Tuesday 22 November 2016

Upcycling and Going with Instinct etc

I haven't has much beading time this last week or two. DIY stuff for the house has temporarily taken over. But if I hadn't been doing house related stuff I wouldn't have pulled some old, patinated and bent nails out of an old victorian bed frame that we got at a local auction, and which I was trying to construct, (without any instructions. . . It all made sense in the end, and hasn't collapsed yet so I think I got it right. IKEA it ain't).

Anyway, said old bent nails struck a bit of a chord with me. I just liked the way they looked so I kept them aside. You get an instinct for stuff you might be able to use. Not a strong instinct, but if you are aware enough, it kind of nudges you from time to time.

I was duly nudged, so next time I was in my workshop I tried threading some left over, or mis-sized beads that I had on my desk amongst the detritus and creative debris, onto the nails. They looked quite nice, so I decided to try to make something with them.

I flattened and widened the top of each nail and then wire wrapped it with a fair few turns of anodised copper wire leading up to a loop at the top, which I flattened a little bit too.
They looked good, so I decided that they would look even better as earring charms or drops or whatever you call them.

I cut a small bit of thick copper wire, flattened each end with my jewellery hammer and drilled a hole in the widest end. I had to use my power drill, which was a bit cumbersome for fine work, but my dremel thing wouldn't have had the required oomph to do the job.
The hole was conveniently the right size for the large copper jump rings I had lurking in my findings box, so I threaded one through the hole. Oh yeah, after I had wire wrapped the other end of the thick copper wire that is. Then I threaded the nail charms onto it, grabbed a couple of ear wires and had a look at what I had got.

I liked them, but was advised by a few knowledgable people to oxidise the copper ring and wire to match the nails and their wire, so I dug out some Liver Of Sulphur that I had bought a year ago and never used.
It worked very quickly and didn't half smell eggy, as it would of course. I brushed a small amount of Renaissance Wax onto the newly oxidised bits as that is supposed to stop it rubbing off I believe. The result is in the top pic in this post.

I like it when I can just follow a seemingly obscure train of creative thought to some kind of conclusion. Following my fascination you could call it. . .
Jon x

Friday 4 November 2016

Winter Drawers On. . . ;-) Birds, Beads and more Stickiness


Winter Drawers. . .

Well, we had the first bit of what passes for cold weather here in the Eastern bit of the South East of England. The winter visitors told me it was going to be a cold day. We had a flock of about 40 Fieldfares come through.
Fieldfares are large thrushes that come over from Northern Europe when the weather gets cold there. They overwinter here, as do some smaller thrushes called Redwing, (due to the red patches under their wings). I am pretty sure there were a bunch of them at the end of the garden, but as I have yet to find my binoculars after the move I have to make an assumption based on the fact that there were several of them, they weren't blackbirds and you don't get flocks of song thrushes, which is the nearest native bird to them.
Identifying birds is a process of elimination based on knowledge and experience generally.

As the colder weather is starting, I have put out bird feeders and have been agreeably surprised by the amount of interest they got. Being further out in the country we don't usually get many of the common garden birds we used to get at our last house, which was at the edge of a large village. I assume that there aren't enough gardens out here, and that the natural supply of food in the hedges etc means wild birds don't frequent gardens very much. They like the bird feeders though. I sat at the kitchen table and watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the peanut feeder. Magic ;-) Except I now realise that I need to wear my TV/driving glasses to focus at that distance. . . sigh. . . Getting old . . . ish. . .

DIY stuff has taken a lot of my would be beading time this last week or two. I've been ripping out an old sink in the kitchen that was fitted in about 1977 and was situated at the opposite end of the room to the cooker. No idea why it was sited there, but it was seriously impractical as well as seriously grotty. All gone now, and the new, I mean 'reclaimed' ceramic 'butler' sink we got really cheap from the local reclamation yard is in, near the cooker, and functioning perfectly despite my plumbing ;-)

But enough boring house stuff, here's some boring bead stuff.

