Posted by: doras_explorations | July 7, 2009

Cane of the Week, 7/5/09: Behold!, Part II

      To those of you who read my previous post, welcome back!   As promised, here are the steps I used to construct my Behold! cane. 

1.	To make my Skinner blend, I roll out sheets on the thickest setting of my Atlas pasta machine (#1).   These sheets are approximately 4”x6”/ 10.6x15.24cm in size.  I will use a smaller amount of the blue clay in my blend, as you can see in the next photo.

1. To make my Skinner blend, I roll out sheets on the thickest setting of my Atlas pasta machine (#1). These sheets are approximately 4”x6”/ 10.6x15.24cm in size. I will use a smaller amount of the blue clay in my blend, as you can see in the next photo.

 

2.	I cut, stack, and arrange my 3 colors to look like this.  My Skinner blend will be made from this slab, which is approximately ¼”/6.35mm in thickness.

2. I cut, stack, and arrange my 3 colors to look like this. My Skinner blend will be made from this slab, which is approximately ¼”/6.35mm in thickness.

 

3.	I fold the clay slab in half, and flatten it out so it will fit through my pasta machine more easily.  I then proceed to make the blend.

3. I fold the clay slab in half, and flatten it out so it will fit through my pasta machine more easily. I then proceed to make the blend.

 

4.	Here is my Skinner blend after approximately 20 passes through the pasta machine.

4. Here is my Skinner blend after approximately 20 passes through the pasta machine.

 

5.	After trimming the ends, I roll up the Skinner blend across the colors to form a log shape.  The log is compressed and reshaped to make a square block or ‘plug’.

5. After trimming the ends, I roll up the Skinner blend across the colors to form a log shape. The log is compressed and reshaped to make a square block or ‘plug’.

 

6.	Here the block has been flattened and stretched so I can fit it through the pasta machine on the #1 setting.

6. Here the block has been flattened and stretched so I can fit it through the pasta machine on the #1 setting.

 

7.	This is what the sheet looks like after it has gone through the pasta machine.  I divide this strip into 1”/2.5cm segments, then stack the segments to make a block shape.

7. This is what the sheet looks like after it has gone through the pasta machine. I divide this strip into 1”/2.5cm segments, then stack the segments to make a block shape.

 

8.	The segments are stacked, and I compress this rectangle to make it more of a square.  I also trim the sides to make them neat and even.

8. The segments are stacked, and I compress this rectangle to make it more of a square. I also trim the sides to make them neat and even.

 

9.	This square will be cut in half from corner to corner to make 2 triangles.

9. This square will be cut in half from corner to corner to make 2 triangles.

 

10.	The 2 triangles are cut in half to make 4 triangles.

10. The 2 triangles are cut in half to make 4 triangles.

 

The pieces are arranged as shown in the above photo.  Notice that the color bands are now diagonal.  This square will be reduced to a length of approximately 2”/5cm.

11.The pieces are arranged as shown in the above photo. Notice that the color bands are now diagonal. This square is reduced to a length of approximately 2”/5cm. Then it is reshaped to form a 3/4"/19mm x 1"/2.5cm rectangle.

 

beholdcane12

12. Once my rectangle is made, I slice it from corner to corner, following the line where the light and dark colors meet. I scrape off any dark clay that remains on the light side (and vice versa) using my clay blade.

 

13.	 My 2 triangular pieces are cut in half as shown in the photo to make 4 triangles.

13. My 2 triangular pieces are cut in half as shown in the photo to make 4 triangles.

 

14.	 I stand up my triangles with the longest side on the bottom.

14. I stand up my triangles with the longest side on the bottom. Then I wrap each triangle (but not the bottom!) with a very thin (Atlas #6) sheet of blue clay.

 

15.  I wrap each triangle (but not the bottom!) with a very thin (Atlas #6) sheet of blue clay.

15. Now the triangles are arranged as shown above to form a square, but are not pressed together. In the center is a small “tilted” square hole. Note that the unlined sides of the triangles face outward to form the sides of the square.

 

16.	The square is now pulled apart, and a square log (I used the green clay) is inserted to fill in the center square hole, checking both ends of the cane to make sure it fills it completely.

16. The square is now pulled apart, and a square log (I used the green clay) is inserted to fill in the center square hole, checking both ends of the cane to make sure it fills it completely.

 

17. I press the pieces of the cane together and make sure there are no gaps between the pieces.  Then the cane is wrapped with a #6 sheet of blue clay.  This cane will now be reduced to a ¾”/19mm square approximately 3”/7.6cm in length.

17. I press the pieces of the cane together and make sure there are no gaps between the pieces. Then the cane is wrapped with a #6 sheet of blue clay. This cane will now be reduced to a ¾”/19mm square approximately 3”/7.6cm in length.

behold18

18. Behold ! , the finished cane !

 

19.	Here I have taken a piece off the base cane, reduced it, and reassembled it to make a 9-patch square.  Note that the little green center squares are all tilting in the same direction.

19. Here I have taken a piece off the base cane, reduced it, and reassembled it to make a 9-patch square. Note that the little green center squares are all tilting in the same direction.

