Miniature Fairy Garden

Before I saw Lisa’s Fairy Garden Ring video on PCA, I’d not really given much thought to these whimsical creations. Lisa’s course resulted in a whirlwind Pinterest tour of fairy gardens, and it’s quite delightful to look at all those miniatures. πŸ™‚

Miniature Fairy Garden - PCA 2017

Miniature Fairy Garden

For my version of the project, I omitted the ‘ring’ and made only a fairy garden. After all, I don’t fancy wearing a ring that has protruding sections that are in danger of getting chipped or broken. πŸ™‚ This garden is about 2cm across and 2.5cm tall.

I have worked on a sugar skull keychain before, and that involved working with tiny parts, which turned out to be a lot of fun. It turned out that working on a fairy garden is also a lot of fun, and for the same reason. Sculpting tiny landscapes with tinier details is involving and relaxing.

I made the base in a plastic cap so it won’t get squished while I’m working on the surface details. But then, I wouldn’t want the cap to melt in the oven during the bake. (Duh!) So I had to remove the cap later and give some texture to the sides. Thinking back on it, I should just bake a textured base first, and then start work on the surface. That would involve some liquid clay for gluing, of course. Or maybe the plastic cap way isn’t too bad, since it wasn’t much effort to remove the piece and texture it.

I added some mod podge layers for the final gloss, and now the piece is on my desk, and I love looking at it! ❀

Mosaic Notebook Cover

This little blue book cover is my next project in PCA 2017, inspired by Anke Humpert’s course on making mosaic notebook covers. I made one for my sister’s spiral paper pad.

Mosaic Notebook Cover - PCA 2017

Mosaic Notebook Cover

Designing the cover took longer than actually making it, I think! Or maybe I didn’t notice time pass by while playing with the clay because it was so much fun. πŸ™‚

I’m pretty happy with my Skinner blends now. It’s all thanks to my pasta machine that the amount of manual labor involved is reduced a hundredfold when compared to using a roller. Also, like I mentioned in an earlier post, I now prefer drilling holes post-bake, since it gives a neater finish. That’s exactly what I did for the nice little row of holes for the spiral.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. I did have to fix stuff.

The other side of the cover ended up with some cracks, because I traced over some not-very-visible borders with a knife lightly (or so I thought) but at a few places, the blade did make it through to the other side. I didn’t notice it before baking since I placed my working surface directly in the oven. Later, when I did notice it, I just mixed solid clay with liquid Sculpey and smeared it over the cracks, and rebaked it, and that fixed the problem.

While antiquing, I wasn’t quick enough to wipe away the paint, and quite a bit remained on the raised surfaces too, making it look more green/brownish than blue/violet-ish. I found that wiping with rubbing alcohol (or equivalent) removes the unwanted paint well. So now my mosaic pieces are shades of blue again. (Yay!)

I’d love to keep making these covers — there are just so many possibilities here! I’ll need more variety of deeper stamps, though, if I’m to use antiquing. Right now, I have just too few stamps that I can use.

Mixed Media: Hope Canvas

Mixed Media — my latest muse, because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to work with all the things in their project! πŸ˜‰ So it’s no surprise that the next item I chose in PCA was mixed media — a Hope Angel canvas by Barbara. I wanted to have a face in my piece too, but wasn’t too happy with my angel, so I drew upon some inspiration and made a Hope Tree instead.

Mixed Media: Hope Canvas

Mixed Media: Hope Canvas

I didn’t think the delicate background that Barbara makes for her piece would work for my tree, so I added more media to draw out the textures and colors. My! That was a good decision, and I was almost in love with the piece already. πŸ™‚ I experimented with adding this and that to complement the tree, and finally used a bird and a peace sign to complete the piece. I fussy cut the bird (hehe, I’m using terms that I learned from my sis) from a clay sheet that I textured, because none of my stencils worked size-wise. And I die cut the sign, painted it and stenciled in the lettering.

Thankfully, I had enough space in my oven to bake this project. Since it’s still a big piece, I monitored the temperature like a hawk to make sure nothing went awry. (I am soo glad I invested in an oven thermometer!)

Overall, I love how it turned out; it’s totally worth all the effort I put in! πŸ™‚

Polymer Clay Adventure

PCA — an amazing collection of polymer clay courses, with 24 projects to work on, over the next year… And I’m joining!

I came across the PCA online art retreat a couple of months ago, and was impressed with the variety of techniques covered in the curriculum — there are some mixed media projects as well. And at an incredibly low price tag, it’s a steal! My only concern was the availability of project supplies where I live. I decided that if some supplies are not available, I’ll find alternatives. After all, that’s a kind of challenge too! πŸ™‚ My generous sis is willing to loan me some of her card-making supplies if we think they’d work out (love you, sis ❀ πŸ˜„ ) so I’m hoping it’ll be fun.

