Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Novel Art Submission 2: Here Be Dragons...

Originally, I was only going to make the mermaid sculpture for Novel Art, but then I started conversing with the Director of the Ligonier Valley Library and I remembered her talking about a fantasy series featuring dragons.  Once the idea to make a dragon was in my head... it stuck!  (It wasn't hard.  I'm a fan of dragons as you can tell from HERE and HERE.)  I couldn't sleep that night and decided to get busy since there wasn't much time before the deadline.  My pile of work seems incredibly high at the moment (with the move and everything in the process), but I just couldn't help but make this sculpture.

I should preface this by saying that it's not finished.  The base is still drying and I need to stain and seal it before I can mount the dragon sculpture to it.

Like the mermaid sculpture, the concept is how reading brings fantasy to life.  I've integrated old book pages in patterns swirling over the body of the dragon and in the wings.  I constructed the body out of polymer clay over an armature of aluminum foil and steel wire.  I then painted, painted, painted, covered it in resin, stained it, highlighted the piece with Gilder's Paste, and painted it some more.  I had this idea that I wanted the coloring to be light and almost watercolor-esque to incorporate the text pattern more, but the more I kept touching it up, the muddier the colors got and the more paint I added.

Here's a close-up of the head and crown of horns.  For the eyes, I used dark blue, Swarovski crystal pearls.  I think it gives the eyes great depth.

Here's a detail of one of the wings.  The wings are actually hollow.  I constructed everything out of wire, covered both sides with book pages, dipped them in resin, and then glued on shredded book pages in an almost feather-like pattern on the wings.  I then coated them again with lots of spray fixatives and sealants.  Once everything was dry, I stained the wings and added some paint to bring out the structure of the wings.  I also added some iridescent spots.  I tried to keep the paint and inks as light as possible, so that the suggestion of words came through.  I feel like on the body, some of the word details were lost with so much paint.

I'm really happy with the result, especially since it was a last minute decision.  I hope that it raises a lot of money for the library!  Novel Art is such a worthwhile cause and I am so honored to be a participant!

Novel Art Submission...

Our local library has a really cool fundraising project called, Novel Art.  The concept is that they part with old books no longer in circulation and give the decommissioned books to participants with the task of turning the books into pieces that can then be auctioned off.  The money goes towards expensive upgrades that would otherwise go unfunded, like technology.  To find out more about the project, check out the article that appeared in the Ligonier Echo by CLICKING HERE.

In the article, I'm quoted as one of the professional craftspeople who will be participating.  I mentioned a mermaid sculpture.  This is that piece.

The concept behind this piece is that "reading brings fantasy to life".  So, the mermaid is transforming from the written word into a realized creature.

This is a close-up of her face (and her jewelry that I made for her).  I created the piece out of polymer clay over an aluminum and steel armature.  I then did layers of paints and inks.

Here's the backside of the piece.  I created the base from an old shadowbox that I flipped over and decoupaged torn up pieces of old book pages.  I then did some coats of resin and stained everything with colored inks.

I'm pretty pleased with the way that the sculpture turned out.  I hope it raises the library a lot of money!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thursday Giveaway Winner...

Let's put our hands together and congratulate Andra on being the winner of the most recent Thursday Giveaway!  Congratulations, Andra!  She won a selection of Swarovski Crystal Skull Beads courtesy of Fusion Beads!  A big thanks goes out to everyone who participated!  Keep your eyes peeled for another great Thursday Giveaway!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

From the Vault: Day 26 Ring...

On the 26th Day of the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge, we were asked to create a wire-wrapped ring.  For the ring, I used wire for the ring shank and attached a vintage button.  I then used two-part epoxy clay and embedded some vintage rhinestones.  I'm a smitten kitten with the vintage marquise-cut crystals.  They're two-toned and sparkle like crazy.  The configuration of the crystals sort of reminds me of a Pennsylvania Dutch hex symbol.  The ring is certainly fun and has a lot of BLING!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From the Vault: Day 25 Necklace...