 

           I realize the steps are a bit complicated.  Most of the difficulty was in making a Skinner block with diagonal striping.  If anyone out there has an easier technique to accomplish this, I would love to hear it.  I did a search on the ‘net, but the only instructions I found for diagonal Skinner blends were those that resulted in a cane that shifts colors as you slice it.  One example is Beth Kazze Curran’s “Rainbow in a Cane” lesson featured in the October 2008 issue of Polymer Cafe. And I wanted my diagonal blend to go all the way through the cane and not shift color.

     Anyway, that’s it, folks !  Next time I will more careful in choosing a cane design based on mathematical principles, LOL !

Posted by: doras_explorations | July 5, 2009

Cane for the Week of 7/5/09:”Behold!!”

        In my last post, I revealed the color palette I would be using in my next “Cane of the Week” feature.  The palette was chosen by my readers in response to a poll.  The clay was conditioned, and the colors were mixed.  The next step was for me to decide on a pattern.  I looked through “1000 Patterns”, a wonderful book by Drusilla Cole that I often browse through when I am searching for cane design ideas.   Many of the patterns do not easily lend themselves to cane designs, but it is nonetheless a great source of inspiration.  However, after thumbing through the book several times, I didn’t find anything  that really excited me, at least not enough to ‘translate’ into polymer clay.  So I went on-line to view images using search terms such as ‘patterns’ ‘geometric designs’ ‘repeating designs’…………..Of course, there were many thousands.  After a couple of hours of searching, I came across a pattern that looked intriguing.  It was on a page featuring ‘mathematical quilt patterns’ created by two quiltmakers who design quilts based on mathematical concepts.  Really fascinating stuff.  Anyway, about halfway down the page was a pattern called “Bhaskara’s Behold!’  Of course, I had never heard of Bhaskara,   who was a famous 12th century Indian mathematician.  One of his most famous achievements was a pictorial proof of the Pyhthagoean Theorem.  When he discovered this proof, he was said to have exclaimed “Behold!”  

      Anyway, I am not going to go into any further mathematical details because math has never been my strong suit, and the only time in my life that I ever studied geometry was in the Dark Ages when I was in 10th grade !  So, without further ado, here is Bhaskara’s Behold! :

thumbnailCARY6T0J

      Looks fairly simple and straightforward, right?  WRONG !  I spent the better part of one day trying to sketch the pattern on graph paper-very difficult to do, as I later read!-and once I did that, I had decided that I would make a ‘shaded version’ of the design with Skinner blends, which looks like this when the base cane design is made into a 16-square patch:  

bashkara

      The next challenge was to make the Skinner blend go in the right direction.  The normal Skinner blend block or ‘plug’ is vertical and shades from left to right.  But this would not work for this cane, I discovered.  I had to make a Skinner block that would shade diagonally from corner.  Another 2 or 3 frustrating hours were spent in trying to figure out how to do this.   If I had better mathematical or mechanical skills, I would have been able to mentally ‘track back’ from the finished shaded triangles to the initial Skinner blend.  But instead I had to cut out little shaded paper triangles and attempt to recreate the steps.  Anyway, I did finally come up with a solution (and a headache!), although I am sure there is a better, easier way to do it.  No doubt there are many people out there who could figure out in a few minutes what took me several hours. 

      I spent most of yesterday (the 4th of July) making my Behold! cane, and took photos of the steps.  However, I have yet to edit and upload the 20 photos and write the captions.   So I’m afraid I will have to keep everyone in suspense a little longer !!  Check back in a day or 2 !

Posted by: doras_explorations | June 23, 2009

Cane Colors Chosen, Now I Need a Pattern!

  Recently, I asked my readers to help me choose a color palette for my next “Cane of the Week” feature.  Last Wednesday the votes were tallied, and the winning palette is-drum roll, please !- Dark denim blue, pale butter yellow, and lime green.  I was a bit surprised that it was chosen by a wide margin (50% of the total votes).  I had predicted that the turquoise, brown and ecru combination would take first place, since blue paired with brown has been a popular trend lately, especially in interior design.    But what do I know, I don’t work for Pantone !

     Anyway, now that the colors have been chosen, the next step is to recreate these three colors in polymer clay.  My approach to color mixing is normally quite haphazard.  I mix colors from leftover clay scraps to make various shades of  ‘cool tones’ (purples, blues, and greens), and ‘warm tones’ (yellows, oranges, red, and browns).  Some pinks are cool (like magenta and rose pink), some pinks are warm (such as coral and ‘bubblegum’).  I store my color mixes in clay sheets rolled up like a burrito in plastic deli film.  The problem with this system is that I can’t duplicate the colors since I have no idea what colors I mixed together !  This time, I  mixed the colors using a set formula so I can recreate them if I run out of clay and also to provide my readers with better directions than ‘you mix a little of this with a bit little of that’, LOL!!!!   Here is a photo of the color palette, with proportions shown:

DSC_2785
   
I used Fimo Soft clay in the following shades:  for the dark denim blue, I used 12 parts Brilliant Blue, 1 part black, and 1 part white;  for the lime green, I used 3 parts Lime Green (of course!) and 1 part Tropical Green;  for the pale butter yellow, I used 10 parts white and 1 part Sunflower Yellow.  These colors can obviously be made with other brands of clay (eg, Premo, Kato Clay) using similar colors and proportions.  For example Fimo Soft ‘Sunflower Yellow’ looks very much like Premo ‘Cadmium Yellow’. Premo’s ‘Ultamarine Blue’ can be substituted for Fimo Soft ‘Brilliant Blue’. although the Ultamarine Blue is more saturated so additional white might be needed to make the denim color.  What matters more is the proportion of colors used.   Another important consideration is the value (lightness and darkness) of the colors.   There should be sufficient contrast between the 3 colors, with the blue being dark, the lime green being medium in value, and the pale yellow being very light.  Experiment with small amounts of clay first to get the colors you want.  I use a small square Kemper cutter to cut equal sized pieces of clay so I know the precise amount of each clay I need to make the targeted color.

