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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Knitting - sort of !

Hi Everyone
This is another quick holiday post. I mentioned yesterday, that I celebrated my birthday at the weekend and what a lovely surprise arrived. A Wool And The Gang knitting kit. The package was huge and the general look of the parcel was very exciting (to me). The kit is a chunky necklace. Here is a photo of the package and a quick look at where I've got with the kit.


At first, I really struggled with the actual knitting bit. To be accurate there's no knitting involved, it's more of a knot technique. Once I'd got the knot, I practiced quite a few times to decide on how tight I needed to get each knot. I think I've got it - the Wool And The Gang site has a range of video tutorials and I needed to watch lots of times to get the knot. I was beginning to loose hope but eventually I got it. It's actually (like many things) quite easy after mastering the technique.
I love the effect of the chunky knots, it's made using T Shirt yarn and has a very large lobster clasp fastening. I'm hoping to complete my masterpiece today so I will post the results tomorrow.

Watch this space !

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Holiday Notes

Hi Everyone
I tend not to publish my blog during holiday weeks but this Easter we are all engaged in work of some sort and I thought I would keep to my  which includes writing my blog. I will adopt a more relaxed approach and hopefully include more photos. I will aim to take photos of the highlights over the next few weeks and hope to be organised enough to put them on the blog ! That's my plan (always subject to change) !!

Over the weekend, I celebrated my birthday. We had a lovely few days eating out and generally touring around enjoying the countryside. Over the years, I've  struggled to find outdoor birthday locations because it's usually freezing and depending on when Easter falls - all tourist things are closed until the actual Easter break. This year the weather was OK - we dodged any rain. I was given lots of lovely gifts and enjoyed myself very much. I'm going to give myself the extra gift of enjoying the next two weeks in the same way. I have some money (to spend) and some craft kits to enjoy (making) and a few new books to read - lovely. I'm also going to cut down on house jobs - quite a difficult task as I do minimum housework all the time ! 

Here is a view of the Garden Room where we had lunch on Saturday. This is a lovely 'shabby chic shed' with a beautiful garden.

I should have taken more photos of the rest of the day !!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Mini Project Poppy

Hi Everyone
It's my Mini Project day today and I'm still developing my clay flower series.
Last week, I started making a Poppy and it took quite a few times to get a seed head that I was happy with. Eventually, I found a pair of tweezers gave me a good impression for the rounded top section of the seed pod. I used tweezers to squeeze the little segments together - this gave me a pleasing finish.

The next phase was to surround the seed head with a black fringe section- made by snipping a narrow length of black clay with scissors to form the fringe. This fringe represents the stamens. I'm not that happy with the stamens - I will try and make a more realistic collection of stamens in my next flower. I think they would look better if they were made separately. I know this will be a challenge !
I made four petals from a mixed blue/green/white marbled clay mixture by just squeezing and shaping small flat bits of clay. I added each petal as per a real flower petal arrangement and am about to cure the flower. Fingers crossed all will come out as I want it. 

I'm not sure if the process would work better if I cured in stages ? I will review the final item and decide. It's worth experimenting.
I like the Blue Poppy look and will go with it. I can improve my method of work and although it worked well I know I can also improve the shape and the construction. The Poppy will tie and eventually form a tag for one of my kits - hence the string (just in case you were wondering).


Have a great weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Imitation Game - moving on ..

Hi Everyone
I'm returning to the Imitation Game as it's Thursday and (possibly) I think it's time to move on ! I've been working on the current STRIPE project for quite a few weeks and I think my results have been mixed. Here is the range of beads that have come from the work. I've made a single necklace from the project so far .......... and I'm wearing it as I write. I love it (see blue item in centre).
The beads on the right are very thin pieces and need to be backed with another layer of clay. I think, I will mix a few different colours when backing the beads and possibly develop another stripe pattern ? 
Generally, within the project, I deliberately chose to make beads which just 'happened' - I didn't have a pre determined plan for any shapes. I have a great variety and want to develop jewellery pieces which suggest themselves. The colours are rather limited to my usual range - not sure why this happened ?