Here's another piece that I created for the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge that I never posted.  This one was created for the Day 25 prompt to use a bead that's been in my bead stash forever.  With this particular challenge, my biggest problem was selecting which particular bead to dig out.  I have a lot of really cool beads and I was on the fence about which one I wanted to use.  The past few weeks, I haven't had much time to spare, so I had to be super selective about which to finally settle on.

I opened a box that I have had since the Bead&Button show a few years ago and right in the middle of it was a polymer clay Forsythia Pendant by Heather Powers of HumbleBeads.  And I knew – I just knew – that I had to make something with this particular piece.  And so I did!

I paired the polymer clay pendant with some pink coral rounds, turquoise-dyed magnesite rounds, carved Czech glass ovals, and a bronze toggle to create this asymmetrical piece.  I love how bright and fun the colors are.  I think they accent the focal nicely and carry the blue-green around the piece. The bright gold of the bronze toggle picks up the flowers in the pendant.  It's a great piece for spring!

From the Vault: Day 24 Bracelet...

Here's another piece that I created for the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge.  The prompt for Day 24 of the celebration of National Craft Month was to learn a new technique.

For this challenge, I asked William to show me how to kumihimo.  I've been watching William and his mom do it for awhile, so I picked it up pretty quick.  It's super fun!  I used eyelash ribbon in my design and it gave the piece an extra dimension and texture.  From the bracelet, I hung one of my new White Copper Octopus/Kraken Pendants.  I used Gilder's Paste and Vintaj patinas to add some color to the recesses of the pendant.

I'm quite pleased.  I think the bracelet is fun and definitely has an ocean vibe.  PLUS, I also finally learned how to kumihimo!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

30 Words Thursday...

Moon child, am I.  Follower of the midnight lantern, with wide-eyed insomnia, I stare at the silver in the trees.  Restless tossing gives way to quiet creativity – a lunar frenzy.

Thursday Giveaway...

It has been awhile since I last did a Thursday Giveaway.  I thought that I would start things off with one of my favorite new products!  This week, one lucky winner will take home a prize package featuring the BRAND NEW Swarovski Crystal Skulls!  The prize includes two 13mm Silver Night 2X Crystal Skull beads and one 19mm Jet Crystal Skull Bead.  They come courtesy of Fusion Beads and have a retail value over $40!  CLICK HERE to check out all of their Swarovski Crystal Skull Beads.

To enter to win this lovely prize of sparkly skull beads is easy!  All you have to do is comment on this blog post.  One lucky winner will be randomly selected from the comment section of this blog post on Monday, (April 21st) at midnight EST.  Make sure to leave your name and email address if it doesn't already appear next to your comment for easy verification.  This giveaway is open to all participants, including international readers!

*If you don't see your comment appear immediately, do not panic!  I have enabled the comment moderation feature to reduce spam and will periodically screen and add comments.*

Bonus Points:  You can earn extra chances of winning these awesome beads by blogging, pinning on Pinterest, sharing on Facebook, and/or tweeting on Twitter about this Thursday Giveaway.  Don't forget to add each of your acts of social media kindness as a separate comment for your additional entries to win!

Extra Bonus Points:  If you're not already a follower of this blog, you can get an extra entry by following it!  It's easy.  Just find the button on the right side of the page underneath my photo that says, "Follow".  Click the button and follow the instructions.  Don't fogey to add an additional comment saying that you have done so for your extra chance to win!

Above the Clouds and Under Every Petal...

When I was little, I used to love the saying that "every cloud has a silver-lining".  I would imagine clouds with sparkling interiors, that gleamed like polished chrome.  In my mind, the sky was filled with floating Airstream Travel Trailers hiding in plan sight.

Later, when I found out that it actually meant that every bad situation had some good, I loved it even more.

