Thursday, 12 August 2010

Glazing crazy

Glazed beads

The other night I had the bug for taking my beads to the next level. I have been putting the glazing off mainly due to my own laziness. (My old paintbrushes were up in the loft and despite all good intentions, I had not actually managed to encourage my legs to take me up there.)

So I decided to put an end to this procrastination and retrieve the brushes. Still as good as new, I picked a medium sized brush and painted the glaze on my beads. The Sculpey glaze had been sitting there for some time, and was at last unleashed. Instantly when you apply the glaze you can see a wonderful transformation. The glaze really does make a difference. I am not sure if I mixed it up enough, as the bottle suggested, and found that when the glaze had dried after about 30 mins, it didn't seem as shiny as when first applied.

To make matters difficult I have no polystyrene, otherwise I could have put the beads on cocktail sticks and dangled them by poking the sticks in the polystyrene. So to get around this problem I applied the glaze to one side of the bead and had to wait for it to dry before applying to the other side. Of course impatience meant that it's hard to stop myself from messing with the bead before they dried, and I wonder if most of it ended up on my fingers rather than on the actual beads!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Mosaic pillow beads

Mosaic bracelet

I have been determined to finally produce something which I feel proud to wear, and so gazing down at the various canes I have so far created, I decided to make some beads. Over the past few weeks I have seen some rather nice examples of pillow beads on the internet. The process is manageable, if yet untested, and so I took the plunge. It is easy enough to make pillow beads - just roll a small ball of scrap clay for the inside and add two square slices of clay to each side and press the edges and corners together. I used 1/2cm pieces of the marbled log I had made previously which was about 1cm in diameter. I then cut these into half because I found that the clay was too much for the interior of the bead. In other words, that's 1/4 cm of the log piece for the interior.

I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the pillow beads looked in the end. I'm not saying that they were perfect by any means. I managed to smudge one while trying to pinch the ends. It also took quite a lot of squeezing around the edges and corners to get them into a uniform shape. But not bad for a first attempt.

I baked these in my oven in the usual way (by hanging on cocktail sticks) and when they cooled I decided to string them using the elastic cord my friend had lent to me, and using some random beads I had bought from Ebay. The result was a very pleasing bracelet, which (I admit) brought a smile to my face.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Trying the scrap flower bead idea

Scrap flower beads

So following on from that flower bead idea yesterday, I decided to give it a go last night. I followed the process from memory because I hadn't printed off the instructions, but it wasn't that complicated. First I conditioned the old Natasha bead clay I had left sitting in my plastic box and marbled it so that I had a log of mainly red, black and white clay. I decided on the safe side to stick to this colour scheme and so I chose to use my orchid flower cane to experiment with.

The first task is to put thin slices of the flower cane onto the log in a random pattern. I admit that having more than one flower cane in different sizes would have helped but I was just experimenting. The log had a diameter of about 1cm. I then cut pieces from the log using a ruler to ensure they were the same size.

I tried initially to make round beads (this is my comfort zone) by squeezing the ends of the logs together to try to wrap the outside over the inside and then rolled in my hands to get the bead shape. This worked quite well and is fairly easy to do. I then tried making square shaped beads by again squeezing the ends of the logs together and pinching the corners. These didn't seem to turn out so well and I ended up leaving them as scrap. I repeated the round bead process using a blue marble log and my blue flower cane.

What I am left with is some beads which I'm partly happy with and partly not. What ruined it for me personally is that some of the inside pattern from the log remained outside during the rolling. Perhaps I should have pinched the ends a bit better. Also by making the beads round the slices that had been cut in half during the slicing of the log looked odd on the final beads, making me think it is probably better just to add the slices after. For that reason I think this is definitely a technique for square beads not round. On a positive note, it shows how effective it is to add slices to beads and have an interesting background on the base bead other than, for example, white. I also think that choice of colour is important to ensure variation between background and bead slice.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Idea for covering beads

As I've already mentioned, my latest problem has been deciding how to get the cane designs onto the finished beads. Aside from this I still have a lot of scrap clay and that in itself has been troubling me. Am I merely wasting all this clay and not producing anything to be proud of?

So a revelation came to me while having a surf on the internet, when I found Ponsawan Sila's blog post about making square flower beads and I couldn't quite believe what a great idea it was. It basically involves using scrap clay and marbling it. (Great, this I can handle!) Form a long log with the scrap clay. Then use your flower cane slices and place them on the log and slice into equal pieces. Then shape the sliced logs into square beads.

I was stunned by how something so simple can create something so effective and professional. I am so glad I found because it has raised renewed inspiration and that is definitely most needed.

The blog post includes a slideshow which is very handy too.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Chats with a close friend

Today I have been chatting with my friend Pat about my progress in polymer clay-land. He is always very keen to see my latest creations. I admitted that I have felt quite frustrated by my lack of skills, because although I am only just learning, I can't help wanting to run before I can walk.

I am still finding the basics quite difficult, and when I do successfully complete a cane, I sit there wondering what on earth to do with it. The best part is cutting through the finished cane and seeing the resulting design and there is a certain sense of achievement in that. However once I have moved on and want to take the next step I hit a brick wall. I am never quite happy with the finished beads and certainly need to concentrate more on getting the finish the best it can be.

Pat has being trying to motivate my creativity, but I have to admit that at the moment I don't feel very creative. He suggested I could use the mosaic idea to create something unusual, maybe a mosaic mirror, something like that. It's certainly an interesting idea, although where I would begin I do not know!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Mosaic cane

Mosaic cane

Last night I thought I would try something new but not too complicated. So an idea I had seen on the internet looked like a fun challenge. I was encouraged to try this indirectly by a friend who lives in Ireland, who one day had showed me some mosaic work on the internet and suggested I should try using polymer clay to make mosaics. I have always been attracted to mosaics, especially ancient works of art, and so I thought I would give this a go as a start.

I had already seen this tutorial on the internet. The process is amazingly simple. It's just a case of rolling various colours of clay and wrapping them in white and then rolling them together in a cane. You then cut down through the middle and add a layer of white between the slices and recombine. You do this repeatedly to form the mosaic pattern.

My cane turned out quite well, and I'm happy with the colour combination. So I decided to do as the tutorial suggested and made a heart pendant from some of the scraps. This is where the problem starts, in that I don't really understand how you effectively add a layer of the mosaic cane to the pendant. I ended up using small slices to cover a ball of scrap clay, but clearly there are better ways to do this. I also find difficulty in producing the heart shape even though I found a nifty tutorial on how to make hearts, but it still takes a lot of reshaping and moulding to get a half decent heart shape.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

More on jewellery making

I admit that over the last few days I haven't spent much time on my clay work. I have in fact been decorating the house! However, I have been quite keen on taking the jewellery making to the next level. In other words, finding out the basics of making jewellery. Its painful that I can't do anything useful with the things I have made so I need to start learning.

I stumbled across the most amazing store in Lichfield which is amazing not just because it sells all the bits and pieces you need, but because of the very helpful beginner's sheets on the website.

This is wonderful for someone like me who hasn't got a clue where to start. Simple things like knowing what beading wire to buy is a fantastic thing to know.

I also have been very excited to see how other people have been using bits and pieces, inparticular bead caps to finish off the design. This bracelet in particular is rather stunning.