ABS Challenge – Feb – Star Lovers | Beads

The folks at Art Bead Scene Studio feature awesome artwork every month, and challenge their readers to create art beads, and art-bead-incorporating jewelry, inspired by the artwork. February’s inspiration is a piece, Star Lovers, by Warwick Goble.

ABS Challenge Feb 2018 -- inspiration

This month has been a bit hectic for me, which I feel is because the number of things to do remain the same but there are fewer days to do them in. So I decided to split this challenge into a bead submission first, and then a jewelry submission using the beads from the first submission.

I totally loved the flowing elements in this illustration — the birds, the lady’s dress, even the stars, all flow and swirl and float, adding to the dreamlike feel of the picture. Since Goble was an illustrator, my immediate thought was to draw something myself. On a good day, I can manage okay on paper, but on clay, not really. So I opted for the next best thing — image transfer. It counts as drawing if I transfer a digital image that I created, right? 😉 In order to make similar beads, I made my digital image have tiled patterns comprising of flowing, swirling little items.

ABS Challenge Feb 2018 -- Swirly Polymer Clay Beads using Image Transfer

I used blue and gray Sculpey Premo polymer clay to make the beads. For the image transfer, I cut out and used different sizes from the tiles in my printed-out image. I then brushed pink and orange chalk pigment on the beads for a salmon color. (It still looks mostly pink because the orange somehow wasn’t stronger than it was.) I also lightly added some yellow, which mostly manifests as green. I then adhered the beads to thicker bases. The center of the beads is empty, and it looked a bit like a ghost town compared to the busy surroundings, so inspired by the stars in the picture, I added some glitter there and spread it slightly.

Post-bake, I drilled holes in the beads, and secured the glitter by applying some liquid polymer clay over the beads and waving a heat gun over them until the clay set. And that’s our beads, all ready to be made into jewelry!

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ABS Challenge – Jan – Spring

The folks at Art Bead Scene Studio have been featuring awesome artwork every month, and challenging their readers to create jewelry inspired by the artwork — the only rule being that at least one art bead is used. I’ve been a lurker so far, observing the artwork, and admiring the Perfect Pairing showcases where ABS features a jewelry piece.

This time, I’ve decided to participate. Sometimes, a good challenge is what’s needed to get those creative juices flowing, isn’t it?

ABS Challenge Jan 2018 -- inspiration

January’s inspiration is an Art Nouveau piece, Spring, by Frances MacDonald. The first thing I noticed was that it featured Ultraviolet, the Pantone color of 2018. Then, the graceful forms of the women, the symmetry — these caught my eye.

At first, I thought of making a set of earrings and pendant that would also work for an upcoming wedding that I’ll attend. But the more I tried to make it work, the more it didn’t. Finally, since we anyway decided to use some jewelry that we already own, I was free to just let creativity guide me.

ABS Challenge Jan 2018 -- Polymer Clay beads

I made a Skinner blend from polymer clay in violet and green, the Pantone colors of this year and last year. (A nod to Janus and duality and all that. 😉 ) I used it as the veneer for a long bead that reminded me of the elongated form of the women. I’d use this bead in a pendant. To add some interest to the bead, I stamped a pattern on it with silver Perfect Pearls. Since there was a bit too much scrap clay left, I stamped the same pattern on it too, and rolled two smaller beads from it paper-bead style. These would work for earrings.

After baking the beads, my plan of beading with the main bead didn’t really work, so I switched to wire. Symmetry in wire is hard for me, and I eventually ended up ditching the symmetry aspect; the beads are symmetrical enough! 😉 Instead, I opted to be inspired by the element of waviness in the picture, and set the wire in wavy, interlocking shapes all around the bead. For the smaller beads, I didn’t interlock the wire, just made it spiral around them. As accessories to the clay beads, I added potato beads, also encased in wire.

ABS Challenge Jan 2018 -- Wire-Encased Polymer Clay Jewelry

I must admit I had no idea this is how the pieces would turn out until I actually made them, and the results are a pleasant surprise. Thank you, ABS, for a super-creative month-end!

More Mokume-Gane

Continuing with my trials and experiments, I thought of giving mokume-gane another go, making sure I don’t accidentally use Sculpey III like last time. 🙂 I also thought I’d work in some foil with the clay.