The older you get and the more life knocks you around, it becomes even more vital to search for the positive.  It's important to discover those silver-linings and find the beauty when things might seem less than pretty.

Walking through the garden on a spring day, hellebores might not seem that remarkable at first.  They are not as showy as irises or have the technicolor brilliance of daffodils.  Crocus flowers, one of the earliest to bloom, even have the upper-hand at being some of the first pops of color after the monochrome of winter.  In comparison, at first glance, they can seem sort of plain.  But if you look closer, hellebores are some of the most gorgeous and varied of flowers.  The flowers come in nearly every color, including greens and blacks.  If you take a moment to turn up the downward facing flowers, you'll be rewarded with a unique beauty.  The petals can be speckled and fan out around a crown of fringy stamen.  The flowers almost seem modest, concealing their loveliness.  To truly enjoy the hellebores, you've got to change your perspective – you have to be willing to get on the ground or flip the flower up.

Whether it's above the clouds or under every petal, there's an important life lesson:  There is good in everything, even the most troubling of times, but it'll remain hidden until you seek it out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flying Monkey Pendants...

A few weeks ago, I was on a carving kick and created a flying monkey mold.  I was inspired by a Polish proverb, "Not my circus, not my monkey."  I really just made it for myself, but when I posted it on Facebook, it seemed like others liked it too.

So I made these.  Each flying monkey has a different expression.  I pressed them out in polymer clay, added the words, baked them, stained the pieces with alcohol inks and buffed them with Gilder's Paste and colored waxes.  I probably won't make anymore or put them into production to sell them.  I'm going to keep some of them and give the others away as gifts for friends.  I think it's important to take some time (even if it's only a little bit) to make something for yourself.  It's even more vital when your profession is a creative one.  Sometimes artists and makers-of-things get stuck in this rut of making things that they think will sell or what others want them to make.  While that's all well and good, we occasionally have to honor our personal muses and take time to play.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Club Reminder...

It's hard to believe that April is halfway finished!  The April selection of the Inspired by Reading Book Club is the Pulitzer Prize-wining collection of short stories, "The Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri.  The nice thing about short stories is that it is ideal for participants with busy schedules.  While some of the stories are super short, they are all emotionally charged and richly detailed and perfectly suited to inspire unique creations!  The in-person meet up is scheduled for April 29th from 6PM to 9PM at Allegory Gallery.  It is the last book club meet-up that we will be having in our current location.  So, it'll also be a little bit of a farewell party for space.  The blog hop reveal is scheduled for Wednesday, April 30th.  I hope that you'll be able to participate!  I can't wait to see what everyone is going to make and hear about what inspired them!

From the Vault: Day 23 Pendant...

Another piece that I created for the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge, but never posted is this pendant I made for Day 23.  The prompt was to use Crystal Clay and "sparkle on".

I had a round, copper bezel pendant and used two-part epoxy clay to embellish it with vintage Cuba stones and vintage Swarovski crystal chatons and vintage rhinestones.  I think it turned out super sparkly and very regal.  I added the pendant on simple strand of pearls and African heishi rings.

From the Vault: Day 22 Bracelet...

March was National Craft Month and to celebrate, Fusion Beads hosted a 30 Day Challenge.  I was going strong up until the last week and things started getting excessively busy with the upcoming store move.

The silly thing is that I started on many of the projects and even finished a few of the last challenges, I just never got a chance to post them.

For Day 22, we were asked to use more than one metal in a piece.  I decided to make this bracelet.  The focal of this bracelet is from Scattered Light.  It is a sterling silver leaf.  I've been hoarding it for a few years.  I paired the leaf slider with a sterling silver toggle from my family at Green Girl Studios, bronze and copper African heishi rings, berry-colored size 2 Japanese seed beads, and copper-colored metal beads with gold-leafing that were taken from a mala bracelet.  The bracelet is relatively simple, but I'm smitten with it.  I love how all the colors work together and instead of clashing, the mixed metals compliment each other.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sea Spiral Necklace...