Originally, I used inspirational work by an artist called Jayne Flannigan and particularly this piece :

The new pieces from my experimental beads will emerge and I will give myself about an hour each week to finish the whole project. I want to use some different threading materials including ribbons and leather and maybe some traditional jewellery threading techniques - not sure ? I will share the final pieces as they develop.

I'm now planning my next Imitation Game - this will be called STARBURST and is inspired by this piece :

I'm determined to get into some new colours and as Spring is coming - Im going for Spring - like colours (I think ?)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Making Mini Stencils

Hi Everyone
Today, it's Technique and Tools Day. I'm making small stencils from cutting dies. You may remember last week, I created some paper moth tags and some clay months from the same cutting die. I'm using the moth die as well as an interesting butterfly shaped die for today's project. I want to use the stencils for developing a range of tags. The stencils will also make background papers for the tags (which will be packaging for earrings) and embellishment for range of small paper carrier bags. 
I've produced the stencil shapes and will die cut the tags. One of the stencil cutouts for my job has been used to decorate a little notebook that I use for planning my daily work tasks. Here is a quick look at the pretty shape.


Here are the two main shapes for the stencil work.

I'm going to test out some different paints and colour medium to decide on the best way to get my stencil shapes. Different surface will need a different medium but I'm keen to experiment. This is the first test, I've used a simple stamp pad for this first sample.

My batch of experiments will be shared in detail next time.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bella is Making again

Hi Everyone
Last Tuesday Bella launched her new Doughnut Necklace to the world and today she is starting a new project - another Doughnut Necklace but this time using a wax cotton thread.
Bella had intended going to a local Make and Take event at her school in a weeks time to make her second necklace, however, school work has taken over and she now needs to prepare for an exam the next day. No problem - she has arranged to collect her kit and make it at home. Bella needs to make a few decisions about the options available with the kit. Which clasp to use ? and which colour wax thread to go with ? These decisions need to be made alongside the colour and design of her beads. Bella can't decide between the green or blue wax cotton threading. She has decided on the bronze clasp - this was the one she saw in the sample poster and convinced her she needed to make a second necklace. Her first necklace beads use a bright range of coloured clay and she is looking for inspiration to make something different. 

Here are her options re the threading and the clasps for the new necklace :

The kit comes with a wooden jewellery box - adapted to hold the necklace with a fabric insert.
The bronze hook is quite an elegant shape and Bella  particularly likes this look. She will decide on the clay colours over the next week and make her beads. We will feature some photos of her results next time and share how she attaches the S clasp along with her version of the final jewellery box. There are lots of options to personalise the boxes. The sample on the photo has been stained blue but the boxes are untreated so there are lots of possibilities.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Make Art Monday

I'm optimistic  that I'm back on track with the blog posting. I've ditched the previous mobile app and I'm into new territory - scary stuff ! Fingers crossed, I will be OK. I'm taking forever to learn how to drive the app. I must be patient !!!

So ..... It's Make Art Monday and Bella.

Bella has moved on ..... She has some paint on her head and face. She needs more colour in her hair and I think her eyes could be improved.
This is Bella with a bit of paint- these photos are just sketches and practice pieces to allow for experiments and I will spend time on a few more experiments before I go to the final wooden painting.
Bella's face is a bit crumpled - it's still wetish and its poor quality paper !!!


My next idea is to make a wet felted dress for Bella. I know the simple style and colour scheme I've got in mind. I may need to cut the shape ? I'm not sure at this stage. I will make the felt and see what happens. I will get on with the dress before making another painting.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Clay Flowers

Hi Everyone
I'm still not there with my posting app - apologies in advance for the poor photos.
However, it's Friday and today it's  Mini Project day. My chosen project is a clay flower. I'm going to do a series of clay flowers and use them to embellish various tags and other packaging items for a new collection of jewellery. Each batch of flowers should be possible within my 60mins time limit. The first prototype flowers may take longer but I'm confident that I can produce my batch (of 10) after I confirm my design.
My first flower type will be a poppy. I've had a few attempts at the design but want to try out some more colours and some better quality seed pod development. Here are a few images of the beginnings  of the poppy.