Spottines beats stickiness every time. .

I have been exploring the stickiness I mentioned in my previous post, and have worked out a few things. One being that, yes, it does depend which ink and paper your prints are on. The photocopier at my local library makes copies that don't get sticky. I printed the same images that have gone sticky in the past from other machines, and they don't get sticky, so it's not the colours or the amount of black or any of the other vague possibilities I had wondered about. I have also worked out a process to stop the stickiness. I'm not going to tell you what that is, but it does mean that I can finally get going on a tutorial for my image wrapped beads, now I can get consistent results. All will be revealed therein in due course.

Non stickiness from the library photocopier. Comparatively expensive though. . .

The thing that worries me slightly, is that my images are the major part of those beads, and I'm not teaching how to make those images, just how to transfer successfully and wrap successfully too. I wonder if people will feel misled in some way. Ay well, we shall see.

The result of an interesting variation of the transfer technique. More possibilities. . .

Next time, if you are good, I shall tell you about the jackdaw that got trapped down the chimney. The other chimney to the bees, luckily, otherwise things might have got far too interesting. . .
J x

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Image Transfer - Just when you think you know what's what. . .

I have been transferring images onto Polymer Clay for a couple of years now, so you would have thought that I would have it all sorted and under my belt and fully figured out etc etc. But I am still plagued by inconsistencies.
The issue is stickiness.
Once an image has been transferred, and all the paper has been rubbed off using the time honoured 'water and index finger' method, the image on the clay becomes sticky and is likely to smudge and transfer itself onto your fingers, however careful you are.
It's fine if you are making flat objects, like my tile beads, you just have to know when to stop rubbing the last tiny bits of paper off, knowledge that comes with experience, but if you are hoping to wrap the piece of clay with the image on round something, you are in trouble. Obviously, you can't wrap something round something else without touching the surface, however briefly, and when you do that, smudges and suchlike happen. And, as I like to wrap my images round things, this affects me.
My style has evolved to take account of that. In fact I have managed to make it work as a kind of faux ageing process, along with other tricks and processes. So it has become part of what I do and a step in the evolution of my style. However, I would like to find a way of stopping it happening for the times when I am not after that effect.

And. . . I thought I had. I have tried gently heating the image transferred clay to help the image to 'dry'. it doesn't. I have tried leaving it for a day or two. Nope, still sticky. I tried freezing it. Nope. I tried a thin layer of that floor polish stuff I can't remember the name of, and I thought that had worked, because it seemed to have done, but there was another issue I hadn't thought much about that has rendered all my experimenting kind of redundant. . .
Basically, I think a lot depends on the kind and brand of paper and ink involved. It has to be a photocopy/laser print, which I get from my local copy shop. I get things printed on an irregular basis, so if they change the brand of paper or toner, I wouldn't know. Sometimes I use the photocopier at the local library, which would use their particular paper and toner brand.
I have come to this conclusion because I can't explain the inconstancies I get any other way.
I have been messing around with some printed images from different times and places, and mostly they come out sticky. But some are fine. I hadn't noticed because I assumed that the Klear (I think that's what it's called now I remember) floor polish coating was the reason for this. But I don't think it was. . . Sigh. . .
I need to do some experimenting. It may be that coating the image a thin layer of something does actually help a bit in some cases. It may be that if I coat the image immediately it is possible it might stop the stickiness from happening. I haven't tried prolonged soaking to get the paper off, but I can't see why that would be any better.
Meanwhile, I have been following my fascination with distressed surfaces by not fiddling around trying to get a clean result, but going with the smudging and smearing and making some very organic, rustic, ancient looking beads. Everything leads to something else you may not have considered. . . That's my excuse anyway.
Jon x

Thursday 20 October 2016

Saved from the To-the-Charity-Shop box. For far better things. . . .