A few months ago, a friend picked up an ammonite at the shop and commissioned me to create a piece out of it for her.  She used the ominous words, "take your time".  I hate to admit this, but when someone says to do it at my leisure... I do.  I think about it and percolate and passively work on it in the back of my mind.  Sometimes it can take months or even years before I get around to projects that I'm taking my time with.  Luckily it didn't take too long.

For this piece, I enlisted help.  William learned how to kumihimo while we were at a trade show in Hawaii and he made the spiraling Japanese knot-braid.  I picked out the recycled sari silk ribbons and pieces of cording and he created the base of this necklace.  I like the idea that the cord is a spiral and it furthers the spiral motif.

I had made a pair of earrings for this friend earlier in the year and knew she liked reds and earth tones.  I decided on a muted wine color and tried to pick up some of the reddish-browns in the ammonite.

For the clasp, I used a bronze one from my family at Green Girl Studios.  They make a really cool seashell clasp.  I also incorporated some fun, bronze bead caps for the cord ends.  

I wanted to pick up the golden topaz hues in the fossilized shell (which I wire-wrapped into a pendant) and integrate it with the clasp, so I sewed on a bunch of Japanese seed beads.  It gives the piece more texture and a studded look.

I'm pretty happy with the end result. Even better, so is my friend!  I'm glad that I could create a piece that could do the ammonite justice!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

30 Words Thursday...

Quick moving storm clouds barrel across the skyline.  They move like a stampede of white-hoofed, wild stallions – a threat in the wind, heavy heavens, soon gone.  Dark chased by light.

Chris Pureka at The Brown Hotel...

Last night we drove up to Indiana, PA and stopped by The Brown Hotel to check out a performance by singer/songwriter, Chris Pureka.  The venue reminded me a lot of some of the bars back in Brooklyn.  With a cool, neighborhood vibe, the bar had cheap drinks, folksy music and a nice mix of people in the crowd.  A local favorite, Melville Walbeck, opened for Chris.

I really enjoyed Chris's performance and feel lucky that she came through the area.  She was on tour in Europe for several weeks, playing gigs in major cities like London and Paris.  Having her come out to our neck of the woods was a real treat!

I became aware of Chris's work a few years ago and picked up her album, "How I Learned to See in the Dark".  I highly recommend it!  I love how honest her music is.  There's something genuine about it that feels naked and raw.  Her songs have a great depth, and while on the sadder side, there's an unrelenting hopefulness that underlies the heartbreak and quiet observations.

(Photo from the artist's website.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Counting Seeds...

My kindergarten teacher kept a construction paper watermelon slice tacked to the wall.  The seeds represented the days until summer.  Each day, she'd take one down and we'd sing a song we learned throughout the year.  I remember thinking, "The seeds will never run out!"  It was a bittersweet thought.  Part of me wanted to be in school forever, singing songs and drawing pictures, and the other part of me looked forward to visiting my grandparents in Arkansas and seeing my cousins.  Time seemed to move so slowly then.

These days, when I close my eyes to go to sleep, it's hard to remember the blur of events from the day.  Things are a jumble of quickly moving moments and scattered fragments – too many deadlines, emails, and phone conversations.  It seems as though I am constantly making plans for things that seem so far away, but then are here and gone.  The blooms of spring, so eagerly anticipated, will soon fade and be replaced by other flowers.

Much of what I am doing now centers around our moving the store.  If it's not actually working on getting all the proper paperwork in order, publicizing the move, or packing boxes, I am picking up freelance jobs to help cushion the transition or feverishly working to ever-promote my work and our goals.  Many of the things, I can't even say what they are until they've been published or officially launched.  It's exhausting.

In my mind, there's a watermelon wedge.  The seeds too quickly are slipping through my fingertips.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

30 Words Thursday...

Spring-loaded life, bound in the bud. Branches of leaves, tightly coiled in a promise of what's to come. Red to green and green to gold. A quiet sleep.  Set, repeat.