Thanks for reading. 
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Blog Posting Issue

Hi Everyone
Just a quick note to mention that my blog daily dates are not quite right. I often prepare the blog in advance (to allow for work etc) and for some reason yesterday's blog and today's  blog are given the same date - Imitation Game 9 should have been in draft until today ? Not sure exactly why any of this is happening. The whole thing is connected with an app update a few days ago - Im hoping things will work out shortly - with another update ! Fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Imitation Game 9

Hi Everyone
My usual posting is still unresolved so Im not quite there with posting images as I like them. However, some progress to report re the Imitation Game Project.
I've made several versions of striped clay and fashioned them into beads in no particular style other than thinking about the long tube look bead.
I had thought about different colours but this has not materialised as yet. I'm still convinced by the plan but have run out of time with the project (for this week).

This batch (below) set out as a wider, thin piece but ended up being a cover layer (over a core bead). Further photos will be shared next time.

The next striped clay is more interesting and I think I've made a breakthrough. I've decided to link these fragile, thin strips with some sterling silver. The beads will overlap and will not be to everyone's liking - I like them more as I work with them. I especially like the rough edges and the cloud like shapes. I want to add a second clay layer to each long bead - to give stability and I think they will eventually form a necklace with a custom clasp. You will notice a few more convential earrings I the mix. These shapes arrived with the scrap ! No such thing as waste !

The next photo shows the idea of the new bead shapes. Many of the individual shaped beads have an unfinished look to them. I hope I can match the right one to each sequence to give a balanced look.

I'm hoping I can give a finished look without loosing the character of my bead.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Polymer Clay Moths

Hi Everyone
For some reason my blog app has let me down - so this is not quite the post I had intended.
Today, is Technique and Tools Day. I've been experimenting with making shapes using a thin cutting die. I've chosen to experiment with the same moth die I used on Friday (look back for details).
Generally, things went well. I put a piece of clay through the pasta machine on setting 3 and setting 7.
No 7 was very fragile and no 3 needed to be cut out. The simple die created a good shape. Perhaps a no 5 or 6 setting may improve the final item.
Ive included a few images to illustrate my experiments. The photo above is the pre curing image and the one below is after curing. I do intend to develop the moths and make some more versions with different clay and varied sizes.

Hopefully, I can get my app working later today.
Bye for now
Thanks for reading.

Bella's First Masterpiece

Hi Everyone
Bella's Doughnut Beads are complete and she has threaded them onto a chain. The masterpiece has been created !

Last week, you may remember, Bella took her beads to the workshop for curing. She picked up the cured beads at the end of the day and has finished them over several short sessions at home. Bella followed instructions from the kit and although she had lots of study work (every day) she still found time to work on her necklace.
First, she washed the beads with mild soap and warm water and left them to dry thoroughly, overnight. Next, Bella gave the beads a light sanding with some fine wet grit sponge (this came in her kit). This little sponge pad tool slightly polishes the surface and prepares the surface for the paint treatment.

Bella chose to give all the textured beads a layer of acrylic paint. Initially, Bella planned on texturing three from the five beads but eventually, she textured all but one bead. The idea of the paint layer is to embed a colour into the grooves of the bead surface. A contrast colour of paint highlights the texture patterns. Bella chose three different acrylic paints for her bead treatments, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber and Titan Buff. After drying, excess paint is sanded away using the damp grit sponge. When the beads are prepared to their required finish they are left to fully dry once again.
The final layer is then applied, it's a polish of wax - applied with a piece of denim cloth (wax and denim supplied in the kit). With a rigorous hand polish the beads have a lovely sheen.