      This is a Portmerion jug that my mum had, and which has been lurking in various cupboards and on seldom visited shelves for years. I have often made a mental note, when it so happened that it came into my field of vision, that the raised design on it might have textural possibilities.
So when it turned up in the this-is-going-to-the-charity-shop, should-I-stay-or-should-I-go, pending box I thought I had better rescue it and actually try out said textural possibilities.
      I think the design is based on some older Staffordshire pottery, Wedgwood or some such, and before that Ancient Greek. I could research this but can't be bothered so if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. . .
So anyway, I rolled it on a spare bit of polymer clay and quite liked how it came out.
Another thing I have had lurking for quite some time is a remnant square inch of Amazing Mold Maker. You know, that poly clay type stuff that stays flexible when baked and is used for taking texture impressions and making moulds. So brushing the dust off that I made a texture sheet/mould of the jug pattern.

      It never comes out as crisp as I would like but it serves.
      Now, what I like to do is roll bits of polymer clay between two textures, and here I had two versions of the same texture, one positive, the jug, and one negative, the mould or 'mold' if you prefer, though to anyone from the UK, that is a seaside town in North Wales. . .
So, without further ado, whatever that is, I rolled polymer clay between the two textures. Here are the results.

       Well, obviously I painted them with alcohol inks, sanded the raised bits gently and varnished them. Somehow the pattern takes on a different feel, almost as if I had used a bit of lace, as I have seen done by various artists. They are verging on the pretty. Sorry about that ;-)

     These earring drop charms were also the result of my experiments. You can see the positive and negative patterns on the purple ones quite well.
Nothing more exciting to report on the house front, the bees in the 'chimbley' are quiet, so when the weather gets a bit colder we'll get the roofer/chimney repair man in. 
Sales in my Esty shop are chugging along. It's nice to have that bit of affirmation to help the creative confidence along. It's nice to be relatively unstressed after the horrors of buying and selling and moving house etc. 
Oh yeah, and it was extra nice to be featured on Polymer Clay Daily the other week, and to get a mention in the Blue Bottle Tree blog too. ;-)
Jon x

Friday 7 October 2016

They came, they saw, they faved, they went away again. . ;-)

Well, I had a great idea the other day. I would get all my beads I saved from deconstructed necklaces that never quite worked out, all my experimental beads that didn't quite fit with others, and some beads I like but haven't used for anything and most likely won't use for anything, photograph them and list them as a big destash (auto correct says 'deaths'.  .) sale. I could publicise it on Facebook etc etc. So I did that.
I got a nice response, so thanks for the views and faves, but it didn't turn into the stampede of bargain hunters snapping up beads right left and centre that I was hoping for ;-) Never mind. You can lead a camel to water, they say, but you can't make it put on a blonde wig and dance the Watusi. . . Wait, maybe they don't exactly say that, but you get the gist.
I'll keep the destash section going for a week more maybe, then de-activate the listings, as they are kind of filling up my front page somewhat.
I have had some sales though, just not anything in the destash sale. .

In between photographing and listing old beads I have been making some flattened profile bicones. I also have been reacquainting myself with my marbling/crackle technique and reminding myself of its little ways. The results have been good, though I say it myself. I went with more subtle colours which added to the gentle, faux ceramic, faux stone vibe that they exude. . .

The other recent departure for me in my bead making of late has been the manufacture of some simple, unadorned but still rustic beads, intended to compliment my other beads. They have gone down quite well, as they are reasonably priced and come with a discount if you buy with other beads. I think Etsy allows me to do that. Can't see why they would have a problem with it.