D2K Cher Concert...

Last night we had the good fortune to attend the Cher concert in Pittsburgh.  It was part of the Dressed To Kill tour with special guests, Pat Benetar and Neil Giraldo.

What an evening!  It started off with an electrifying and energetic set by Pat Benetar and her husband and musical collaborator of 34 years, Neil Giradlo.

When the curtain dropped, the crowd went wild!  Cher was perched on top of a pillar, decked out in glittering beads and a huge headdress plumed with feathers.  I was really impressed with the grandeur of everything!  The costumes, sets, and backup performers were really exceptional.  It had the polish and excitement of a Las Vegas production.  Even with all the theatrics, her voice took center stage.  Not only did she perform songs from her latest album, but she surveyed her 40 year career, including a tribute to Sonny Bono.  What I liked best about the show were the candid moments, when she joked around and told stories.  The concert was really fun and I'm happy that we could attend.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Inspired by Reading March Blog Hop...

Today is the Reveal for the March selection of the Inspired by Reading Book Club!  For March, we read "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor.  All of the participants agreed that it was an enjoyable and quick read.  The book is about a young man named, Dr. Barry Laverty, and his apprenticeship to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly in the quaint village of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland.  The inhabitants and the practices of the colorful, country village are vastly different than what he is accustom to in Belfast.  The book introduces a cast of quirky characters and depicts several medical procedures.

We always have a good time at the in-person meet-up!  In the picture to the left, I'm overlooking Terri's bead tray as she cradles the book.  Laurel and Alison both got dressed up!  In the center, Laurel wears her inspired creation and a tweed jacket with kilt pin tacked to her lapel.  Alison dressed up like a character from the book!  She dressed up like Mrs. Fotheringham.  The description read, "She was wearing low-heeled, laced brown brogues, thick lisle stockings, and a two-piece jacket and skirt of tweed Heather Mixture.  An amethyst formed the head of a silver thistle brooch in her left lapel.  Around her neck hung a single strand of pearls."

Speaking of brogues, here's a snapshot of the shoes being worn to the meet-up! 

Here's a picture of the treats we had at the book club!  Each one with an "Irish-inspired" theme.  I was going to make some of the Ulster Recipes found in the back of the book, but a quick survey suggested that my efforts might be for naught as one of the recipes was for a Chicken Liver Pate.  Laurel dressed the sherry (a favorite of Dr. Laverty's) in a kilt and brought a little bottle of Irish whiskey since it was a favorite of Dr. O'Reilly!


Alison stopped by the Sweet Shop and picked up several deletable chocolates.  Some were filled with English Toffee, Irish Creme, and some were filled with caramels sprinkled with Celtic Sea Salt.  She also found a box of potent truffles filled with whiskey!

(And not in theme with the book, but we ordered a pizza too!)

I always look forward to the meet-ups!  Everyone lives such hectic lives and the book club is a nice time to unwind, talk about the things we've read and the things we've made and catch up.

And without further ado, here's the reveal for "An Irish Country Doctor":

This multi-strand necklace was made by Laurel.  She incorporated vintage pearls, sewn tweed (to symbolize Laverty's pants that are constantly getting dirty), an antique medical pin, a cloud charm to symbolize the weather of Ballybucklebo, and a heart to represent the love story in the book.

This necklace was created by Alison.  She included a welly boot and used a color scheme inspired by spring and mallard ducks.  

Alison also made this cuff bracelet!  The cuff is topped with a piece of felted Irish wool with a piece of suede sewn on top with part of the spine of the book, lined with a map of Ballybucklebo, and embellished with a beaded edging.  She said that it was inspired by the character who was in a bar fight and got his head cut, and how they painted a shaved patch with blue mercurochrome. 

This focal pendant was created by Terri.  It was inspired by O'Reilly's garden.  She said she started it on the Bead Cruise and features butterflies and birds attached with cold-connection riveting.  It has a lovely floral fringe made with a cascade of Czech glass.