Bella chose to use a brass chain to thread her necklace. She was undecided about which threading material to use. After a few days of thought, Bella decided on the chain. Wax cotton was her original choice but finally she went for the brass. Bella is so pleased with her efforts she will make another necklace (with different colours of beads). Next time, she will use the wax thread.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Make Art Monday

Hi Everyone
Bella moves on again in Make Art Monday today. It's her week 3 appearance ! I spend about an hour each week working on this project and report each Monday. It's a slow and enjoyable process. I deliberately want to make the whole experience relaxing and considered. Drawing and painting is almost always a pleasure for me but I do need to feel right. I can't be rushed or pushed.
Bella has some colour - eventually. I've used wax pencils for this initial version, lots of control is possible with pencils and I think it shows. I quite like it as an image but I need to be brave and feel acrylic paint is needed.

I plan to add another layer in paint. I like the idea of using a palette knife to apply the colour - maybe the odd brush stroke but I'd like to get some texture with paint.

I feel Bella has taken a few years of her face by adding the colour. I think her face is wider and less mature - more like her pencil sketch. I don't mind this - it's just a bit too safe.
This week I will spend another hour or so and see what happens.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Making Butterflies

Hi Everyone
Today, the Mini Project is Making Paper Butterflies.
Usually, I like to make the Friday Project from tools/ materials which most people will have in their stash. This project is a little different because I'm using a specific cutting die and stamp tool. The stamp and die come from Paperartsy and I bought them as a single purchase. I think it's possible to buy them individually - have a look at their website for details.
I will be developing this project into an embellishment kit so will make this available in my Etsy Shop. If you don't want to buy the set you could always have a go with my little kit.

The process is simple - cut out 3 die cut butterflies from thickish paper stock , the top butterfly is cutting out the stamped image. This is not necessary - you could just cut out a shape but I do like the fact that the top layer becomes the butterfly as a recognisable insect. I've used a variety of colours for my butterflies - all using Tim Holtz Distress Inks (lovely colours). I stamped out my images, cut them up into smaller pieces (easy to handle) and then used the die to cut out the stamped image. There is a window in the die to allow for precise placing.

I cut out a plain shape per butterfly and embossed each one differently (just to add interest) and then cut 1 shape from a magazine. The embossing is not necessary but as I've mentioned it does add to the item. The embossed butterflies have had a coating of colour too.
The butterflies were organised into piles of 3 - a print, an embossed shape and a magazine cut. I then machine stitched all the layers together and fanned out the layers to form wings.
I want to use the butterflies to adorn some workshop kits for a particular project and have added a piece of embroidery thread to act as the tie, I'm thinking of tying the butterflies to the handles of my kit bags. This tag idea is a test item and I will try out other possible attachments in due course.
I really enjoyed this project, it's quick and looks effective. I hope you are inspired. If you are without a die cutting system and were making a single item (or find yourself with loads of time !!!) - you could consider just hand cutting a butterfly shape (3 at once). I hope you are inspired to have a go.

Have a great weekend.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Imitation Game 8

Hi Everyone
The Imitation Game Project is moving on. I've experimented with rolling the striped clay from last week through the pasta machine with very good results. The rolling does not significantly alter the stripe. In fact, I would say the stripes are improved. I made several rolls through the pasta machine at 1,3 and 9 settings. The final setting (9) is very thin and the clay needs to be protected by (encasing in) paper but the stripe held up well. My conclusions about the technique can be described in positive terms. It's definitely my way forward.

I've covered a few scrap beads with the fine rolled clay and have made a few new beads - to check out the suitability of the very thin clay. These experiments are more to do with the striped clay technique but they have worked well as a material and I feel encouraged.
I've put together a number of collage photos to share the results.

