Buttons

I've been having fun creating more new buttons.  Whenever I buy a sweater or blouse I find the buttons are sooo plain, boring or they stick out and look ugly so I like the opportunity to make my own.  I get a lot of comments and compliments on the buttons on the outfits I am wearing.  Right now I have several gorgeous sweaters I am working on replacing the buttons ....  I will show you the before and after when they are done...

In the meantime here are a few more new ones that are now listed:



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Glaze or Not to Glaze - That is the Question!

On several polymer clay guild forums there has been much discussion lately on glazes -- what type to use, what works best, what technique works best.  Since I include finishing techniques in my last three tutorials (Double-sided Textured Beads, Textured Tubes & More, Making Beautiful Buttons), it got me thinking about sharing more in depth on this topic what we use for finishing our pieces and why.

The first question is to glaze or not to glaze?

This all depends on the type of finish you want.  A lot of polymer artists prefer their pieces to be natural and unglazed.  We prefer that at times ourselves -- it all depends on the individual piece and the finished look we are aiming for.  You can get a nice sheen by buffing with a soft cloth or towel and you can also get a high shine if you buff with some sort of buffing wheel.  If you are aiming for this... your piece needs to have a very smooth finish.  This involves sanding your work with different grits of wet/dry sandpaper.  I have also found that the smoother your clay is before baking, the less sanding you will have to do afterwards.  Some people finish with 1000 grit sandpaper, others go up to 1500 or 2000.  I have found that there isn't too much difference in smoothness or shine above 800 grit so it is all a matter of what clay you are working with and your own preference.

Then there is the type of buffing wheels to use.  Dave and I were on a hunt some time ago looking for just the right buffing tool that wouldn't break the bank.  Some of our clay colleagues had fabulous buffing machines that were to drool over but we decided to go simply and make more use of the tools like our dremel, we already had.  I read up on Desiree McCrory's site about her new buffing pad and so we went on a hunt to find the right fabric to make our own.  It is a simple concept but does a beautiful job and leaves a really high sheen!  We use a drill press stand so it frees both hands to buff making it  easier and safer to use.  If you are interested in buffing pads already made, I have them available for sale here.

To Glaze ..... the How and Why.....

Update:  Sorry the PYM11 is no longer manufactured or available any longer.  It was a great product and if I find out it is back on the market, I will update again here.

So if you prefer to glaze your pieces, many have asked which one do you use and what works best.  This is something that is a little different for everyone but I will share with you what we have learned  from our past experiences.

Some polymer clay techniques using inks, mica powders or chalks, require some sort of glaze finish in order to protect them from wearing off.  One of the newest type of glazes that polymer clay artists have discovered is the PYM11 (Preserve Your Memories 11).  This is amazing stuff and works well as a  sealing agent, especially if you are using inks or mica powders.  It leaves a soft matte finish so if you prefer your piece to be glossy, you can use PYM11 as a sealer and then coat with Future acrylic afterwards.

PYM11 is only available as an aerosol spray so is a more difficult to use on smaller type beads.  It also has a very strong odor so you will want to use this outdoors in the fresh air so you do not breathe in the fumes.

How to Use:  Lay your pieces out onto a paper lined tray.  Spray your pieces very lightly.  Allow to dry  (a few minutes) and then turn your tray around so you are spraying from the opposite direction and give a light spray again.  Turn your pieces over and repeat for the other side.

Pro:  Makes a great sealer when using mica powders, chalks and especially inks. (See note below)
Con:   Only available in an aerosol spray so is a little more difficult to use on smaller type beads.

Type of Finish:  soft matte

Diamond Wood Finish by Flecto is the only type of varathane we consider safe to use with your polymer clay. We have tried various other brands (such as Minwax acrylic) and discovered they are not all the same.  They would peel and wear off and I'm glad we only experimented with them in a small way first.

The Diamond by Flecto is available in glossy, semi-gloss and satin finishes.  It is also available in an aerosol spray which is great for larger type surfaces.  In many of our pieces like our animal prints, we prefer to use semi-gloss as it actually gives more of a soft satin gloss look and isn't overly shiny.  I fill a small jar to use from instead of using it straight from the can.  If it gets a little too thick, you can add a little water to thin it out and it will apply much easier.

How to use:  A good quality clean soft paintbrush is the key.  If you do not use a good brush or have too much varathane on your brush, it will cause streaks.  Apply several very thin coats, allowing to dry thoroughly in between.  You might still notice a bit of streaking after the first coat but that will eventually lesson after each application.  After your pieces are dry, you can harden your finish a little more by baking your pieces at 200 F for 12-15 minutes.  This also helps get rid of any small streaks that might still be showing.

Pro:  Dries very quickly between coats and leaves a nice finish.

Con:  Not so good on items with a lot of mica powder, chalks or inks as a sealer.

Type of Finish:  semi-gloss to satin

The other type of glaze we use is Future -- which is now called Pledge with Future.  You can see by the photo that I still have the old style bottle and how little we've used over the past 5 years or so!  A little of this goes a long ways and one bottle will seem to last forever!

This is our preference when we want our pieces to have a permanent high shine.  We especially prefer to use it on pieces that require more wear and tear like pens or mirror compacts.  If our pieces have mica powders, inks or chalks applied, we generally spray them first with the PYM11 and then coat with Future to add the shine and add a little more protection.

How to use:  You can use a clean soft dry paintbrush or some people like to use q-tips.  Both work good but I prefer a brush.  Apply several thin coats, allowing to dry thoroughly in between.  Future takes a little longer to dry so takes a little more patience.  I found that if you apply the next coat too soon, it leaves a lot of streaks so I have to wash it off or sand it and start all over so is best to allow to dry completely between coats.

You can also harden your finish more by baking again afterwards at 200 F for 12-15 minutes.  This also helps to bring out a little more shine.

Pro:  Makes a good hard finish and works well for sealing pieces when using mica powders, chalks, etc. as well as long wearing items such as pens (see note below).  Should also mention that it has a very nice and pleasant smell.

Con:  Very time consuming as several coats need to be applied with lots of drying time between coats.

Type of Finish:  glossy to super glossy

Note:  Working with mica powder pigments

If you are using mica powders to your piece, they must be applied on raw clay before baking or they will not stick.  Rub the powders into the clay with your finger rather than just "dusting" them on with a brush to make them "stick".

After baking, wipe off any excess powders with a soft dry cloth.  If there are any loose mica powders on the piece they can prevent it from being sealed.

You can then continue with applying your favorite sealant.  If you want it to be more durable, spray with PYM11 first, allow to dry and then apply several coats of Future Acrylic or Varathane.

If you are using the brand "Pearlex", you do not have to seal as they contain a resin, however, if you apply future acrylic or varathane afterwards, the colors will "pop" more.

I hope this helps answer some questions you might have regarding finishing your pieces.  Feel free to ask any questions or leave other tips and tricks in the comments here.