Bees in the chimney - I spoke to a local beekeeper on the phone. A really helpful old chap who gave me the lowdown on the issue. He had a wonderful Norfolk accent, and told me the problems trying to get rid of the bees in my 'chimbley' could bring. The upshot is that I will leave them be (bee?) and see if they survive the winter. They don't fly once it gets below 10 degrees, so we can get the roofing work done next month maybe. They have still been coming down the chimney in small numbers though. I blocked the small hole they were getting out of the wood burner through with polymer clay (of course!) and draped an old coat over the front just in case they were attracted by the light. That seems to have stopped the problem. But I'm not opening the door unless gets it gets cold. The old beekeeper said I should light a 'smookey' fire to spook them if they have tried to build anything in the actual lined part of the chimney.
Country living eh?
On another country living note, I thought we were down to just one guinea fowl as I hadn't seen the other one for a day or two. I sadly wandered the edge of the garden looking for the corpse or evidence of a fox of whatever, but found nothing. Nothing that is, until I disturbed guinea fowl two from her nest under the hedge. . . That's where she had been. Nesting, in October! Poor silly thing. Oh well, they are from the plains of Africa, so haven't got a clue about rural East Anglia and things like winter. The eggs most likely won't hatch, and if they do I give them ten minutes before they turn up their little toes and die. The last brood they had lasted about a week, and that was in the high summer.
It's a hard world.
Jon x

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bees down the Chimney, and Image Transfer Fun

I have known for a month or two that there was some sort of bee/wasp activity up at the top of our chimney stack. You can see them weaving about in that particular way they have when coming in to land, as it were. About ten or twenty weaving around at any one time. I was hoping it wasn't wasps, as they would make their presence felt around the fruit trees and around our outside dining table a bit too much. And that many wasps coming and going would mean a very big nest. As we were relatively undisturbed by wasps I guessed it was bees. No problem, I like bees. They don't bother us and we don't bother them. Live and let live etc etc.
So I didn't put two and two together when for the past four or five mornings I have found six or seven, very soporific and sad bees in our living room, crawling around the french windows to the garden. I was puzzled. I couldn't work out how they would have got in from outside as they weren't there when I shut the doors up at night. I couldn't locate anywhere in the floor or wall or skirting board etc where they might have come from. Odd. . .
Then my wife heard a faint buzzing coming from the wood burner. Mystery solved. . .
Our chimney is lined. It has a metal tube all the way down it which ends in the back of the wood burner, which is not in use yet and the doors firmly shut. The rest of the chimney space is filled with that insulating foam stuff (I think). I guess one or two bees fly into the top of the tube and fly or fall down all the way to the back or wood burner. From there they manage to find a way out and make a break for the french windows. Not sure what bees do in the winter, but I won't open that door until the weather gets colder just in case.
We should try to dissuade them from nesting up there really. Not least because we need some remedial work done on the flashing round that particular chimney stack, and I don't think a roofer would want to risk disturbing them. I shall consult our friend who keeps bees, he will have some advice I hope.

Anyway, bee issues aside, I have been forging ahead on the bead front. Trying to get image transfers to stop being sticky for long enough to handle them without smudging and getting the ink transferring to my fingers. . . I think I have solved it. I managed to wrap images round a round bead without smudging. Seams were another issue, but there are ways round them too, which I am exploring. I want to make a short tutorial on image transfers and what to do with them. Or at least take you through what I do with them to get the look I get. If I mention it here I might feel honour bound to actually do it. . . ;-)

So I have made a series of image transfer tube beads using somewhat more complex and random digital images of mine. They have turned out quite nicely, allowing that the relative neatness takes some getting used to for me. Never fear, the compulsion to grunge things up is never far away. I just want to know how neat the process can be. That gives me options. I like options. . .
'til next time,
Jon x

Monday 19 September 2016

Moved House - Outcome 10/10. Process 3/10.

A big old farmhouse with chimneys that look like rabbit ears, if your brain is like mine.
Some poor bugger is going to have to cut that enormous lawn regularly. . . Um. . . that would be me. . .

Well, we finally managed it. The stress and anxiety is behind us. At least the particular stress and anxiety around moving house is behind us. There may be other kinds of stress ahead, but they will be pale imitations of house move stress. And our move wasn't all that bad compared to other peoples'. . . I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that we experienced human nature in it's raw state, and British contract law as it concerns house selling and buying in all it's ludicrous glory.
But, all that aside, we are here in our new home and couldn't be happier. Don't you just love a happy ending?