    So the colors have been chosen, the colors have been mixed, and now it’s time to make the cane !   For the next day or two I will look though my many art, design, and jewelry making books for inspiration, and visualize patterns while I’m on the treadmill or elliptical machine.  For some reason, I get my best design ideas when I’m at the gym !  You would think that this would make me want to go to the gym more often, but it doesn’t, LOL !

    Hopefully I can get  my ‘cane brain’ in gear and I will post a tute in the next week….so stay tuned !

 

Posted by: doras_explorations | May 26, 2009

Cane for Week of 5-24-09: Borrowed colors, borrowed pattern

In my last post, I promised to make a cane using a color palette chosen from the COLOURLovers website and a pattern based on a photo of a really cool ‘mod tea set’ I found on Flickr.    So, without further ado, here they are:

COLOURlovers_com-Share_Golden_Moments

 

mod tea set

 

Since the above pattern has 4 colors and I am using 5, I will modify the design somewhat.  I will be using the white clay to outline and separate the other colors. 

OK, here we go

 

DSC_2690

1. Here is the clay I mixed to match my chosen color palette.  I used Fimo Soft clay in the following proportions:  red, 4 parts Cherry Red, 1 part White; beige/ecru, 2 parts Sahara, 1 part White; blue; 1 part Pacific Blue, 1 part Peppermint; purple/violet, 4 parts Plum, 1 part White.  The white was used ‘as is’.  I mixed the equivalent of 4-6 oz of each color.  I would recommend mixing more of the ‘background color’ (in the tea set, this was the dark brown)

DSC_2692

2. The next step is to create the center circle and square shapes.  I decided to use red for these shapes, and later, for the background as well.  Approximate sizes; circle diameter, ½”/13mm, square sides, ½”/13mm

DSC_2694

3. Both shapes are outlined with a thin sheet of white clay, (#6 on my Atlas pasta machine)

DSC_2695

4. Next, a sheet of beige/ecru at the #3 setting is wrapped around the shapes.

DSC_2698

5.Once again, a white sheet at #6 is wrapped around the shapes, followed by a #3 sheet of the blue.  As you can see, I am using a thin sheet of the white to separate each color.

DSC_2701

6.After another wrapping of white comes a #3 sheet of purple, then white again.  The canes are now approximately 2”/5cm in length, and about 1”/2.5cm in width/diameter.

DSC_2702

7.The canes are then reduced so each one is approximately 4”/10cm in length, and between 5/8” and ¾” wide (15-18mm)

DSC_2704

8. I cut each cane in half, so now I have 4 pieces about 2”/5cm long.  I will use only one circle and one square for my cane, and save the other 2 pieces to make another variation of my design later.

DSC_2707

9.I will work with the circle cane first. I assemble a solid square shaped block of the beige/ecru clay which will be the same length and width as the circle cane, approximate size 1”x1”sq.x 2” length (2.5×2.5x5cm)

 

DSC_2709

10. The beige square is divided in half to make 2 narrower pieces.  These pieces will be used to construct the ‘cut-out rectangle’ shape that surrounds the circle.

DSC_2711

11. I cut a wedge off the beige piece approximately the same height as the circle (see left side of photo).  Then I use my blade, a small acrylic roller, and an acrylic square rod to shape this piece so the circle cane will fit neatly inside it (see right side).

 DSC_2713

12. After more trimming and shaping of the beige pieces-make sure to check both ends of the cane-the entire rectangle cane is outlined with an extremely thin sheet of white (# 8 on my Atlas machine).

DSC_2714

13. The red clay will be used for the background color.  I wrap 2 thick sheets (#1 setting) of red around the cane.  I will now work on the square cane shown at the left.

DSC_2716

14.  I press the square cane against the cane I just made, then I apply 2 #1 thick sheets to the top and bottom.  Notice that I did not apply red clay on the right side of the square.  Now I have a new rectangular cane.

DSC_2717

15. I cut this new cane in half and stack the 2 pieces like this.  This newly formed cane is approximately 2”/5cm square and about 1”/2.5cm in length.

DSC_2722

16. Here I have reduced the cane to a ½”/13mm square approximately 8”/20cm in length.

DSC_2746

17. I decided to reduce a portion of the above cane still further, then cut it into 4 pieces and reassembled it.

     Now, that wasn’t too complicated was it ? I still have a circle and square left over (see the 8th photo) to make another version of this cane, but I haven’t decided what color I want to use for the background. However, since I don’t feel like mixing any more clay,
I will save that project for another time when I feel more ambitious !

    

When I lack energy or ambition or have a creative block, I either reach for a piece of chocolate or surf the Internet.  Sometimes I do both.  I suppose it would be better to head to the gym, or to do some yoga and meditate, but self-discipline is unfortunately not one of my strong suits. 