So I finally enrolled in the course this week. Claying-wise, 2017 is going to be epic!

Premo!

Ever since I discovered that Sculpey III is brittle and not really suited for most of the polymer clay work I’m interested in, I’d thought of buying sampler packs of other clays. I finally ordered some of Premo!, Premo! Accents and SoufflΓ©.

The package arrived, and I eagerly sat down to play with the clay.Β To my disappointment, I found that it was ancient stock, and I just couldn’t condition the clay at all. When my hands finally started aching from all the pressing and rolling (I haven’t bought a conditioning machine yet), I began looking for what other people do to make old clay ‘like new.’ Apparently, most people throw away the clay if it’s this bad. Well, I spent a lot of money on mine, and throwing it away isn’t an option. What else you got, The Internet? Some suggestions popped up about adding mineral oil or baby oil to the clay. Okay, I could do that.

It worked! Really well, in fact. I still don’t know how the oil-conditioned clay will behave over months (or years), but for now, it’s made me happy I decided to try out these new clays. I was apprehensive about the post-bake quality, but the finished products are sooo sturdy. I made two earrings and a buckle.

The earrings

To start with, I twirled two snakes of silver and black around each other, folded the new rope to and fro into a roughly rectangular shape and rolled it flat. I wanted to test making two sets of earrings, one thinner than the other.

Premo! experiment - Thick earrings

Premo! experiment – Thick earrings

For the thicker earrings, I used a rectangular cutter and cut out two pieces. I continued to roll the remaining clay into a thinner sheet, and then cut out a circle using another cutter. (I haven’t used this circle yet.) I used a larger circular cutter on the remaining clay, and then cut the resulting shape into two equal earring pieces.

Premo! experiment - Thin, curved earrings

Premo! experiment – Thin, curved earrings

There was still some clay left, and I rolled it up into a snake, and used it for lining the edges of all four pieces. I then poked holes in the pieces for inserting jump rings later.

While baking, I kept the thinner piece bent over some folded card, so its surface is curved.

Results: The thicker one is sturdy, and the thinner one is slightly rubbery when I try to bend it, but pretty sturdy too. It didn’t chip or break when I tested it. (Reminded me of the time my experimental Sculpey III piece snapped.) Of course, I didn’t try my hardest to break it — after all, what earring goes through such hardships? πŸ˜›

The buckle

Premo! experiment - Buckle

Premo! experiment – Buckle

I used a mold for the torus base. Then, I decided to mix things up, and cut out uneven strips from an old Sculpey III sheet of brown (from the dragonfly project.) I first laid out thicker strips on the base, and then I rolled thinner strips around it. Finally, I firmly attached a decent-sized solid cylinder, made from the same clay as the base, for the buckle’s support.

Result: This piece is born to be a buckle — look at how it’s holding a belt in place! ❀

So overall, I like Premo!, as long as I find newer stock. (Because conditioning old clay is not fun.)

Disaster day discoveries

An alliterative title to commemorate my crossing some interesting milestones in my polymer clay journey over the past few days. They’re disastrous events (obviously)… But. What’s experience but mistakes that one learns from? I wrote this long post because a few months from now, I think I’ll find it extremely funny to relive these moments. (It’s already a bit smile-inducing.) So here goes.

It’s festival season here in India, which means shopping discounts galore. I had a list of things to buy (not jewelry related) if the post-discount prices fit my budget. In the days before the shopping madness would descend on the nation, I debated long and hard about also buying polymer clay related items if I find good deals on them. (I don’t usually buy tools like crazy when I’m just starting out with a new pastime.) I finally decided that I would buy something if it’s a good deal and can be used for other purposes if I decide this craft is not for me.

I bought a nice little toaster oven at almost 50% discount, because a lot of people online recommend a dedicated oven for clay baking, and a lot of people say it’s absolutely safe to use home ovens, and I decided to side with the different-ovens people for various reasons. I was happy when the oven arrived, and promptly went through the instruction manual. (Yes, I do that, but only if it’s a couple of pages thick.) After some recommended pre-use heating, I set about making some sample pieces from the clay I had, so I could bake in my new oven.

My clay practicing has gotten to the stage of rolling manageable clay sheets, and cutting with manageable precision, so I took it one step further and tried to attach two sheets of different colors side-by-side with as minimal distortion as possible. I made a cool-looking piece, with not two but three sheets, and I added additional texture with a blade and a cross-stitch canvas mat. No pictures clicked, but you’re gonna love what comes next. πŸ˜›

I set the temperature and the time in the oven, and put the piece in. I watched it for less than a minute, and it seemed to be fine. I was going to come back after a couple of minutes, but after barely a minute, I smelled this burning stench. I turned around to see smoke rising from the oven. I ran to it, switched it off, opened all windows and doors and ran back away. During all this, I saw that the heating rod was grayish red, which means it had gone full blast while my back was turned. @$#%!@#!! Argh!