Apples, (various) Greengages, Damsons, Quince, Medlar, Mulberry, Pear, Walnut, er. . I think that's it.

So anyway, this blog has been neglected, not even reaching the dizzy heights of becoming a pale imitation of it's previous self, but left to gather virtual dust and cobwebs - due to me understandably having other things on my mind.
I have still been making beads and suchlike though, listing them on Etsy and posting on Facebook. Just a bit less often than before.

My own crackle technique. . .

I have felt suitably guilty about not posting here, and as the weeks went by and the different stuff I created built up, undocumented, I have felt a bit overwhelmed by the backlog. So what I have decided is that I will just skip the last few months creative output apart from a quick picture or two, and start again from now. 

Long texture beads

Faux ceramic style rolled bicones, beads the auto spell check insists are actually 'bacons'. . And 'diablo' shape beads, crackled and varnished 

There will be some house orientated content, but nothing too self indulgent I hope. Anyway, a blog is a self indulgent thing by definition so it's going to reflect the generality of my life as well as the particular creative avenue I am following.

New house texture background. Cool but distracting.


Intention set.

As you were. . . . . .

Jon x

Saturday 21 May 2016

There is no wrong way of being me. . .

Well, I’ve been playing a lot with Shannon Tabor’s faux Raku crackle tutorial in the last day or six. I’m really enjoying what it can add to my ancient effect techniques on my beads. I still have a way to go to work out how best to use it and what to overlay or underlay it with and stuff like that, but it’s definitely part of my toolset now .

Pics further down this post. . . But first, a digression.

As a habitual over thinker, I do, from time to time, find myself musing about this whole making and sharing business. It’s all very interesting, to me anyway, and throws up some fairly deep questions about motives and motivation. Like it or not I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you. Hah!

I make things because I enjoy the process and the results. I enjoy the learning, the exploring and the challenges to my existing skill set and mind set. But why do I want to share these results? What’s that all about?
I’m sure that all artists want others to see and respond to their work, but the received wisdom, when an artist asks whether they should please themselves or their audience (presumed or real) is that they should please themselves and not worry what others think. There is an inherent contradiction there. If an artist truly doesn’t care what others think, then they wouldn’t need or desire to share their work? hmmm.
But the artists’ perhaps insecure ego usually does require some form of feedback from others to validate what they spend their time doing. I know that I would most likely stop making stuff If I had no way of making it visible to others. I want people to like what I make, and to express that. Most artists do, I think.
Now, from a Northern European Protestant perspective, which is loosely where my cultural values seem to have originated, for better or worse, wanting praise from others is deeply wrong. It smacks of egotistical behaviour, drawing attention to yourself, inflated self worth and other sinful concepts ;-)
“Who do you think you are?” “What’s special about you?” etc. Self love as something that by definition excludes everyone else, as obviously, there is not enough love to go round so if you waste it on yourself, you are depriving somebody else. yeah right.
I am enthusiastic about what i make, and want to share that enthusiasm. It comes from a position of thinking “Look, isn’t this great?” as opposed to “Look what I made, aren’t I incredibly clever and talented?”
It’s more as if I found something wonderful and want to share how lucky I’ve been to have found it. Not to negate my part in the process, but not to make it the central point either. Making is about finding things, discovering techniques, processes, forms and colour combinations that produce results that please you and often pleasantly surprise you. All filtered through your particular sensibilty, making them your creation.

The way I create, the way I feel about what I create, and the way I feel about sharing my work is all a reflection of who I am. Ideally I feel I should be 'authentic' to that concept and share what I like as often as I like, but it would hard not feel a sense of guilt if I took that approach. Dismantling this feeling of guilt is an important ongoing task in my creative life, and to help me, I came up with the slogan, "There is no wrong way of being me!" Order your T-shirt today. . . ;-)

This fear of being thought of as self indulgent is something that makes blogging quite challenging, because central to having a blog is that question, “Who do you think you are?” “Why would anyone care what you think about anything?” I try to relax and take the view that as I’m not forcing anything on anyone, if anyone finds the blog they can decide to read it or not. I guess that way I can appease my cultural guilt, and, as with my work, just put my thoughts out there for others to make of what they will.
Jon x

Oh yeah, more crackle pics -

Friday 13 May 2016

Convoluted Explanations. . . .

