Monday 24 July 2017

The Secret Life of Biscuits (A Tutorial of Sorts), Stone Pelicans and an Interesting New Glue. . .

Wood or Polymer clay?

Well, I've been horribly busy with a long discussed and procrastinated over DIY project - vis, Putting up false wood panelling in the hall of our house. False, because I am using MDF to make a series of 'frames', the inside of which is the plain wall. Paint it all and you wouldn't know that it wasn't all wood, and if you are careful, you can make it look like it's been there a long time. . .

You see, our house dates from circa 1780, but you wouldn't really know to see it on the inside apart from the proportions, nice high ceilings etc. It was messed about with a fair bit over the years, including being, what our local builder calls, 'farmerised', which is a process of covering over or ripping out old clay tile floors, likewise with old inglenook fireplaces, bannisters etc and generally getting rid of rustic charm or Georgian detail wherever it can be found and replacing with lino, plasterboard, york stone and strange wallpaper ;-) Something farmers seem to have got the blame for. Well, it was a farmhouse so I guess in this case farmers were the culprits. . . We are lucky in that the house wasn't totally trashed, and that the previous owner uncovered a nice tile floor and a previously boxed in inglenook fireplace when they bought the place forty years ago.

Our task, as we see it, is to pretend that none of the farmerising happened, and reconstruct a kind of faux Georgian-ish interior. Not making it a slavish restoration project as such, but more of a creative injection of charm and interest in line with our ideas of what might have been there before and what we would like to see, and all in line with a low budget too!

Work in progress, plus kitten

Anyway, the reason I am wittering on about it is that I am finding that my DIY excursions often have a the side effect of giving my ideas for beads etc. 
The MDF 'frames' I am making are joined together using something called a 'biscuit joiner'. This tool makes a groove in the piece of MDF or other wood you wish to join to another piece of same, in which you made a similar groove. Using the same tool set up the same means that your grooves should line up perfectly and be in exactly the right place for the two pieces to join up seamlessly by using a 'biscuit' which fits nicely in the two grooves. It works well, once you know what you are doing (I'm getting there. . .) These 'biscuits are like small, flat ovals of plywood, and are of a size and shape that to my mind could make a good template for a polymer clay bead/charm. (15mm by 19mm by 4mm)

size 10 biscuit - 15 x 19 x 4mm

Above is what they look like. You could view the following as a sort of tutorial or at least something to try if you come across a biscuit or two, (100 for about ten pounds online) follow along. . .
They are made of three layers, like plywood, and are maybe a bit thick, so I tried carefully splitting one down the middle with a craft knife/tissue blade. 

Split in half to expose nice wood texture and reduce thickness

I liked the splintered wood texture that resulted, so firstly I tried pressing that into a piece of raw polymer clay as a texture stamp, then cutting round it with a craft knife and baking the resulting shape. 
Once it was baked I decided to use the wooden half biscuit as a backing piece for it, so I stuck it, splintered texture side out, onto the back. Actually, I used the other half of the biscuit I split earlier as it had a slightly different texture pattern but the principle is the same. 
Then I had some fun treating the surface with alcohol inks, sanding it off, etc. It turned out looking cool, but a lot like wood. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not, or if it was what I wanted, as if it looked like wood I might as well not have used polymer clay at all ;-)

I painted the back too. I used acrylic inks this time, the coverage was better on wood than alc inks I found.

The real wood back of the faux wood bead

Following on from that my next experiment was to use a different texture instead of splintered wood, so I reached for my stack of digital photopolymer texture sheets and tried one of those. I used the same technique as before and the same half biscuit backing concept. It looked promising, and  after a bit of painting and distressing etc it looked really interesting. So I reckon there is quite a lot of scope for polymer clay experimentation here. . . 

Textured and treated surface

Talking of which, I had another idea and tried cutting the half biscuit in half again across the width, which gave me another nice couple of shapes which could be more of a manageable size for earring charms maybe. 
I tried another of my texture sheets, a simple, bold one this time, combined it lightly with the splintered wood texture on top of it, and then, after baking,  kind of wiped the two pieces gently across a blue stazon ink pad. I was pleased with how they came out too. I'll definitely try some more of those. . . And get a couple of different colour ink pads.

Half biscuits - textured and coloured

This post has been a bit long so I will keep the rest of this missive brief. . .

We found a pair of stone pelicans at our local antiques street fair at the weekend. They fit in nicely with our front door area and add a bit of eccentricity, not to mention a slightly gothic vibe too. Fun. They can keep a careful eye on any visitors ;-)

Stone pelicans in place above the door

As for the interesting new glue. The adhesive I was using to attach bits of moulding and dado rail to the fake panelling was new to me. It's a kind of two part epoxy stuff, but part one is a spray. You spray one surface, let it evaporate, then apply glue to the other surface, when pressed together they form a very strong, superglue type bond in about ten seconds. Brilliant. It may have polymer clay and jewellery uses. Not sure yet but I will keep it in mind.
Well, until next time,
Jon x

Thursday 13 July 2017

Polymer Clay 'Turned Technique' Hints, A New Discovery and just maybe. . . KITTENS!!

Turned technique on Image Transfer beads. . .

Well, not wishing to start off what is supposed to be a polymer clay bead type blog with pictures of kittens, I will start off with a pic of my newest discovery/experiment ;-)

I realised that I can use my 'turned effect' technique on image transfer beads. Interestingly, this confirms to anyone wondering what I am doing, that, even though the results may look like it, I am not using a lathe. (though I like the idea of trying one out. . .)