I layered sheets of green and black Premo clay, interspersed with a couple of sheets of silver foil, and pressed down a grid stamp on them. This is one of the deeper-etching stamps we own, but I still didn’t find it deep enough to produce a viable ‘mokume look’ after a slice or two. However, trying to stamp more after slicing only results in the layers getting smooshed and thinned down more and more, so after a while, the effect is dominated by busy layers, and the pattern is barely visible. Well, this is definitely not what I want!

Hollow Pendant in Polymer Clay using Mokume-gane

I made a hollow pendant from the ‘more effect-showing’ slices, and a hollow cabochon from the slices that looked busier. I covered both pieces with translucent clay to aid in sanding and buffing. The pendant accidentally got flung during my sanding efforts, and its bail shattered, but no worries, I can use it as a cabochon now. 😉

Hollow Cabochon in Polymer Clay using Mokume-gane

As you can see, there is a whole lot of plaquing — those pesky bubble-like entities — on both pieces, so much that it obscures the mokume-gane pattern. From my research of this plaquing effect, these are not air bubbles, and they mostly occur in translucent clay. (Or maybe they can just be seen better in the translucent clay…) And unfortunately, no one really knows what causes this. This unintentional effect is fine for the items that I made this time, but what about times when I don’t want the bubbly look? There are baking processes that people have suggested to reduce the plaquing effect — like increasing the temperature gradually — and yet, they’re apparently not foolproof. I have a feeling it’s got something to do with the age of the translucent clay, and  sadly, only old clay stock is available in my country. 😛

Back to mokume-gane — I’d want to work more on the technique to get better at it, but each practice session results in many mokume gane veneers, and I don’t really think I can keep coming up with uses for them. 🙂 Any ideas to help me out?

New Year Gifts

Our group of friends got together for the New Year, and I thought I’d make some small gifts for them. I made them pretty much in the last minute since I wasn’t too well recently, but I’m glad everyone ended up getting something. I’d created a couple of extras just in case, and it was perfect for the couple of unexpected people that turned up. 🙂

Since I made these without much time to spare, I optimized by using the same clay from start to finish. I mixed Black Sculpey Premo, Glittery-Yellow Fimo Effect and Red/Brown Sculpey Soufflé to get the color I wanted. I used a mold for the main ‘shell’, and a color or three of Perfect Pearls to add some glorious shine to it (mostly obscuring the clay’s color 😉 but hey, shiny is the solution when you’re short on time. 😛 ) I poked some holes to add jump rings later.

New Year Gifts - Polymer Clay Earrings

New Year Gifts – Polymer Clay Earrings

For the keychain charms, I placed the shells on rectangular bases of the same clay, and added strips of clay for the borders. I scored the borders with an X-Acto blade for some texture. A quick dash of Perfect Pearls here and there, and a hole for a jump ring, and the items were ready to bake.

New Year Gifts - Polymer Clay Keychain Charm

New Year Gifts – Polymer Clay Keychain Charm

I must admit that even using pre-made jewelry components (the ear wire and the tiny beads at the bottom), the fiddly jump rings and eye loops ate up a lot of time. I also found that I didn’t have keychain rings with me, so I had to attach just the one jump ring.

Turns out my sis and I like the earrings too, so I made a couple more today. 🙂

Hope you have tons of creativity coming your way in the new year as well. Happy New Year!

Finishing and Machines – DIY Sanding Drum

Encouraged by the success of my DIY buffing wheel, I’ve now made a DIY sanding drum, with sanding attachments! Okay, it’s not exactly a drum proper, but it gets the sanding done. And that’s what matters, right?

At first, I tried to find stuff that could substitute as drums on drill bits, but without much success. I ended up using a tightly wound cloth as a first-attempt drum. However, I couldn’t really attach sandpaper to it very well. My brilliant sis, who has a lot of experience with glue and tape from her craftsy hobbies, reminded me of the velcro strips that we own. She has this great-quality double-sided tape, and she came up with a clever idea involving them. So I attached sandpaper to one velcro strip using double-sided tape, and fixed the companion velcro strip onto the cloth drum using a rubberband. I now have detachable sanding units! Thank you, Sis!

DIY Sanding Attachments for Polymer Clay

(Pictures in this post are of poor quality because I clicked them indoors in the evening; I might not find the time to click reasonably good pictures this weekend either, anyway.)

I was originally afraid that the gaps and overlaps in the velcro would inflict wounds on the clay surface while sanding, but found that these sanding units actually work great. I guess at the speed that the drum rotates, the surface inconsistencies of the drum don’t matter much?