    

   Much of my inspiration comes from the Internet, but not all, as demonstrated in a previous post.  One obvious place to look, of course, is at the work of other polymer clay artists through their websites, blogs, and photo sites such as Flickr.    So far, I have not utilized social networks such Facebook, My Space, or Twitter , since I am admittedly so ‘behind the times’ and uncool, LOL !   Besides, I am a lot more drawn to the visual rather than the verbal, despite the fact that I have been a speech pathologist for over 30 years.  If you take a look at my sidebar, you will see that I have loads of links to other polymer clay artists, and a generous sprinkling of links to mixed media, jewelry, beadwork, and other artists. 


       Although I love to look at other artists’ work,  I make a conscious effort not to rely on it too much.   This is because I want very much to develop my own style and not adopt the ‘look’ of another artist, let alone copy his/her work.  Obviously, that is much easier said than done!  Many times I thought I had come up with something ‘new and original’, only to find that someone else had already been there and done that, usually better than I did it !  Nonetheless,  I do learn many tips and techniques from other polymer clay artists which I utilize to improve the quality of my own work.  My Internet connection to the polymer clay community, in fact, has had a huge influence on my work. 

   

    Currently one of my favorite ‘non-polymer clay’ websites is COLOURLovers .  On this site, there is a gold mine of information about color trends, and how color is used in the real worlds of interior design, graphics, and fashion.  There are a lot of interesting articles and interviews with noted designers, but what really makes this site so special is that it allows people to post and share color palettes……….And there are, at last count, over 830,000 of them.   That’s a lot of virtual color swatches !  Many of the palettes are color gradations,  so it’s like having a library of Skinner blends!  There are tools on the website which allow you to mix colors, create a color palette, and choose a pattern to color in.  You can also search for colors and/or color palettes using various criteria or keywords.  For example, if you type ‘summer’, you will get all color palettes related to summer. If you have never visited this site before, take a look, it is amazing.  You are sure to get fresh ideas if you are in a ‘color rut’ !

    At first, I spend a lot of time just playing around on the site like a kid with new crayons and a coloring book.  But it soon occured to me that I could choose a  color palette to design a cane.  Obviously, the colors must be recreated as closely as possible in polymer clay,  but  color mixing is a great skill to practice, isn’t it ?

   

  So I have decied that in  my next post, I will pick out a color palette of 4-5 colors from the COLOURLovers library, and use it in a cane design.  I will show how I recreate (or, more accurately, try to recreate!) the colors with polymer clay, and of course, build a cane with them.  My cane will be based on  a ‘retro tea set’ pattern I found on the Flickr Mid-Century Modern Ceramics and Tableware group . Although I will be duplicating the pattern in cane form, I will use my chosen color palette instead of the one in the  tea set.  This is going to be my ‘weekend project’, so hopefully I can upload the post by Monday or Tuesday.  My computer is getting very slooooooooooow of late, and uploading anything seems to take forever, especially photos.  Time to shop for a new computer, I guess  {Sigh}and I just paid off my Visa. 


Anyway, stay tuned and see ya next week !

 

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Posted by: doras_explorations | March 24, 2009

Plaid Cane, Week of March 22, 2009

 


I’ve always loved plaids.    I suspect the intersecting bands of color have a ‘logic’ that appeals to my pattern obsessed mind.  The Scottish tartans, in particular, are fascinating not only because of their colors, but because of their association with particular clans.  I had been thinking about featuring a plaid ‘cane of the week’ for a while, but I wanted to experiment with color combinations and refine my technique first.   Recently, I made a couple of plaid canes which I posted on Flickr:    

dsc_22212

dsc_2229

 
     These are ‘two-color plaids’.  They are made with two colors, and one ‘blended square’ which is a combination of the two colors, for example the blue, green and blue/green shown in the top photo.  Note that the colors of the blended squares are not solid but very fine diagonal lines which are intended to resemble the weave of plaid fabric.  In a plaid or tartan fabric, visible diagonal lines  are formed where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones.  The intersecting stripes in both plaids were made with the two base colors, although I did add orange stripes to the green and white plaid on the bottom for extra contrast.

      The most challenging step for me was to keep the squares and lines perfectly straight and even.  As you can see, I was not totally successful!  One of my Flickr contacts suggested the use of a flat acrylic sheet or square rod to keep the corners sharp, and it does indeed help.  Of course, using an extruder with square dies would assure ‘perfect’ squares, but, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I do not use an extruder to build canes.

      I’ve decided to go a more complex route and show the steps I use to make a ‘three color plaid’, which consists of the 3 solid  ‘base colors’ ;  A, B, and C, and 3 blends ;  AB, AC, and BC.  The resulting cane consists of nine squares.   This is a diagram of the base cane, minus the intersecting stripes.  I’ll deal with those later.  Note that each square ‘shares’ a color with the square/s next to it and the squares above and below it. 

plaidgraph12

      Here is my plaid cane, step-by-step:

   
For my plaid cane I will use blue (color A), green (color B), and red orange (color C).  I am using approximately 4 oz of each color, for a total of 12 oz.

For my plaid cane I will use blue (color A), green (color B), and red orange (color C). I am using approximately 4 oz of each color, for a total of 12 oz.

  

I use my square cutter to measure equal amounts of each clay color (9 squares per color)

I use my square cutter to measure equal amounts of each clay color (9 squares per color). The leftover clay will be used later to make the lines.