Well, it's the 13th May. Ooh, Friday the 13th ;-) not that that has ever bothered me particularly. Anyway, despite my silence on this platform I have still been following my fascinations, albeit alongside interruptions from our house selling and buying ongoing process. Just to give you some context, we are moving further out into the country, we are in the throes os selling our house and buying another, solicitors, surveys etc. It all takes time and makes you feel totally powerless, which is not good, so I am glad I have things I can achieve results from in fairly short order.

I decided to try using some of my more faux organic digital images to transfer onto poly clay, further contorting and exploring the idea of presumed 'reality. I'm playing with the idea that it could be hard to tell what part of the object is the result of a physical process and what part is the result of digital manipulation that echoes the results of a physical process. 

The images I make use the mathematics that impersonates or echoes naturally occurring forms and distribution of forms. The dread word 'Fractal' has to used at this point. I don't mean the swirly, exactly similar but decreasing in size, rainbow coloured things that you used to see everywhere years ago, I mean what are known as 'Random Fractals'. These have the same self similarity and iterations of scale as the swirly ones, ('Deterministic fractals' I have been told is the name of those Mandlebrot Set type ones) but they repeat in a random way, so you get a similar shape or form repeating at various sizes in randomly determined places, making a pattern that repeats, but not exactly, and not in a strict geometric layout. Kind of faux 'natural'.

The image transfer process and further deliberate 'ageing' be me, brings my own physical impersonation of natural processes, such as decay and random attrition, into the equation. 

So I am making a digital image that looks like some unspecified natural form, digitally manipulating it to make it look decayed or degraded in some way, bringing it into the physical by printing and transferring it onto poly clay, then physically manipulating the surface to make it look decayed and degraded, which is itself a random fractal process. . . .

And they look cool, which is the main point ;-) Though why 'faux ancient' is considered desirable is not something I have yet fully worked out. . (I consider it desirable but haven't delved into that one yet)

My texture sheets are made in the same way, using the same kind of images made into texture stamps/sheets.

It's all fascinating stuff, arguably. I really enjoy messing about at both ends of the process - on my computer and on my work table. there is no shortage of stuff to explore.
Below is some more recent stuff you may have seen on FB or in my Etsy shop, but it's always worth a second look of course ;-)
J x

Friday 22 April 2016

I'm still here. .

Just. . We are selling our house and buying another one, like you do, only further out into the country. Trouble is, our buyers are faffing about due to their very picky surveyor ( only doing his job I guess. .) and our seller is getting all antsy and impatient at the delay, trying to put pressure on us to progress things that are actually beyond our control. All very tedious and stressful. So no mutterings about polymer clay just yet, though I've been messing around trying to refine my image trans technique in various ways, with varying levels of success. But more about that another time. Back to the waiting by the phone/ email stuff. . . Wish us luck ;-)

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Through and Through - Rough Image Transfer Adventures

I've been working out various things this past week or so. Refining how to make 'through drilled' or at least, 'through holed' flat tile beads without them having to be unattractively thick. I have got it pretty much sorted.
I bake a thin image trans tile, then press another unbaked blank onto the underneath with a bead pin or similar in between the two layers to provide the stringing hole (once removed, which I do before baking, though afterwards would probably be OK too). The unbaked blank has to be less than the thickness of the bead pin or similar for obvious reasons. The bead is then baked again. This process avoids having to drill a hole through a solid flat bead, which would be a very delicate operation unless the bead was quite thick, which, as I mentioned before would be undesirable.
Not an exact science and not the neatest result in the world, but if I felt it was important enough I could neaten them up more than I choose to. The look suits the general vibe my work has. Kind of artily and enthusiastically rough round the edges, "Rustic". Though that word seems to be less important as a tag according to my etsy stats. . . "tribal" and "boho" get more hits. .
I made smaller versions with the smallest cutter in my set, and made them double sided. It was OK to make them a bit thicker, I thought, as they look quite nice a bit chunky. . .

