Posted by: doras_explorations | December 23, 2009

So This is Christmas, and What Have You Done ?

    

  Hello to my friends and readers from  all over the world !  It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted (Nov. 2nd, to be exact!),
so I am most grateful that I have still had visitors to my blog.  I have not touched polymer clay in over a month, alas,
 as my plate has been full of other things.  Much of my time has been spent selling vintage jewelry and other merchandise
 on e-Bay.   Much of  the vintage jewelry was given to me by husband’s grandmother, who had passed away several
years ago.   She had tons of the stuff, probably because she had a son and daughter who worked in jewelry factories for many years.  A lot of the pieces were still in their original boxes and never even worn.  At first I really didn’t expect to do much business, after all, it’s a slow economy, and people are not spending much money.   But to my surprise, I sold quite a few items, especially vintage jewelry pieces from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.  Ah, those were the glory days of costume jewelry ! 
Back then, Rhode Island, my home state, was one of the biggest producers of costume jewelry in the world.   Almost everyone worked in or knew someone who worked in the jewelry industry.  Sadly, most of those firms are gone
now, along with the jobs that supported thousands of workers and their families.  Nowadays, almost all costume
jewelry comes from-surprise, surprise!!!-China.  I find it quite depressing that one can walk into a Wal-Mart or
Target and see rack upon rack of jewelry and know that almost none of it was made here.    
   Besides doing the e-Bay thing, I got a part-time job as an ‘Office Manager’ for the Rhode Island Speech, Language,
and Hearing Association.  Stuffing envelopes and processing membership forms isn’t too exciting, but it’s a bit of extra
$$ in my pocket, and it’s a lot less stressful than assuming a speech therapy caseload like I did last year.   Besides, I
don’t have to leave my house to do it.

     

Anyway, now that the e-Bay selling frenzy has subsided, I have every intention of shifting gears
from hawking merchandise to pursuing my creative interests as the new year begins.  Meanwhile, I 
would like to
wish everone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In the words of John Lennon                        
 “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”
Posted by: doras_explorations | November 2, 2009

Let’s Zentangle !! Making a Zentangle with Polymer Clay

  OK, here’s the polymer clay Zentangle I promised a while back.   Thanks to my cat Lulu, last week was unproductive.  Now that she is back to sitting on my dining room table looking smug, I can get back to work.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I chose to construct my Zentangle from patterned sheets of clay.  There is a fairly extensive section in the Glass Attic Polymer Clay Encyclopedia that explains various ways to make and use these patterned sheets I will be using some of those techniques here, as you shall see.  
   To make uploading easier, I will once again be using a Power Point presentation to present the step-by-step procedure.  Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages of doing this is that (as far as I know) the captions cannot be translated into
another language.  However, the pictures are usually self-explanatory, especially for someone who has experience working with polymer clay.  I am considering adding a section to my blog containing captions from the demonstrations in text form that can be translated via Google or other on-line translation service.   We shall see….  
  At any rate, here’s the Zentangle construction process.  To view as a slide show, click ‘full screen’.
 
  I would love to see your polymer clay zentangles !  If you send me a photo, I will feature it in my blog,
so start ‘zentangling’ !
Posted by: doras_explorations | October 25, 2009

Sometimes Miracles Do Happen !!

 

   In my last post, I reported that my kitty Lulu had disappeared.  Since two of my other cats had disappeared last year, I expected that Lulu would also never return.  I was absolutely heartbroken.  Early this morning, my eyes caught a flash of white fur at the sliding glass door.  There was Lulu, skinny and hungry, but otherwise OK !!  I wish she could talk, because she has a lot of explaining to do, LOL !!   To all of you who offered support and who told me not to give up hope, many thanks !!! Now I can get back to working on my ‘polymer clay zentangle’ tutorial.  I think I’ve worked out some of the bugs, and refined the technique enough so that I can present it to the rest of the world. 