 

Here are my 'combined color combinations', using 3 squares of each color; blue/green (AB), red-orange/green (CB), and red-orange/blue (CA)

Here are my 'combined color combinations', using 3 squares of each color; blue/green (AB), red-orange/green (CB), and red-orange/blue (CA)

 
I chop up colors AB into small pieces using my clay blade

I chop up colors AB into small pieces using my clay blade

 
 
After the pieces have been chopped, I reshape them to form a rectangle, slightly thicker than the thickest setting of my pasta machine.

After the pieces have been chopped, I reshape them to form a rectangle, slightly thicker than the thickest setting of my pasta machine.

This rectangle is run through the pasta machine at the thickest setting (#1 on my Atlas machine)

This rectangle is run through the pasta machine at the thickest setting (#1 on my Atlas machine)

After going through the pasta machine, I fold the sheet in half, and, with the folded side down, run it through the pasta machine again.

After going through the pasta machine, I fold the sheet in half, and, with the folded side down, run it through the pasta machine again.

Here is the blended sheet after 2 passes.

Here is the blended sheet after 2 passes.

I trim the ragged ends, then divide the sheet into 6 equal pieces.

I trim the ragged ends, then divide the sheet into 6 equal pieces.

I then stack the 6 pieces, square it up, and turn it so the side with the short irregular stripes is facing up.

I then stack the 6 pieces, square it up, and turn it so the side with the short irregular stripes is facing up.

I cut this square on the diagonal (corner to corner) to make 2 right triangles.

I cut this square on the diagonal (corner to corner) to make 2 right triangles.

The 2 triangles are put together so the stripes are going in the same direction.

The 2 triangles are put together so the stripes are going in the same direction.

I stand this piece up so it looks like a roof, then slice it in half like this

I stand this piece up so it looks like a roof, then slice it in half like this

I then put the 2 halves together to make a square with diagonal striping.

I then put the 2 halves together to make a square with diagonal striping.

I then reduce this to form a 1/2" square 2" in length.

I then reduce this to form a 1/2" square 2" in length.

I trim the distorted ends, and now I have my "AB" combination square completed.  Time to move on to the BC and AC combinations.

I trim the distorted ends, and now I have my "AB" combination square completed. Time to move on to the BC and AC combinations.

I use the same procedure to make my BC and AC squares, and make square blocks with the solid colors.  These are also 1/2", but are half the length of the combination colored squares (1" instead of 2" long)

I use the same procedure to make my BC and AC squares. I then make square blocks with the solid colors. The solid colored blocks are also 1/2", but are half the length of the combination colored squares (1" instead of 2" long)

 

I then cut the combination colored squares in half.  As you can see, I now have a total of 9 blocks that are 1/2" square and 1" in length

I then cut the combination colored squares in half. As you can see, I now have a total of 9 blocks that are 1/2" square and 1" in length

I now arrange the blocks to make a '9 patch square'.  Make sure the diagonal stripes on the combination colored block are all going in the same direction!  This is not as easy as you might think, the striping is subtle.

I now arrange the blocks to make a '9 patch square'. Make sure the diagonal stripes on the combination colored blocks are all going in the same direction! This is not as easy as you might think, the striping is subtle.

 

Here's a closeup of the cane.  Time to add the lines !

Here's a closeup of the cane. Time to add the lines !

I use the side of my ruler to lightly score where I will be cutting the cane to insert the lines

I use the side of my ruler to lightly score where I will be cutting the cane to insert the lines

I also score lines along the sides of the cane to act as a guide so my cuts will (hopefully !) be straight all the way through.

I also score lines along the sides of the cane to act as a guide so my cuts will (hopefully !) be straight all the way through.

This is what it looks like after lines have been scored on all sides, including the bottom; it looks a bit like a Rubic's cube, doesn't it?

This is what it looks like after lines have been scored on all sides, including the bottom; it looks a bit like a Rubic's cube, doesn't it?

I roll out thin sheets of the solid clay colors (#6 setting on my Atlas).  These will be used to make the lines.

I roll out thin sheets of the solid clay colors (#6 setting on my Atlas). These will be used to make the lines.

 
Note the position of the colors.  I slice through the squares on sides of the cane, using the scored lines as a guide, and keeping my cut as straight as possible.

Note the position of the colors. I slice through the squares on sides of the cane, using the scored lines as a guide, and keeping my cut as straight as possible.

 

I  insert thin sheets of the green clay, making sure my squares match up when I bring the pieces back together.

I insert thin sheets of the green clay, making sure my squares match up when I bring the pieces back together.

I then use the same procedure to insert the red and blue lines.  Here is the completed cane before reduction.

I then use the same procedure to insert the red and blue lines. Here is the completed cane before reduction.

The diagram on the left shows the position of the color blocks and lines.

The diagram on the left shows the position of the color blocks and lines.

This is what the cane looks like reduced.  Note that keeping the outside lines straight is rather challenging ! Wrapping the cane with a sheet of clay would probably reduce distortion, but then it wouldn't be possible to combine the base cane to make a continuous patterned sheet.

This is what the cane looks like reduced. Note that keeping the outside lines straight is rather challenging ! Wrapping the cane with a sheet of clay would probably reduce distortion, but then it wouldn't be possible to combine the base cane to make a continuous patterned sheet.

Here's the completed cane....the lines could be straighter, but, all in all, not bad !