This bracelet was made by me.  It's sort of generically Irish, but I was inspired by one of the chapter titles, "Forty Shades of Green".  The bracelet features a hand-painted Celtic knot tube, terra aqua jasper rounds in vibrant green, and Japanese seed beads.

But that's not all... check out these great blogs for more pieces inspired by "An Irish Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor:


The next selection is, "The Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri.  This book of short stories is the last book in the first cycle of book selections.  For the full list of last year, CLICK HERE.  For the full list for next year, CLICK HERE.  If you're interested in keeping up with what we're doing, CLICK HERE to visit our Facebook group page.  CLICK HERE to view our Pinterest Page with supplemental inspiration.  It's fascinating to see what elements from the books we read will resonate with participants and inspire them!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Deep Waters Mystery Component Reveal...

Today is the REVEAL of the Mystery Component for the Deep Waters Challenge.  Up until now, only the participants of the challenge were privy to this information!

The Mystery Component is a porcelain pendant made by me.  It is glazed in a matte Velour glaze in Dazzling Blue and tumbled to bring out the details and give the piece a satin-silky feel.

To find out more about the Deep Waters Challenge, CLICK HERE.  And keep your eyes peeled for the Blog Hop Reveal where participants of the challenge will share their creations!  The Blog Hop is scheduled for Thursday, April 24th!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

A Bead A Day
Wishing for spring brings on a little bit of inspiration involving spring flowers!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
There's a NEW metal clay in town!  White CopprClay!  Andrew shares his experiences working with the latest innovation in this versatile medium.

Crochet Kit Giveaway
Enter to win a super, uber, ad-or-able Wizard of Oz crochet kit!

Resin Crafts Blog
This is part one of the three-part post which focuses on containing resin in a flat wire wall.

Carmi's Art/Life World
I wanted to share this special blog hop I coordinated with 12 different designers.  All their projects are so unique and different!  They received Neo Chain from Dazzle-it to play with.

Eggs in Nest Beaded Charm Bracelet
Three blue-speckled eggs nestled in a wire-wrapped charm make a great focal charm.  This bracelet features three nests.  Click for directions.  There are matching earrings as well.

Snap out of it, Jean!  There's beading to be done!
Jean reviewed 1000 BEADS put together by juror, Kristina Logan.  She is also hosting a GIVEAWAY!  See Jean's blog!

Mixed Media Artist
The weaving technique that Cyndi used in an art quilt was successful enough for her to try it again.. and see if she can get it right this time!

Beading Arts
Cyndi hasn't played much with chain maille, but after making these easy earrings, she might have to change her ways!  Here's the tutorial!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

30 Words Thursday...

Poking up from the ground, tufts of yellow and green amongst the brown. Crocus flowers, a welcome sight: Heralds of things to come.  Spring awakens and drawing closer and near.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Goldfinch for A Good Friend...

A friend of mine did a good deed.  I don't always get a chance to reward random acts of kindness.  Time seems to be in short supply these days.  But this time, I wanted to do more than just send a note.  I took a few moments each night and carved a block of polymer clay.  Once it was cured and I had tooled it with a Speedball Linoleum Cutter and then painted it.  I knew that my friend liked birds, so I picked a goldfinch.  I love the happy little coat of yellow feathers and how they turn upside-down to eat their thistle.  Seeing them flutter around always brings a smile to my face and I wanted to share that with my friend.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bead and Craft Bloggers...

A Bead A Day
Special occasion jewelry can also provide comfort.  Lisa created a colorful and sparkly bracelet to focus on while flying!

Art Bead Scene
Celebrate Art Bead Scene's 7th Birthday with are massive giveaway!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
To celebrate National Craft Month, Fusion Beads is hosting a month-long challenge!  Get an overview of what Andrew has made for the first fifteen days!  (And play along if you're game!)