Coming soon:  “Zentangle Construction in Polymer Clay”

Posted by: doras_explorations | October 21, 2009

Lulu

     I am briefly interruping my cane tutorial series to share some sad news.  Several days ago, my kitty Lulu disappeared. As usual, she and her roommates Simon and Grady were let outside around 3PM to give them time to run around and take care oftheir ‘business’ before I called them in around 5:30PM for supper.  Grady and Simon returned home before their curfew, but Lulu as usual was taking her sweet time.  At 5:30 I called her, then 6:30, then 7:30, but she was nowhere to be seen.  This was highly unusual even for Lulu, who normally spent time either sunning herself on the deck or hunting in the bushes near
our house.   But she never came home that night, nor the next day or evening, despite a lot of calling and searching.  Those of you who have lost a beloved pet can understand how heartbroken I am.  There is, of course, a slim chance that she will return, but that is highly unlikely, given that she was basically a ‘homebody’ who never strayed very far. 

 

    Lulu was not a lap cat, and liked to be petted only so much before she would walk off to find herself a spot to nap undisturbed.  She was very shy, and stayed away from everyone except me and and my husband.  She was sweet and gentle, yet cautious and skittish.   Lulu was very smart, and good at figuring things out (like how to open the screen door of our slider!).  Another thing she did that impressed me was that she would always check the food dish in the kitchen before approaching me to ‘announce’ that the food dish was empty and would I please refill it.  My other cats never do that, when they get hungry they start wailing and following me around even if their food dish is full, because of course they never check it. 
  In my next post, I plan to describe how I make my polymer clay version of a Zentangle.    Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorite photos of my sweet Lulu, you will find more of them on my Flickr  photostream.  She was much loved and is sadly missed.lululoaf

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     resting but alert

Posted by: doras_explorations | October 11, 2009

Zentangles, the Polymer Clay Version

  
  I’ve become a hopeless Zentangle addict!  What IS a Zentangle?   The Zentangle is an art form
created by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, who describe it as : “An easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is a fascinating new art form that is fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity. Zentangle provides artistic satisfaction and an increased sense of personal well being. Zentangle is enjoyed by a wide range of skills
and ages and is used in many fields of interest.” 
 If that description seems unclear, here’s a Zentangle from the official Zentangle website:

  
 

  Now that you can see one, the definition makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?  Yes, it does look like
a form of doodling.  However, it is the repetitiveness and complexity of the Zentangle which distinguishes it from those doodles we make in the margins of our notebooks or the back of envelopes when listening to a  lecture or yakking on the phone.  I have made several zentangles and posted them on Flickr.     
 
     
If you have followed my blog, you’ve noticed that I get ideas for cane designs from various sources; for example, laundromat floor tiles and geometric proofs.   I also designed a cane by rather haphazardly drawing basic shapes with a black Sharpie.  I suppose that may be considered ‘doodling’.   So it seemed natural for me to develop a polymer clay cane based on a zentangle design.  I thought about constructing a complete zentangle cane, but have decided that this wouldn’t work too well.  That’s because the intricate patterns within the zentangle would be difficult to see once the cane was reduced, unless I started out with a really HUGE cane and reduced it to a size no smaller than about 3″ /7.6cm square.  And I don’t work on such a grand scale !   Instead, what I’ve decided to do is make a series of canes (for example a striped cane, jellyroll cane, etc), make a patterned sheet with each cane, then cut and assemble the patterned sheets like a puzzle to make the zentangle.  The size of the finished zentangle will be approximately 4″x4″/10cmx10cm square, including the background. This would be too large to use as a pin or pendant, but would be a good size for a tile or box top.
 
 In my next post, I will show how I make the patterned sheets and assemble them into a Zentangle.  I will be using black and white clay exclusively in keeping with the customary zentangle style.   Now I need to clear off a space on my clay table, set up my camera, and get going ! 
I’ll be back in a few days…………
Posted by: doras_explorations | September 10, 2009

I Have Homework !

        Hi, folks !  Well, Labor Day has come and gone, schools are in session (I’ve been getting stuck behind a lot of school busses lately), and the home improvement projects are at a complete standstill.  There is finally good weather and good fishing, which means that my husband is not home as much.  I’m getting the house to myself more frequently, which is soooooo nice.  I get rather cranky when my need for solitude is not met !
      One way I’ve been spending my alone time is reading and looking at the newest addition to my polymer clay book library, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes, by Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio.  Most of us who work with polymer clay know the names Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio, their specialty is COLOR-choosing colors, mixing colors, and developing personal color palettes.  Lindly and Maggie travel extensively teaching color workshops to polymer clay artists.  I have never had the pleasure of taking one of their workshops, so I was thrilled when I learned they were publishing a book.  Finally there is a book on color written specifically for the polymer clay artist. I’ve never met a polymer clay artist who isn’t ‘color obsessed’ at least to some extent. 
 