The image trans technique involves using clear liquid poly clay and a heat gun, and is best done outside or in a well ventilated space. Kato polymer clay, which happens to be the trans liquid I have, has a particular smell that I don't get on with, especially when it burns. . . (oops. .) I'm not going to go into details about the technique as you can probably work out what I did. I like the effect, though I shall take a break from my experimenting with images and do something else for a while as I don't want to risk getting too obsessed and repeating myself.
The images themselves are my own digital creations, this time less geometric repeat pattern orientated and more random organic in nature. 
They still have this old/new conflict going on, which is fun I think. Ancient looking things with non ancient images on them.

I need to leave image trans for a bit and get back to texture based work I think, but finding new approaches and ideas. That will need some thinking about, and some playing with. 
I might list a few more things in my shop and then leave it for a week or so and see what I want to do next. 
I'll keep you posted,
Jon x

Friday 18 March 2016

Instinct and Round Numbers

Well I've been kind of busy this last week or two, making stuff and generally following the proverbial fascination, like I do, but with a specific aim in mind. I wanted to have 300 items available in my Etsy shop. A bit of an arbitrary figure I know, but a nice, round one. And anyway, it's quite useful to have a target. Helps the motivation.
It started off well, in as far as not selling very much, therefore enabling me to build up the numbers can be called starting well. . . Then at the end of Feb, and through the first ten days or so of March I sold a whole bunch of stuff, which was great, but dented my intention to get to 300. (If indeed you can dent an intention. Whatever. You know what I mean.) Undeterred, I plugged away, making stuff and listing it, and eventually, despite people insisting on buying things, I got to 300! I also got to 300 sales at about the same time, so cause for double celebration.

I'm not sure whether having over 300 items makes the shop somewhat hard to find specific items in and hard to navigate generally. A lot of supply shops have more than that but I'm not a bulk supply shop. Oh well, I guess if someone is interested enough they will trawl through the goods until they find what they want. after all, it's all wonderful stuff. . .

As you can see, this fascination following I have been doing has been quite productive. I haven't prevaricated. I have been letting my instinct guide me and just got on with it. 
For instance, I had been meaning to try my tile beads in actual bona fide, proper square metal bezels, to see how they would look, so I bought a few. I had a tile bead or two hanging a round so I sanded the corners off a bit and stuck it in a bezel. Very nice.

But a couple of blank baked poly clay squares caught my eye and I tried another thing I had been meaning to try for a while. Which was using PVA as a resist. So I painted a simple design on the poly clay square with PVA, let it dry, or rather blasted it with a heat gun as I was impatient, and the heat gun was within arms reach, then painted some indigo alcohol ink onto it. Once that had dried, all I needed to do was peel the PVA off. Only it didn't want to peel off. I picked it off with a finger nail and it had worked fine, the simple design was left white. So I put some more PVA on and painted with a different colour, dried it, picked it off and the result was a rather cool, vibrant coloured, kind of abstract expressionist poly clay square. So I sanded the corners a bit, polished it up and stuck it in a bezel. I also grunged up the bezels with Alc ink and gilder's wax etc, as they were a bit boring left blank, and I wanted to make them 'my' bezels. Not everyone's cup of tea but I like it. A lot actually.