Resin Crafts Blog
With a week of posts featuring Nunn Design's new components, it was hard to choose a favorite, but this pearl filled bezel does stand out!

Carmi's Art/Life World
With my collection of vintage linens finally sorted and displayed, I made some time to make a new necklace featuring the embroidery from one tablecloth.

Felt Peep Bunnies
Cherie shares some Peep bunnies she made out of felt.

Preserving Memories: Creating "This is Cartagena" Digital Scrapbook Paper
The instant Eileen saw this graffitied wall in the old city of Cartagena, she said to her husband, "I could make a scrapbook paper of that!"  Then she snapped away.

A Creative Dream
June is celebrating the arrival of spring by giving away a bouquet of flowers!

Get Hopping!
The Crafty Princess participated in a fun Dazzle-It blog hop.  See what she cooked up with the jewelry supplies they sent her.

Mixed Media Artist
Here's a quick, easy, and useful project you can do with your scrap papers... scrap magnets!

Beading Arts
Cyndi has had the chance to play with some new products from Fire Mountain Gems, and she came up with a crazy little pair of brightly colored mixed media earrings for the spring!

Snap out of it, Jean!  There's beading to be done!
Jean writes about the 8th Bead Soup Blog Party hosted by Lori Anderson and what she received from her super, wonderful partner, Jen Purple!  WOW!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

NEW White Copper Coin Pendants Now Listed...

I just wrote about my experience working with the NEW White CopprClay.  You can see that post by CLICKING HERE.  I have also just listed four designs in this new silvery metal.  I have made coin pendants in the dragon, octopus/Kraken, jackalope, and crowned floral skull designs.  If you are interested in checking them out in the online shop, CLICK HERE.  I love that I am able to offer the look of fine silver, but at a fraction of the price!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge: Day 21...

The challenge for Day 21 in the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge was to work with leather cuffs and straps.

For this challenge, I used turquoise leather from the store.  We carry a selection of colorful leather cording.  I cut it in lengths that are approximately the same size.  (It's good if it's not exactly perfect.)  I then glued and crimped down the ends of the leather in a ribbon end.  To dress it up, I used some vintage glass pearls and put a really long extender chain with a pearl dangle.

This is a great present idea if you're not sure how big to make the bracelet.  No one likes to make alterations if it's too long or too short.  This design is completely adjustable.

For variations, knot the leather or string beads on before closing it up.  I'm really smitten with this design and think it looks very contemporary and fresh.

If you're interested in checking out the full calendar of prompts and creative exercises, CLICK HERE.

Explorations with WHITE CopprClay...

The other day, I was thinking about ordering some fine silver PMC (Precious Metal Clay).  I adore fine silver clay.  I still remember the excitement of when it first came out and how we sat around the kitchen table making things with wild abandon and unbridled zeal.  After doing lost wax casting, it seemed so much easier and less involved.  And even though powder metallurgy isn't new (it's actually quite ancient), this medium was shiny with new possibilities.

I had heard there was a sale going on and I wanted to take advantage of it.  When I looked it up, the 50 gram packets of fine silver PMC were over $100 each!  I felt a little lightheaded and decided to wait for another day.  Who knows?  I might get lucky and win the lotto!

How was I going to make things that looked like the things I used to make (and not break the bank)?  I thought about Gilder's Paste, silver leaf, acrylic paints, heat-seat inks, alcohol inks... and more.  Sure, they were silver and some of them were even passable.  But it wasn't the same.  And then, suddenly, as if an answer to a silent prayer, an email arrived in my inbox announcing the NEW WHITE CopprClay!

I've had a lot of success with the BronzClay and CopprClay developed by an American company, Metal Adventures.  So, I jumped on the opportunity to work with this new product.  I placed my order and started Googling it to see who had been working with it and what they were making.  And that's when I came across some rather unflattering comments about the nickel content and that it may not be in compliance with the EU regulations.  Some of the comments were heated and took on a frenzied tone warning against the product and how it was poison.  I was reminded of the BIG drama surrounding PMC in classrooms and my stomach fell.