     And the book does not disappoint !  The photography is absolutely stunning, there is eye candy overload for sure.  You have to see it to believe it.  To be honest, I have so far spent a lot more time looking at the photos than reading the chapters.  However, there is a gold mine of information on just about every aspect of color.  There are 11 exercises in the book that teach, among other things, color mixing, color interactions, and the properties of hue, value, and saturation.  My goal is to complete all 11 exercises, and hopefully some of the projects as well.  Yesterday, I completed the first two exercises, “Package Color Testing” and “Value Sorting”.  The purpose of the package color testing exercise is to learn how polymer clay colors change when they are baked, and to make ‘test mixes’ of packaged colors by mixing 1 part each of the color and white. The test mix samples are the small circles inside the large ones.  I used 6 Fimo Soft colors: Cherry Red, Windsor Blue, Tropical Green, Sunflower Yellow, Plum (dark purple), and Purple Violet.  All the colors darkened with baking, as I had expected, but the purple violet seemed to change the most.  Take a look: 
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       There is a wonderful chart in the back of the book which classifies the primary and secondary colors of the major clay brands by hue, value, and saturation after they are baked.  It also indicates which colors show the most significant darkening after baking, which is very useful information to have.
       The second exercise involves making a ‘Value Sorter’ and comparing the absolute value (lightness and darkness) of a  clay color by using a gray scale , made from polymer clay, of course.  I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time seeing the ‘value’ of colors independent from the hue.  Value is probably the most important consideration when making canes (especially very detailed or small ones!), and probably the most difficult to master.  I used my gray scale to compare the values of the same Fimo Soft colors listed above.  The results were, shall I say,  ‘eye opening': 
 
 
 
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Here's the black&white version, showing the similarities in value between the colors.
Here’s the b&w version, note the similarities in
value between different colors. 
 
      What I found especially interesting was how different the colors looked depending on the gray scale background.  When surrounded by white, the colors appeared significantly darker than when surrounded by black.  Against the gray backgrounds, some of the colors almost ‘disappeared’.  Obviously this has huge implications for designing canes, and for any clay technique for that matter. 
     At any rate, I hope to apply the principles I am learning in this book to my next cane design.  I am due-OK, overdue- to post another Cane of the Week feature.  As much as I’ve enjoyed doing ‘math inspired canes’ such as Bahaskara’s Behold! and the ‘Joy of Hex’, I’d like to try a desgn that doesn’t require a graphing ruler, calculator, or protractor !  We shall see…..
 
 
                                                                            
 
Posted by: doras_explorations | August 25, 2009

Cane for the Week of 8/16/09, Part II (Finally!)


     Well, it appears that I have figured out how to make a decent “Joy of Hex” cane at last. It is not perfectly executed, but it is good enough for me to post here. Actually, I completed the trial cane last Monday, but it turned out to be ‘one of those weeks’.   I spent last Tuesday celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. After many years, Sandy has once again picked up her paintbrush and started oil painting again. You can see examples of her beautiful work on her website, aptly named Sanderella’s World. .  On Saturday, I went to my monthly RIPCG  meeting/clayday, which is basically an all-day affair.  Before that, much of Wednesday and Thursday were spent working on canes for an order placed by an Internet contact who had visited my blog and liked what she saw.  I’ve sold some canes on e-Bay in the past, but didn’t get rich from it.  At least it paid for my clay, LOL!  There are a lot of people selling canes on-line, so it’s a fairly competitive biz.  Flower canes rule, from what I’ve seen.  I have mixed feelings about selling canes.  On the one hand, I really enjoy making them, as long as I can make them in my style, which is predominantly geometrics and kaleidoscopes.  However, it’s not the road to riches, and my real passion is in developing tutorials.  At some point I would love to hold classes in canework.  Whether I could get anyone to sign up and where I would hold the classes is a whole other story.  I’m certainly no Sarah Shriver or Donna Kato !
     At any rate, here are the steps for the “Joy of Hex” cane.  I am using a Power Point
slide presentation for this tutorial, so I hope everyone can view it easily.  I had difficulty getting all the text in some of the captions to show up, so I had to reduce the font size.  If you click on the icon at the far right in the gray bar above the first photo,  you can view the tutorial in ‘full screen mode’. 
 