In the last photo I've included some stripe 'clay to be' which is the extruded version of my experiment. My initial idea was to use the extruded approach to develop the stripes. This weeks version was simply hand rolled, thin sausages.
I've spend my allotted hour this week - my time is up ! However, I'm tempted to squeeze in another short session to prepare the extruded clay for use.

I'm generally convinced about the long bead shape as my aim and I'd like to get some interesting colour combinations going. The beads will form a mini collection (in theory) eventually - if all goes well !

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Making Curing Racks

Hi Everyone it's -
Technique/tools day today.
Today, I've chosen to share my home made curing rack for polymer clay beads. I've been using this design of rack for some time. Initially, I tried to find something I could buy but failed to find exactly what I needed. The only thing to do was to create my own. There are curing/baking racks out there but they tend to be expensive and don't have the flexibility I want. Here is a photo collage of how I create my racks :

I take a tin foil container - this particular container measures 20x14cms (before I got to work on it). I removed a section from the middle and joined the container back together to form a much thinner item. I flattened out the rim - to act as a mini shelf. This rack is designed to fit the specific skewer in the photo.

The beads are threaded onto a skewer of some kind, in this example, Im using a knitting tool but I often use wooden BBQ skewers or toothpicks. The size of the bead and the hole will determine the type of skewer I need.
This is a very simple tool but works well, it's cheap to make and the size can change to suit the project (although I tend to make a new one if a new skewer is used).
Occasionally, the skewers roll into each other on the rack when I'm taking them to the oven. I've tried making holes into the foil (along one edge) to anchor one end of the skewer. Although this is an easy thing to do, I find it unnecessary- I just rearrange when I place the rack in the oven.
The beads are cured without being damaged and have an even surface when finished. All in all its a great tool.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Doughnut Bead Development

Hi Everyone
Bella's Doughnut Beads are ready for curing (see each Tuesday blog for more details) Bella will use the 'drop in' workshop to cure her beads later today. Bella decided to go for simple lines and spots as her surface patterns. She also decided to leave two of the beads plain. The colours of the beads are complimentary and toned down a little from the test patterns (see back last Tuesday). Bella toned down the bright colours by mixing each clay with a little of the mustard colour clay.

The clays bead colour were created and made into to a flat round. Bella chose to use the test ideas from two of the experiments (see top right).

These five beads are the finished items with their holes in the centre.
Bella is very excited about her efforts and is looking forward to the beads being cured. She will drop off the beads before going into school and pick up the cured beads at lunchtime. Hopefully she can spend some time this week finishing off the beads.
There is a useful Fact Sheet in the Doughnut Kit which explains how to work with the beads, post curing, to give a professional finish.
Call in next Tuesday to see how Bella's beads turn out.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Bella Continues

Hi Everyone
Bella has developed (slightly) this week. I'm working on her eyes and trying to decide on the best hairstyle to compliment her 'grown up' image. As I've mentioned (read Monday 2/3/15 for details) Im hoping she will develop into a large portrait.

I need to fix her mouth, the left side is not quite the shape it needs to be and I need to do some more work on her right eye (the pupil is not quite there).
Also, this week Im hoping to get some colour onto her face. I think the hair will be roughly what it is (in terms of style) and I'm thinking the hair colour will have some bright shades (light brown). Here is a look at the development to date.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Making a Rosette

Hi Everyone
Today's Mini Project is a little rosette I've made to add a decorative finish to some small boxes. The key to making the rosette is a sizzix die and a die cutting machine. The die is called 'Mini Paper rosettes' by Tim Holtz for Sizzix.
The process starts with a single cut creating four pieces. Each rosette is made up of two pieces, each a different size. The die cut produces two perforated lined long paper strands and two circles. The idea is to fold and concertina the long strands, glue them into a round (rosette) shape and secure by glueing one of the round pieces onto the centre. The photo collage shows each stage of the construction.