I’d made a square cabochon from the earlier crackled effect veneer, and I used the DIY attachments to sand it. I guess I need to get used to this mechanized process, because I totally chipped away part of the edge while sanding! No worries though, I’ll just bead-weave around the cab to hide the entire border. 🙂 I buffed it to high gloss, though not as glossy as I made the cab that I used to test my buffing wheel.

Glossy Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

So now, not only do I not have to strain my arm during sanding, but the sandpaper also doesn’t disintegrate as quickly, probably because most of the friction is uniform and in the middle of the strip, resulting in less pulling and tearing of the abrasive coating.

Now that I know that both DIYs — sander and buffer — produce great results, I might just improve them by (a) using something sturdier than plastic for the bit, and (b) buying a lighter power tool so the finishing becomes even more easier on my arms. (Or maybe just a stand and a motor for the drill I own right now.)

Crackled Effect Cabochon (or DIY Buffing Wheel Results Part 2)

The gloss! Woah, the incredible gloss! I can almost see my reflection in here. 😛 You can’t tell (or maybe you can), but I’m dancing a little jig right now. My DIY buffing wheel is definitely a superstar, isn’t it?

Buffed Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

One of the items I’d made from the crackled effect veneer is this hollow cabochon, with the main purpose of testing my buffing wheel on it. I hadn’t been able to fully smooth out the crackled pattern on the veneer without it getting enlarged, and I’d added a layer of translucent clay over the cab, so that sanding and buffing would work on a non-bumpy surface. In hindsight, that was a good move, since sanding directly on the pattern would scrape away the clay in the pattern and possibly change it. That would be interesting too, just not this time. 🙂

Post-bake, the translucent layer had a lot of ‘bubbles’, though they seemed to mostly disappear sometime during the sanding / buffing. They’re still visible, though. This is apparently called plaquing, and is a different topic altogether that I’ll need to figure out.

Buffed Crackled Effect Polymer Clay CabochonI buffed for only slightly less than 10 minutes this time. If I want to go lower, it’ll be at the cost of increased sanding time. I don’t think I’ll go any lower though, because I’m happy with this buffing duration. I’ll not want a super-high gloss on all my projects, so I’ll probably buff for around 5 min most of the time.

To ease the sanding itself, I’d like to own more grits of sandpaper. The ones I have — (240,) 400, 1000 and 2000 — are too far apart, gunk up a lot during the sanding and require constant cleaning, and get discarded too quickly. I’ll keep looking for intermediate grits.

DIY sanding tools

So with my buffing wheel DIY turning out super-successful, my next project is to make a DIY sanding drum, obviously! That would make the finishing process more mechanized, and I hope easier. It’s gonna be a tad more difficult to make than the buffing wheel though — it’s not like I can bind the sandpaper with thread, plus it’ll have to last through the wet sanding.

Please wish me luck to figure out this next DIY! 🙂

Crackled Effect

There are many methods to achieve a crackled effect on clay. This time, I used one of those veneers that I said started to tear when I tried to peel it off the enclosing plastic sheet.

I first dried out the sheet by placing it (tears and all) between two sheets of blank ordinary paper. To speed up the process, I placed some heavy objects over the setup to apply constant pressure on the sheet. I had to change the paper sheets a couple of times until the clay was dry enough to my satisfaction.

I then placed this on a sheet of white backing clay, and ran my roller over it to ensure it stays put. Then it was pasta machine time. I ran the sheet through my pasta machine a few times, reducing the thickness setting in every successive run. I also rotated the sheet 90 degrees for each run, so the cracks are more spread out instead of running in a single direction.

I used the veneer to make items for trying and testing a few things. I forgot to click a picture of the steps or of the veneer itself — I was eager to get the baking done in the limited time I had. However, here’s a low-quality picture of the items post-bake, still lying in my foil-laced tray.

Items from Crackled Veneer

I’ve made some pieces with a topmost layer of translucent clay so I can try out glossy buffing with my DIY buffing wheel. (Hope I get to it soon, and more importantly, hope it works.) The others, I’ll either leave as is or apply a liquid clay glaze, depending on what I make from them.

I love this crackling process, as well as the result! My success here has emboldened me enough to consider trying to crackle gold foil / leaf on clay — I’m so looking forward to that! I need to pre-plan how I’m gonna use it, though; I definitely do not want to let it dry out and eventually tear / crumble.