Posted by: doras_explorations | August 16, 2009

Cane for the Week of 8/16/09, Part I (I Should’ve Known Better !)

   In my previous post, I declared that I had ‘found’ my next cane design.  As usual, I had planned to make a trial cane and work out all the details before presenting the steps to all my anxiously waiting readers.  Well, here it is a week later, I have a huge pile of scrap clay on my table, and I’m on my third attempt to make this thing !  I’ve seriously considered admitting defeat, and moving on to something else.  But being the obsessive person I am, once I begin a ‘quest’, it is very difficult to give it up !  For example, I will visit dozens of stores- both on the Internet and the brick and mortar variety-in search of one particular item.  Whether I really need it or not is irrelevant!  A few years ago, I shopped relentlessly for a plain turquoise knit top with a crew neck  to wear with a polymer clay necklace I had made.  Most people buy jewelry to coordinate with their clothes, I buy clothes to wear with my jewelry !    After months of searching, I spotted the ‘perfect’ turquoise top at the local Kohl’s.  It was in my price range, and even better, it was machine washable !   I wanted to jump for joy.  You would’ve thought I’d won the lottery, LOL!

     Back to caning…I did a search for ‘hexagon designs’ on the Internet, and got thousands of  results, as you can imagine.  Floor tile websites, quilting websites, architecture, geometry, math websites, etc., you name it!  I spent several hours rather unsystematically clicking on any link that looked interesting.  One of my clicks brought me here:  http://joningram.org/blog/2008/08/the-joy-of-hex/.  It was a page from the blog of Jon Ingram, a teacher of mathematics in the UK.   His post begins:

>>>”Last summer I developed a bit of an obsession with hexagons. More specifically, with the patterns you can produce from tiling multiple copies of a single, simply decorated hexagonal tile:

<<<

       Multiple patterns from a single tile design !!    It was like finding that turquoise sweater…the search was over !  Especially when  I got a look at some of the pattern possiblilities when I scrolled further.  Are these cool or what??? >>>

<<<<

     All I had to do was make one hexagon cane, and I would be in pattern heaven!  Just look at all the possibilites!  The hexagon pattern would be constructed from 3 equilateral triangle canes cut in half, mirrored, and then reduced:

hexagoncane

        These triangles don’t look very complicated, do they?    Well, that’s what I thought……………..That’s why this is only Part I !   I’m not giving up……….yet !

Posted by: doras_explorations | August 9, 2009

Poll Results, Link Reorganization, and My Next Cane

      Well, folks, here are the results of my latest poll:
 

      Considering that this was an on-line poll, it was not too surprising that the majority of you use the Internet to discover and learn new polymer clay techniques.  Interestingly enough, even though I have a ‘tutorial oriented’ blog, I turn to books and magazines most frequently for learning new techniques.    There is just something about having that printed page in front of me that looking at a monitor can’t match.  I do print out on-line tutorials and instructions on occasion, but my printer is rather slow and I tend to be impatient.  The high cost of printer ink is also a consideration.  I do often use the Internet to find and to buy newly published polymer clay books.  I also belong to Crafters Choice Book Club where I can buy books at a 25% discount, as well as accumulate Bonus Points for free books.  Their selection of polymer clay titles is quite good.

     Not surprisingly, since I’ve received my new laptop,  I have been doing a lot of netsurfing .  The thrill of fast loading graphics is still fresh, and I’ve spent  (or wasted, depending on how one views it! ) many hours visting site after site using my Stumbleupon  button.  I had heard of Stumbleupon quite a while ago, but had not checked it out.   But recently someone had apparently “Stumbleduponed” my blog and added it to their favorites list….and in one day I had over 700 hits.  That’s quite good for a relatively obscure blog !  Since then, Stumbleupon has referred more people to my blog than any other website.  If you’re looking for a way to increase traffic to your site, it’s worth investigating.  You will also find countless websites/blogs tailored to your interests.  Be forewarned, once you start Stumbling, it is very hard to stop !  