So, I hear you cry, what are you doing? Good question. It's hardly rocket science but in case you hadn't worked it out, what I am doing is basically rolling unbaked polymer clay between various things. All sorts of things but mainly everyday/hardware store/DIYleftover type things. For some deep seated and so far unexplored reason I love using things for purposes for which they were never intended. . . Especially when the results are really cool. And as you know I am always ready to follow the fascination. . .
The above pic is a record of my first experiments. Nothing that useful in themselves, but the possibilities are certainly there. I was quite pleased that the process doesn't degrade the image as much as I thought it might. And anyway, even if it does, it's part of the effect as far as I am concerned. 
So now you know.

Anyway, enough polymer clay rubbish. The main story in my life this week has been KITTENS!

Our neighbour is a fosterer for the local branch of a cat rescue charity, and some time ago I had mentioned the possibility that we might want to adopt a kitten, or maybe, just maybe, two. . .
Well, last week she came round to tell us that three little silver tabby and white kittens were ready for rehoming. The catch was that they don't let single kittens from a litter go, we would have to take two. . . We discussed this, and agreed, but very firmly drew the line at three. No way. Out of the question we said. . .

Yeah right. 

Say hello to our three newly adopted kittens! Our firm line was obliterated the millisecond we saw them. I mean, how could we leave one all on it's own? Hard as nails, us. . . sigh. . .

The one at the back is the boy, the other two are the girls, and very sweet they are too ;-)

Awwwwwww. . .

OK enough about kittens, this is a polymer clay blog after all, below are a selection of rolled/turned effect beads I made last week. You may have seen them before on FB or IG but they are worth another look. They are in my SHOP, along with some more recent stuff and just about all my Etsy shop's stuff which I have transferred but still not finished rejigging the titles etc.
I changed the theme to a more mobile friendly one, which was a pain, but had to be done as when I checked the last one out on my iPad the writing was so small as to be illegible. Not good. It should look much better now.


click the pic to view the shop listing

click the pic to view the shop listing

click the pic to view the shop listing

 Further to my image transfer rolled/turned beads at the top of this post, I made a few further experiments and the beads below were the result. Kind of cool without being obviously image trans. Hmmmm. . .

click the pic to view the shop listing

I couldn't possibly go without sharing another pic of the kittens, or at least two of them, showing how deeply traumatised they were by the adoption process ;-) They are such happy, socialised, well adjusted little beasties. . . I wish they wouldn't insist on walking over the trackpad on my laptop though. One managed to erase three lines of text, and another one just launched iTunes. . . !

See you next time,
Jon x

Monday 3 July 2017

Happy Accidents, The Tedium of Transferring Listings, Etsy Rumours and Soft Fruit. . .

Ridged beads - click the pic for the link to my new shop

Not a lot going on here over the last week or two. Well, not a lot that is worth sharing anyway ;-)
I have had a some time in the workshop, and managed to knock out a few rather fetching beads, but I haven't had time to get stuck in, so to speak.

Makes for an exciting blog post doesn't it?

Some random(ish) ridged, long bicone beads, click the pic for the link etc

Anyway, a lot of time has been spent transferring my Etsy listings to my new Indiemade shop. Still got about 150 listings to edit. It does get very boring, but needs to be done.

As far as shop stuff goes, which is taking up my headspace rather too much these days, Etsy is still causing headaches for a great many sellers, if the forums are anything to go by. Yes, the level of griping there has always been high, but this is something over and above that. Rumour is that the powers that be are prepping it for a sale/takeover. We shall see. I will keep a small presence there until things become clearer but will be working on my new venue primarily.
To that end I even bought the domain and will transfer the URL over, once I work out how that is done.

Earring beads, in a 'pot' style. In my new shop now - click the pic. . .

I keep telling myself that I am going to move on to something else from my 'turned' effect 'pot' and 'candlestick' beads, as I don't like to keep on the same track for very long generally. I guess I don't want things to get stale. But despite my intentions, once I get in the workshop it's pots and candlesticks all the way ;-) .
I know enough not to try to fight my intuition and instinct, so I just go with it. There is always more to discover about a technique. And usually, it's a small, unlooked for distraction that wouldn't otherwise have happened, that leads to a new idea and the next obsession. . . I'm a believer in 'happy accidents' after all. The trick is to notice a potential good thing when you stumble across it. You can't go hunting for inspiration, you have to supply the circumstances for it to happen naturally. . .

Candlestick beads - in my shop now. . . clickety click. . .

In the garden, the raspberries and loganberries are ripe. I have been freezing some of them, as we can't eat them all and I hate wasting such things. Broad bean pods are appearing too. I will pick them young as they are much more palatable then, than the big floury things I remember from my youth. Courgettes are happening too. (cool yellow ones!) I only have one plant this year so the backlog in the fridge, and the despair at the pile of marrow sized ones I didn't pick in time should be much reduced. I hope ;-)
The rain and hot weather seems to have conspired to firstly, shrivel, and then rot the strawberries, which is a shame. . . Well, can't be helped.

A long focal bead, rustic ridged etc - the pic is a link

The best news of the last few days is that our neighbour, who helps out the local cat rescue charity says there are some kittens becoming available in the next few days. . . Two little silver tabbies amongst them. I think I am going to be tempted ;-) Obviously photos will be shared if and when this cat acquisition happens. . . It's been a long time since I had a cat around the place.
Jon x