Here's the completed cane....the lines could be straighter, but, all in all, not bad !

Here's another 3-color cane using the same diagram and procedure as the one described above....The possibilities are endless !

Here's another 3-color cane using the same diagram and steps as the one described above....The possibilities are endless !

 

  

 

Posted by: doras_explorations | February 26, 2009

Covering Eggs With Polymer Clay 101, Part 2

      Here are the steps I use to cover an egg.  For this egg, I will be using slices of my anemone canes for my design. 

 

Here is a prepared medium sized egg, along with the tools I will use; clay blades, small ruler, and a thin acrylic rod for smoothing cane slices onto the egg.

Here is a prepared medium sized egg, along with the tools I will use; clay blades, small ruler, and a thin acrylic rod for smoothing cane slices onto the egg.

 

Next, I roll out a thin sheet of scrap clay on the #6 setting of my Atlas pasta machine.  The height of the strip is approximately the same as the egg, + 1"/2.5cm on each end.  the width is the same as the widest part of the egg, or 'equator'.

Next, I roll out a thin sheet of scrap clay on the #6 setting of my Atlas pasta machine. The height of the strip is approximately the same as the egg, + 1"/2.5cm on each end. the width is the same as the widest part of the egg, or 'equator'.

Since I will not be covering the entire egg surface with cane slices, I roll out a very thin sheet of black clay on setting #7, then trim off the excess black so it is the same size as the scrap.

Since I will not be covering the entire egg surface with cane slices, I roll out a very thin sheet of black clay on setting #7, then trim off the excess black so it is the same size as the scrap.

 

I wrap the clay sheet around the egg, black side facing out, and smooth the seam where they join by using my acrylic rod and my fingers.

I wrap the clay sheet around the egg, black side facing out, and smooth the seam where they join by using my acrylic rod and my fingers.

Then I cut 8 vertical slits on the top and bottom of the egg.

Then I cut 8 vertical slits on the top and bottom of the egg.

 

Starting at either end, i fold over each slit and trim the overlapping pieces with my clay blade.  Ismooth each seam with my acrylic rod before trimming the next piece.  Sometimes I trip the top overlapping piece, sometimes the bottom, whichever is easiest.

Starting at either end, I fold over each slit and trim the overlapping pieces with my clay blade. I smooth each seam with my acrylic rod before trimming the next piece. Sometimes I trim the top overlapping piece, sometimes the bottom, whichever is easiest.

 

Once the bottom and top of the egg are covered, and the seams 'erased', I roll the egg (gently!!) between my palms to smooth it further.  If there are any air bubbles, I slice through them with my blade and press the air out.

Once the bottom and top of the egg are covered, and the seams 'erased', I roll the egg (gently!!) between my palms to smooth it further. If there are any air bubbles, I slice through them with my blade and press the air out.

although I will be applying the cane slices randomly, I use the side of my ruler to lightly score sections of the egg to indicate approximately where I will place the different cane designs.

although I will be applying the cane slices randomly, I use the side of my ruler to lightly score sections of the egg to indicate approximately where I will place the different cane designs.

I have selected 4 of my 'anemone canes' and reduce these to a small size, approximately 1/4" (.63cm) in diameter.

I have selected 4 of my 'anemone canes' and reduce these to a small size, approximately 1/4" (.63cm) in diameter.

I cut very thin cane slices and apply each pattern to a scored section of the egg.  I use my acrylic rod to smooth each slice onto the egg.  I work on 3-4 slices at a time and try not to overlap them.

I cut very thin cane slices and apply each pattern to a scored section of the egg. I use my acrylic rod to smooth each slice onto the egg. I work on 3-4 slices at a time and try not to overlap them.

Once the egg is covered with cane slices, i look for any lumps, bumps, and fingernail marks, and use my acrylic rod and/or fingers to smooth them out.  I then do a final smoothing by carefully rolling the egg between my palms.

Once the egg is covered with cane slices, I look for any lumps, bumps, and fingernail marks, and use my acrylic rod and/or fingers to smooth them out. I then do a final smoothing by carefully rolling the egg between my palms.

Before baking the egg, I use a very fine sewing or beading needle to poke a tiny hole through the clay and the hole underneath to allow for air expansion inside the egg.

Before baking the egg, I use a very fine sewing or beading needle to poke a tiny hole through the clay and the hole underneath to allow for air expansion inside the egg.

 

The egg is baked for 20-25 minutes at 265 degrees F/130 degrees C.  Once it has cooled, I sand it with medium, fine, and super-fine grit sanding sponges.  I frequently run my fingers over the egg surface to check for rough spots or raised areas.  It pays to be fussy !

The egg is baked for 20-25 minutes at 265 degrees F/130 degrees C. Once it has cooled, I sand it with medium, fine, and super-fine grit sanding sponges. I frequently run my fingers over the egg surface to check for rough spots or raised areas. It pays to be fussy !

 

When the egg is sanded smooth, I buff it using my Foredom bench grinder with an unstitched muslin buffing wheel.  As you can see, the egg is nice and shiny, no varnish needed !

When the egg is sanded smooth, I buff it with my Foredom bench grinder using an unstitched muslin buffing wheel. As you can see, the egg is nice and shiny, no varnish needed !

      Looks good, huh ?  What you cannot see in the photo, however, is the dent I made when I dropped the egg on the floor while I was taking it out of the oven !  I highly recommend the use of potholders !