     Thanks to Stumbleupon, and my own Internet meanderings, my list of links has grown to huge proportions.  Finally, I decided that a bit of reorganization was needed.  You will notice that I have divided my links into categories to make it a bit easier to navigate them.  Categorizing the links took almost a whole day, because I had to update one link at a time, but at least I got reacquainted with many websites and blogs that I had not visited in quite some time.  Obviously, polymer clay links dominate my list, but I’ve also been adding to my other categories, especially the Color and Design group.

     Speaking of color and design, I think I have finally ‘found’ my next cane.   It took me a lot longer to come up with it than I had anticipated.   Like my previous cane, this design comes from a math website.  I think I see a trend here, LOL !   Anyway, I want to try it out and see how ‘doable’ it is before I post it on my blog.  It is a hexagonal design, but that is all I am saying for now!  To be continued…………

Posted by: doras_explorations | July 30, 2009

I’m Baaaaaack !!!!!

     It’s been a while since my last post.   I know I shouldn’t make excuses (a blogging ‘no-no’, I’ve read !), but I’m going to anyway, LOL!  After many agonizing hours of uploading photos and captions to WordPress, and waiting for my 7 year laptop to go through its very slow paces, I decided that enough is enough.  It was time to buy a new laptop, and take out my wallet-or more accurately to pull out my Visa card !-and go shopping.  Although I understand computer basics, and can figure out how to run most programs, the technical details are still Greek to me.  All I knew is that I wanted more memory, a faster processor, and a dedicated graphics card so photos and other visuals would load faster and I could store lots of them.  After a few days of  dusk to dawn on-line research and comparison shopping, I finally decided on a Toshiba Tecra A-10.  My last 2 laptops were also Toshibas, and I got a lot of mileage out of them, so why switch brands?  My toy arrived on Monday, so I’ve been moving my files and photos from my old workhorse.  Aren’t flash drives wonderful?   It never ceases to amaze me how much data fits into something the size of a keychain !

        That was Excuse #1 of ‘why I have not posted’.  Excuse #2:  This past weekend, I attended Klay Karma 2009, a 3-day retreat of about 60 fellow polymer clay artists.  We clayed from sunup to sundown (and far beyond!), socialized, viewed demonstrations, ate at lot, and slept very little.  It was awesome!  Here’s a shot of our workroom in all its chaotic glory:

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       Looks like fun, doesn’t it ?  Since I had attended Klay Karma in 2005 and 2007, I got to see a lot of old friends and make new ones. 

      I presented a demonstration of my plaid cane to an appreciative and patient audience.  I had prepared quite extensively the week prior to the retreat, so people wouldn’t have to waste time watching me condition clay.  Thanks to years of watching Donna Kato  and other polymer clay artists on the Carol Duvall Show,  I have learned what to make ahead of time and what to demonstrate in person.  When I would forget a step or have   ‘senior moment’ while I was assembling the cane parts, my pals would chime in and keep me on track.  My dear friend and fellow RIPCG  guildmate Toine was kind enough to snap many photos during the demonstration, and actually managed to get some decent shots of me !  I hate being photographed, but one must make sacrifices for ones art !  I’m the lady in the yellow shirt in dire need of a visit to the hairdresser.

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      All in all, the demo went very well, and quite a few folks decided to make their own plaid canes afterwards.  I enjoyed seeing the different color schemes and individual interpretations of the plaid pattern. 

      Of course, I also attended many demos covering a wide variety of techniques and materials which I plan to incorporate into my own work.  There is just so much talent out there !  Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos since I was too busy claying and watching others work, but I believe there will be photos posted by Klay Karma organizers and attendees, so I will pass along the links when I find them.

        Anyway, now that I’m home, and have had some time to recover from my busy weekend, I will be once again sitting down with my clay and hopefully coming up with a interesting new cane tutorial in the next few days.   Now that I have a faster computer, uploading my photos and captions won’t be such torture !

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