Here's my opinion:  Use safety measures that you feel comfortable with and use common sense.  If you don't eat, snort, or ingest (any) metal clay in powder, liquid, or clay form, you should be fine.  Wash your hands often or wear gloves.  Don't stand over your kilns during burn out phases and use appropriate ventilation.  Wear a dust mask during the carbon stage.  If you're pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, you might want to postpone your metal clay fun until afterwards.  And if you're allergic to nickel, then by all means, skip to another medium.  For more health and safety tips and to check out the MSDS, CLICK HERE.  And when you're selling your products, use full disclosure, so that your customers can make fully informed decisions.

So, before anyone goes and lights the torches, remember to be respectful of everyone's right to choose what materials they want to work with and if it's not your cup of tea, skip the tea party.  Don't go raining down hate and negativity, just because it's not for you.

And... without further ado, here are my experiments:

The first stage of working with the clay, was pretty similar to working with regular CopprClay.  I found the clay body to be smooth, thoroughly mixed and it didn't dry out super fast.  It also wasn't super sticky right out of the package.  Sometimes when I'm working with BronzClay, I like to leave new packages open for a little bit to dry out a touch to make it less gummy to work with.  When dry, the WHITE CopprClay has a nice flexibility and isn't super brittle.



With WHITE CopprClay, you have to do the firing in two stages.  For the first firing, you have to spread things out on a stainless steel mesh rack and ramp the kiln at 500 degrees Fahrenheit to 600 degrees and hold it for 10 minutes.  I'm a set it and forget it type of guy and for that reason, the first firing is kind of a pain and not the most convenient, but I feel as though if you want a quality piece, it's not too bad to add the extra step.  

During this step, I dropped a few pieces when I was taking them out of the kiln and one of them chipped.  Even though they're easily handled, they're not sintered yet and you still have to baby them a little.
  
The second phase is familiar territory for those already versed in firing the regular CopprClay.  You load everything up in a stainless steel box in a carbon environment and fire away.  The only difference is that the firing temperature is a little higher.

I did have a few anomalies after this stage.  One piece was deeply cracked and another had a fine spider web of cracks on the back.  My guess for first one is that it might have been one of the pieces that I dropped after phase one and thought was all right, but really wasn't.  With the other one, it might have been too thick and needed more room around it during the firing.  I'm not sure.  But 2 out of 55 is pretty good!

Here are two examples of what the pieces can look like after the second firing without defects.  The metal is super lightweight and depending on where it is in the box can either be powdery white or rainbowy.

At this stage, I hammered out any pieces that had curled during the drying and firing process.  The metal was solid and fully sintered.  Nothing shattered and it seemed as though the metal was fairly strong.

This is the first batch after tumbling for a few hours with steel shot, liquid dishwashing detergent, and water.  The metal shined right up and have a lovely finish.  For brighter silver shine, I would probably go back and tumble again with a liquid burnishing compound.  

While the WHITE CopprClay was silver in color, there were definitely differences with the look and feel between the WHITE CopprClay and fine silver PMC.  The WHITE CopprClay is a tad more dull and has more of a gray cast to the metal. It also feels lighter.

Here are the four designs that I pressed out.  (I carved the molds a few nights ago by flashlight when the power went out!)  I made the octopus/Kraken, the floral crowned skull, the dragon and the jackalope.

I'm really happy with the end result and think that it's worth investigating further.  I want to play around with some of the finishing touches, like Renaissance Wax or Pledge.  Maybe even some Gilder's Paste for pops of color.  I also want to experiment with different spray finishes to provide a barrier for people with skin reactions.  I know that I can use a crystal clear Krylon, but sometimes that can look a little plastic-like.  It's an exciting time!  It's almost as exciting as those first few times that we worked with the original metal clay formula.  WHITE CopprClay is full of possibilities!