The choice of paper will influence the final look of the rosette and there are lots of opportunities to add additional embellishments.
My tip is to make a couple of additional thin paper circles to act as a first stage 'fasten' for the rosette. It's a tricky process to keep the rosette from uncurling until both sides are secure. I find the thin paper much easier to apply quickly. The final finish of the patterned paper circle is then placed over the blank circle giving an attractive appearance. I've layered the rosettes in my collage photo but they are an attractive item as a single piece.
I'm planning to incorporate these rosettes into some of my new jewellery packaging as well as some of the Make & Take Kits.
If you don't have the die - it's possible to make a similar rosette. The concertina element will take longer but the idea is the same. The long strands will need to be approximately 25cms long. I will give it a go and see what comes out next time.

Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Imitation Game 7

Hi Everyone
I'm still in the experimental phase of my striped bead developments. Each week I try and spend an hour or so on this project and this week I've managed about half an hour - such as life ! Read back to each Thursday for details of the initial project.
My latest idea was to develop a striped clay with strands of extruded coloured clay. I didn't extrude the clay this time but created an uneven stripe pattern by rolling individual pieces of clay with my hands and alternating the colours. I then rolled the clay with a roller tool and merged the colours slightly.

I could have put the clay through the pasta machine for a thinner finish at this point but I wanted to try the basic technique first. I plan to use the pasta machine next - I think this may distort the stripes ?

I've played around making some basic beads and used the different shapes to change the surface pattern and give a completely new feel to each bead. I'm giving the beads a reference to compare - this batch is called 1IG.

I will continue with these experiments and develop the shapes. I want to get a thinner range of stripes as well as some longer tube beads. I also want to try out some new colour combinations. I will (hopefully) have a wider range of experiments to share next week.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Making Holes !

Hi Everyone
It's Techniques and Tools Day and today, I'm highlighting a great tool for making holes. This tool is something I use on a regular basis.

My illustration example involves making cards for a recent jewellery project. The holes are made with a changeable mini die which fits on the end of the tool. The tool is pressed with the handle onto a special mat (to stop surfaces being damaged). Holes can be made through several layers of card and the tool makes a clean, professional finish every time. I think the fact that the tool can be placed wherever it's required is particularly useful.
In my photo example you can see both the bottom right and bottom left examples of where specific holes (of various sizes) can be made to specific spaces in small earring cards. Both cards show the smallest and largest holes available. The holes with the ribbon passed through are the largest and just right for the job. The small holes are ideal for ear wires.
I simply wouldn't be without the tool and if it breaks I would replace it. However, I came across this information read about tools for making holes and it's definitely worth the read. If you want to buy my brand of tool it's called Karen Foster-Multi-Purpose-Embossing Clikit and costs about £35.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Bella's Experiments

Hi Everyone
Following on from last Tuesday, Bella has started to experiment with her first Make It jewellery kit. The kit has an initial warm up exercise as a starting point to the project. Five different coloured clay pieces are included in the kit and there are five little experiments (with instructions) to make surface pattern designs. The designs are made with everyday items including a toothpick and a paperclip. Bella has also been asked to find other items which may produce interesting designs. Here are her five initial surface patterns using her clay and tools.

Bella's tools.

Five examples of Bella's experimental surface patterns.

Ultimately, the kit is aiming to produce a specific item ie a Doughnut Necklace, however, the warm up exercise is about understanding the characteristics of the clay and trying out pleasing surface patterns to enhance the final necklace.
Here is a quick look at samples of the final piece using Doughnut Beads and different stringing options. Bella's kit is the waxed cotton necklace (stretched out in the photo).

The Doughnut beads need a small scale pattern (only a small side view of the bead will be the visible surface) and the colours and stringing approach will inform the final bead design. The warm up exercise will simply try out different patterns and help understand how to handle the clay. The clay can be re worked lots of times in order to find something both suitable and attractive to The Maker. This initial experiment is key to making a success of the final Doughnut Bead and Bella is spending an hour 'playing' with the clay.
Next time, Bella will share her final Doughnut Beads after curing but before applying finishing techniques.

Thanks for reading.