Posted by: doras_explorations | February 26, 2009

Covering Eggs With Polymer Clay 101, Part 1


Hard to believe that it’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  I usually get a bad case of the ‘winter blahs’ in January and February, but this year is even worse.  The news headlines have all been relentlessly depressing, and it’s almost impossible to escape from them.   Just turn on the TV, glance at a newspaper, or go on-line and they’re in your face !!!  Maybe it’s my imagination, but sometimes it seems that the media is actually enjoying reporting on all the misery.  I swear I detect a sadistic gleam in the TV news anchors’ eyes !

Now that I’ve conveniently placed the blame on the news media for my recent lack of productivity, I’m ready to move on in an attempt to get the creative juices flowing again.  Last week I treated myself to a macro lens so I could get better closeups of my work, and maybe even get a praying mantis to pose for me !  I bought a Sigma 50mm F 2.8 DG Macro, which was the most affordable option for me at this time.  Since there were no praying mantises available,  I decided to cover an egg with slices from a cane I had made recently and shoot that instead. 

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  The bullseye and jellyroll canes were based on patterns from Donna Kato’s new book  The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques .  It never ceases to amaze me how Donna is able to take relatively simple components like a jellyroll cane or Skinner blend sheet and make them into something extraordinary.  Perfect execution of technique, fabulous color sense, and her flawless finish work has made her work easy to identify, and almost impossible to equal.  As the saying goes “Often imitated, never duplicated” ! 

  Here’s another egg  I made using the same color palette:

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Once I made these eggs, I was on a ‘roll’, and decided to make 2 more:

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Preparing eggs for polymer clay can be a bit labor intensive- holes must be drilled (carefully !) in the top and bottom, the contents blown out (to be saved for an omelette or quiche), the inside washed with soapy water and rinsed, and the shell baked to evaporate any moisture left inside.  I bake the shells for about 15 minutes at 275°F. If you prefer, you can let the eggshells air dry, but I would allow at least 24 hours to make sure there is no moisture left inside.  Once the baked eggshell has cooled, it is covered with a coating of white glue such as Sobo , and allowed to dry.  Then the eggshell is ‘polymer clay ready’.  Not everyone agrees that covering the shell with glue is necessary, but I always do it because the clay bonds better, and I think it strengthens the egg, especially around the drilled holes.  If you are unfamiliar with preparing eggshells, there is quite a bit of information on-line, such as this site . I am still not very good at blowing out eggs, my failure rate (ie, broken eggs) is about 25% !

    In Part 2 of this post, I will show the steps I use to cover an egg with polymer clay.  Since I do mainly canework (which should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog, LOL!) I will be covering the egg with cane slices.  As far as how to cover the egg, an ‘all over’ or random cane placement is easier than a planned design.  For really precise and/or geometric designs, an ‘egg lathe’ is a wonderful tool to have because it allows one to draw accurate ‘guide lines’ on the egg.  However, I do not have one, and will, for once, exercise fiscal  restraint and resist the temptation to buy one, at least for now.  One nice thing about covering eggs is that you don’t need to use a lot of clay.  There is quite a bit of sanding involved if you want a smooth finish, but sanding an egg is a lot easier than sanding a small bead, especially if you use a sanding sponge.  I use “Rhino USA Washable Sanding Pads” in Medium, Fine, and Ultra Fine grits.  They are available from Polymer Clay Express   and I love using them on larger flat and curved surfaces such as cabachons, pendants, and, of course, eggs.

Posted by: doras_explorations | January 13, 2009

Cane for the Week of 1/11/09

     Happy New Year to all !!! I don’t know about you, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that 2009 is a better year for this planet than 2008 was!  I avoid making New Year’s resolutions because I already beat myself enough for all the things I ‘should ‘ be doing.  However if I did make resolutions, one of them would be to post my “Cane of the Week” feature every week !  But it is a resolution that I doubt I can keep.  I don’t worry too much about not coming up with ideas for canes, because I think about cane designs a lot  (the shower is my favorite place for visualizing new canes, and I take long showers, LOL!), but editing photos and uploading them to this blog is another story.  It is a painfully slow, tedious, and frustrating process for me.  If only I had an assistant to do this !  At the very least, it would be nice to be able to compose the entire blog off line and paste the whole thing, text, photos, captions and all, into WordPress.  Maybe there is a way to do that, but I certainly haven’t figured it out, and don’t have the $$ to hire someone to teach me.

      Anyway, this week I was playing around with a cane design that starts with a Skinner blend roll.  Here are some slices of the cane using various color combinations.  For want of a better term, I will call it my ‘anemone cane’  because it reminds me of a sea anemoneanemonecaneslices

        Like most polymer clay canes, I’m sure others have made a cane similar or identical to this one, so I’m not claiming ‘ownership’ of this design.   Besides the different color combinations, I also varied the procedure slightly, either on purpose or by accident !  I must admit that a lot of my designs are derived from mistakes and screw ups.    I now present to you the steps for making my anemone cane, specifically the yellow one shown in the above photo.  Instead of captions, I took the lazy way out and wrote the steps on sticky notes.  Hopefully, they are legible !  My closeup vision stinks, but I actually found the stickies to be easier to read than the captions.  Some of the photos have no notes or captions, but I think they are pretty much self-explanatory.