Trusting your instinct is a good habit to try to adopt I think, as when it works, it encourages you to have faith in your creative powers. When it doesn't work you can comfort yourself with the thought that you had the courage to step outside your comfort zone, and each time you do, you learn something useful that staying on the well trodden path wouldn't have taught you.
People go on about knowing when to stop, in the creative process. I think the converse is equally important. Knowing when to carry on, when to keep going and find that flash of inspiration that can turn a seeming disaster into a work of art. Learning from your mistakes and then turning them round. Persistence it's called.

So, encouraged by my success at poly clay squares in bezel making, I used up some more tiles I had knocking around, and worked up some more blank squares into interesting abstracts, either by painting as before, or engraving a simple design and scratching and sanding the hell out of it, selectively. It was fun. I have even made them into simple pendants by sticking each of them on a chain and making a simple clasp. I have put them up in my shop, so we shall see what the consensus from potential buyers is on them.
I was going to write about the other stuff I have been making in my journey to my nice round number but that would have meant an unfeasibly long blog post, and a bunch of bored readers. So I shall bore you with it next time.
J x

Friday 4 March 2016

Bead Frenzies and Textures and Tools

As I wander around on my day to day travels, taking the longer, more scenic way to the post office maybe, or on walks round the local bird reserve, or just wherever I happen to be, I am always half looking out for interesting things that might make a good texture on Polymer Clay. I'm sure there are many fellow texture obsessives out there who know just what I am talking about.
It's surprisingly hard to second guess which of the things I pick up will work and which won't, (too big, too small, not detailed enough at the right scale etc.) Some of the things I find look promising but don't deliver when it comes down to it, some are ok but nothing to write home about, but others are really cool and work beautifully. The ones above were pretty nifty. And they just look beautiful anyway. The closer to the minutiae of nature I get, the more wonderful I find it.

The other thing I look out for, though not in the same places, obviously, are tools. There is a secondhand tools stall on our local market that I like to keep an eye on. I have snagged a few useful things really cheap. A pair of parallel motion pliers for about 3 quid for instance. OK, theoretically useful things I mean. I haven't found a use for them yet, but if I wanted to bend several wires of the same width at the same time, for instance, they would be just the job. . .

But the extra small, bent nose pliers below, £2.50, and the fine point round nose pliers £1.00, are very useful. Not sprung handles, but sometimes that is a disadvantage as they can spring open when you accidentally relax your grip for a split second, causing you to drop things. And you know what happens when you drop things don't you? They bounce, and unless you manage to follow their progress with a hawk eye, they vanish, only to be found feet away from where you thought they could ever possibly end up, if they get found at all.

I have to say I do get a kick out of 'finding' things, whether in fields or in secondhand shops, it allows the Universe to smile on you from time to time I think, which is always nice.

 Here are some more texture finds. Bone is always good, with that kind of bubble structure. The middle one is Sugar Beet stalk I think, as that is the only thing grown in that field that could produce something of that size and gnarly-ness. The thing on the right is familiar but I can't remember what plant it was from. Winter is a good time of year to find plant related stuff.

Below are more twigs, rosehips, cedar cone remains, flint and a dried root of something or other from the garden. 
I really need to allocate a special box for my texture finds, as my windowsill is getting stupidly cluttered. . .

I used some of these texture items on some of the beads I made in my latest bead frenzy. A selection of said textured beads are pictured below.

The shape of many of them is due to the ad hoc bead rolling device I have been using, viz - a clear perspex block, which, all things being right with the world, is intended to have a silicon texture sheet stuck to it. Of course, being me I use it for no such thing. . . 
The edges of said block are bevelled or grooved to improve the hand's grip on it or somesuch. This groove is hemispherical in cross section. 
So what I do is kind of push or roll a ball of clay down this groove using a texture implement of some kind to propel it and impart texture at the same time. 
Sometimes I use found bits of nature, as seen above, and sometimes my photopolymer texture sheets. The result is a sort of centrally textured, flat ended, ball shaped bead, which is a shape I really like. Kind of pleasingly 'primitive'. . .
It remains to be seen if anyone else really likes it, as these beads are only lately listed in my etsy shop. I think they look cool all together anyway.
Jon x