I came back a long time later to discover a blistered slab of dark chocolate in place of my light-colored piece. It didn’t taste like dark chocolate, obviously — it smelt of soot and smoke. It looked good, though. Fabulous, in fact. That bubbly texture — if I could only recreate it without burning my piece! πŸ˜€ So after keeping it outside to air, and discovering that it would stop smelling eventually, I borrowed some paints from my sister and applied it to the burnt piece. Looks better, doesn’t it?

Polymer clay pendant, burnt

Burnt piece before and after applying paint

Is it salvaged? I don’t think so. I don’t know if I’m going to wear this; maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but the important thing is that I learned to always, always, always cover my items while I bake, to protect them from sudden temperature fluctuations.

I made a paper box with card stock, and a lid for it, and covered each on the outside with foil.

That’s one milestone reached. (I’m keeping the pendant, by the way. At least as a memento.)

I made another piece with two different colors. I was in a hurry this time, and the join wasn’t neat, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to try out something else. I brought out some shaping tools that I’ve borrowed looonnng-term πŸ˜‰ from my sis. I sculpted the gray with them, and used an old toothbrush to texture the pink. (Picture clicked this time.) Loved how the textures felt, put the pendant in paper box, placed the box in oven, set to recommended temperature and duration, watched the oven like a hawk until it was done. (And what do you know, there were no heating rod flare-ups after the pre-bake. Life is just so weird, isn’t it?) With bated breath, I removed the piece from the cooled box.

Applause! A total take-a-bow moment! The piece had baked soo well. The textures, so good. I ran my fingers over the pendant again and again, savoring my success. Finally, I opened up my jewelry kit, took out a jump ring and tried to insert it through the hole.

Snap! [Crumbles fall to the floor…]

Polymer clay pendant, chipped

Brittle piece before and after chipping

Apparently, Sculpey III, the clay I used, is very brittle. People recommend that it not be used for thinner items.

Okay then. I quickly did some research on various brands and types of clays. Of the Sculpey types available in Bangalore, I now know which ones will handle whatever I throw at them — SoufflΓ©. Or Premo!.

Not that I’ll never buy Sculpey III ever. I’ll just not use it for thin pieces. And I’ll continue to use it for my initial learning.

That’s the other milestone. (This pendant, I snapped into smaller pieces and threw away. It was like breaking a nacho.)

Such events make me (re-)realize that there’s only so much one can read up on; sometimes, experience works much better to prepare one for next time.

Valet tray

I’d been thinking of making a small tray that would hold not only my car keys, but also arbitrary jewelry items like the hair clips that I regularly use, or small accessories (like said clips, earrings, bracelets…) that I’d pick out for wearing the next day. So I recently made one using papier mΓ’chΓ©. Technically, this one’s a bowl and not a tray, but who cares, right? πŸ˜›

Valet tray / bowl I didn’t click pictures while I was making it 😦 so I’ll just verbally recount the important steps. I first selected a plastic bowl as the base to use in shaping the tray. I then prepared a flour-based glue. For the paper, I tore up newspapers randomly. Hand-torn is preferred (instead of clean-cut) because it helps the pieces form a more seamless surface.

Then came the construction of the tray — this took a while because the paper pieces need to be stuck in multiple layers, and every layer has to dry out before the next layer can be worked on. For the first layer, I spread some paper glue on the base surface and stuck a paper piece on it, brushing some glue on it. Then another piece followed by a coating of glue, then another piece and so on. When the layer was done, I set it outside for air-drying. Another layer followed, then another, until the structure was strong enough to independently hold its shape — that is, without the plastic bowl base — while I work on the next layer over it.

At this point, I removed the plastic bowl; it came off pretty easily after the first few nudges at its rim. More layers followed, both on the inner surface and the outer, until the tray was thick enough. I finally made the rim neater (but still kinda uneven — I liked how the uneven rim looked) by adding folded strips over it. That was the paper base done.

I then borrowed my sister’s gesso to prime the bowl for painting. After letting the gesso-coated tray dry, I painted it a rough, uneven gradient of yellow, orange and red acrylic colors. Finally went a couple of coatings of Mod Podge to give it a nice finish.

Valet tray / bowl I totally love this tray ❀ and it’s been in regular use for a while. I’m now looking for an excuse to make another that we can use! πŸ˜‰