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I cut the Skinner roll in half to make 2 pieces.

I cut the Skinner roll in half to make 2 pieces.

One roll was left intact (one on right), the other was divided as shown at the left.  Now there are 4 pieces.
One roll was left intact (one on right), the other was divided as shown at the left. Now there are 4 pieces.

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So there you have it !  Not too difficult, except for getting the ‘spokes’ to meet exactly in the center! 

Posted by: doras_explorations | December 13, 2008

Pink, Black, and White Cane Experimentation

  I promised in my previous post that I would make a pink, black, and white cane, and photograph the steps I used in its construction. This color combination was inspired by a pair of Comanche seed bead earrings I made recently.  As usual, I didn’t have a particular ‘plan’ other than to try to keep the design principles of value and contrast  in mind.  Here are some of the canes I made: pbwa2pbwb

      I wasn’t too excited about most of them, to tell the truth.  I thought the round kaleidoscope ‘starburst’ one with the zig-zags at the edges (bottom photo on the right) was the best of the bunch, although it could’ve used more contrast (more black and white, less pink).  Unfortunately, I could not recall how I made it, except that I combined a chevron cane with a Skinner Blend roll !  Eventually I  will figure it out (I hope!), and when I do, I’ll post the steps, although I might try it with a different color trio.

     So, instead I decided to make  the cane to the left of the round one.  I don’t know what to call it, it looks sort of  like a basketweave design, but it’s not really the same pattern as what is usually referred to as a ‘basketweave cane’, such as this one by Jana Roberts Benzon.

     Here are the steps, beginning as usual with my Skinner Blend colors. Sorry for the small captions under the photos, but repeated attempts to fix them were unsuccessful !


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Blend after 20 pasta machine passes.  The ragged edges were trimmed before proceeding further

Blend after 20 pasta machine passes. The ragged edges were trimmed before proceeding further

 

This is the blend after 30 passes.  I folded it again, then turned it 90°, with the dark pink down and ran it through the pasta machine at medium thin setting to lengthen the blend.

This is the blend after 30 passes. I folded it again, then turned it 90°, with the dark pink side facing down and ran it through the pasta machine at medium thin setting to lengthen the blend.

 

Here's the lengthened blend.  I rolled up this sheet starting at the white end.

Here's the lengthened blend. I rolled up this sheet starting at the white end.

After making the jellyroll blend (pictured at far right) I wrapped it with a very thin sheet of dark pink (#7 Atlas thickness), followed by a #7 thickness of white, and finally a #7 thickness of black

After making the jellyroll blend I wrapped it with a very thin sheet of dark pink (#7 Atlas thickness), followed by a #7 thickness of white, and finally a #7 thickness of black. I took slices from the jellyroll so you could see the progression. The actual jellyroll cane was about 3/4" in diameter and 6-7" in length.

 

The jellyroll was flattened and cut into 4 pieces, then stacked like this.

The jellyroll was flattened and cut into 4 pieces, then stacked like this.

 

This stack was then reduced to form a cane approximately 6-7” long and ¾” square.

This stack was then reduced to form a cane approximately 6-7” long and ¾” square.

 

The cane was then cut in half.  Each half was cut corner to corner to make 2 right triangles, for a total of 4 pieces.

The cane was then cut in half. Each half was cut corner to corner to make 2 right triangles, for a total of 4 pieces.

 

Each of the triangle 4 pieces was placed on the work surface, with the wide part of the triangle on the bottom, and the point of the triangle at the top.  The cutting blade was lined up along the point of each triangle, then the triangle was cut to the bottom.  This resulted in 8 small right triangle pieces.

Each of the triangle 4 pieces was placed on the work surface, with the wide part of the triangle on the bottom, and the point of the triangle at the top. The cutting blade was lined up along the point of each triangle, then the triangle was cut to the bottom. This resulted in 8 small right triangle pieces.

 

The 8 triangles were arranged like this before putting them together.

The 8 triangles were arranged like this before putting them together.

 

Here are the pieces put together to form the ‘base cane’

Here are the pieces put together to form the ‘base cane’

 

The base cane was then reduced to a length of approximately 6-7”, then cut into 4 pieces

The base cane was then reduced to a length of approximately 6-7”, then cut into 4 pieces

 

Here are the 4 pieces put together to form a ‘base cane x4’ variation.

Here are the 4 pieces put together to form a ‘base cane x4’ variation.

 

Here the cane was further reduced to make more variations.  Note the different orientation of the squares in the cane on the far left.  I made this by taking a piece of the ‘base cane x4’, cutting it on a diagonal, then putting the 2 pieces ‘back to back’ to form a triangle, cutting the triangle in half, and putting it the pieces back together and reducing.  It goes on and on and on, doesn’t it?

Here the cane was further reduced to make more variations. Note the different orientation of the squares in the cane on the far left. I made this by taking a piece of the ‘base cane x4’, cutting it on a diagonal, then putting the 2 pieces ‘back to back’ to form a triangle, cutting the triangle in half, and putting it the pieces back together and reducing. It goes on and on and on, doesn’t it?

I decided to stop here before I reduced too much !!!!

I decided to stop here before I reduced too much !!!!

         Maybe I’ll make beads with these canes, or cover a box….but most likely they will sit in a  #5 plastic container with my other canes for a long time to come !  

 

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