Soutache Earrings

A PCA-inspired project that I truly loved researching and working on — Polymer Clay Soutache earrings!

Before I registered for PCA, I had no idea what soutache is. I might actually have pinned soutache jewelry onto my macramΓ© board, for all I know. But after some wandering around the Internet with a purpose, I ended up loving soutache! I think it creates beautiful and elegant pieces. Maybe at some point in my life, I’ll create jewelry using actual soutache. But until then, there’s Jana Murinova’s course on PCA for imitating the technique using polymer clay. πŸ™‚

Imitation Soutache Earrings with Polymer Clay

Imitation Soutache Earrings with Polymer Clay

I chose a color palette that I normally don’t choose, because they were in my old clay stash. I’ve been trying to finish off this stash so I can use more of the new clay that I bought recently. However, the hard-to-condition clay wasn’t really suited for this project — it kept breaking while I worked with it, and I had to attach it again so the breaks aren’t visible, and try to continue where I left off. I did manage to make both earrings resemble each other and look good, but all my eyes can notice are the numerous points where the clay is smooshed due to reattaching. In hindsight, I could’ve just abandoned this after a point, and started with some new clay, but obviously, I didn’t. Anyway, with some good, ‘conditionable’ clay, I’m pretty sure the pieces would end up neater and just gorgeous!

I used faux half pearl beads (those flat-backed, hemispherical ones) as focal pieces and embellishments for my earrings, and would you know, the bubblegum colorway of the clay started to look more elegant! πŸ™‚ Also, the seed beads, I feel, certainly add to the daintiness. When I started the bake, I just never gave a thought to whether the pearl beads might be affected, and surely enough, they were. They’d melted slightly, but more importantly, their sheeny finish was no more — it’s like they’d aged 15 years. I ended up painting these beads with some metallic pearl white acrylic, because they wouldn’t come off the earrings with gentle pries. (So now I know I’m good at setting components in clay. πŸ˜› )Β  In the future, I really must remember to take them off before baking, and reattach them later with some E6000.

Well, that’s that, and I can’t wait to wear these!

Do you like the look of soutache jewelry? If you’re like me and hadn’t heard of this technique till now, go ahead and look up some pictures — you might end up loving it!

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Embossing Experiments

It’s been ages since my sis has been using embossing in her cardmaking, and I only recently decided to try it out on clay.

For this trial, I placed a stencil over my clay and sprinkled embossing powder over the stencil. The basic premise — applying some heat melts the powder, and when it cools, it turns into a solid, embossed layer. While baking, I placed the pieces over a glass bulb to dome them a bit, to see how the embossing powder holds while melting. I didn’t realize my foil tent ended up touching the glass bulb’s top, removing some powder from two of my layers! Good thing these are test pieces, huh? πŸ˜‰

Embossing experiments#1: Apply embossing powder, wave a heat gun over it until it sets. Bake the piece later. (I didn’t realize this much powder was too much powder, hehe…) This pre-embossing seems superfluous, since the baking would emboss it anyway. However, I wanted to see if it affects the pattern when it melts again, and makes it look different from the other pieces. It doesn’t, which is good. (So re-baking an embossed piece is a go!)

#2: Apply embossing powder, bake the piece. Heat from the oven sets the clay. There was still too much embossing powder there, but barring that fact, it turned out fairly okay.

#3: Same as #2, but before removing the stencil, use a roller to further set the powder in the clay. Again, I don’t know if I started getting better, or if the rolling really helped define the amount and shape of the powdered parts so they end up containing just enough powder. Some individual powder grains must still have dispersed over the surface, though — they are seen as tiny dots over the surface. I need to figure out how they got there.

#4: Apply embossing powder post-bake, after heating the clay a bit with a heat gun. (Or maybe immediately after the bake while the clay is still hot.) Then use a heat gun to set it. I kinda knew this wouldn’t really fly — the powder just blew away from the force of the heat gun blast. πŸ˜€ A better way to do this would be to use sticky ink over the clay surface to ‘hold on’ to the embossing powder, like my sis does for her cards.

Soon after I tested this out, I came across a recent video by Ludmila Bakulina, where she’s demonstrated one way of using embossing powders on clay! (I totally love her videos and have learned a lot from her.) She’s used the powder in the recesses of a textured clay sheet, and it’s easier to just use sticky tape to remove those unwanted particles dispersed over the surface. That’s not the case in my stencil-based method, so it looks like tinkering with method #3 and improving it is the way forward for me. Maybe I’ll use a brush to further minimize the amount of powder on the surface before I remove the stencil.

Being able to use embossing with my clay opens up so many possibilities! I’m looking at our stencil stash with renewed interest now. πŸ˜‰

Shadowbox Shrine

Oops, I almost forgot to make something from my PCA course this month. And when I did start work on a project, I accidentally cracked my version #1 when it came out of the oven. I could almost feel this month pass by without a PCA project, but I managed to make a version #2. And I’m delighted with it!

Shadowbox Shrine

Shadowbox Shrine

This mixed media project by Darlene Madden is a shadowbox shrine, and I think it really highlights textures and layers. Darlene uses various media in her project, whereas I used mostly chalks and Perfect Pearls. None of the pictures I clicked do any justice to the splendid shine that comes from the Perfect Pearls. 😦

I sculpted the key by hand, and for its wings, I used a template to cut out a heart shape, cut it vertically into two halves, and cut slits in them to form the ‘feathers’. I die-cut the lace ornament on top-left from paper, and applied metallic paints over it. I like the bling and weirdness it adds to an otherwise serious piece! πŸ™‚

I also love the mystery that the shadow adds to the object in the center — it would be rather boring otherwise. I think I like shadowboxes. How about you — are you a fan of them?

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

I used tubular Chenille stitch for this bracelet. (Sara Spoltore has a detailed video tutorial for this stitch.) The finished pattern in mine looks different from hers because of the bead types that I used — a small change in size or type makes for quite a change, doesn’t it? πŸ™‚ The beads that I used here are Preciosa 11/0 gold seed beads, and Japanese 11/0 haematite seed beads. (Wish I knew what type of Japanese beads these are — I bought them before I was into beading, and it just says ‘Japanese 11/0’ on the label.)

I’d started this bracelet intending for it to be an open one, though I admit I hadn’t thought of the finishing. Then, I discovered that the rope was turning out stretchy and elastic, and I decided to make the bracelet a closed one. I’d like to think I’ve improved at joining two ends of a rope as seamlessly as I possibly can, and I’m pleased with the join in this project. (I just try to maintain the look of the pattern in the join too, as best as I can.) However, I did end up twisting the rope by 1 stitch while joining, so the pattern lines form not circles but a mΓΆebius! No harm done, though. πŸ˜‰

Also, I now add at least two overhand knots when I weave in tails, so I can sleep peacefully knowing that the piece is secure. πŸ™‚

Because of the design change from open to closed, the bracelet started to look kinda plain, and I thought I’d make a focal beaded bead around it. I’d just finished watching the Interlace Beaded Bead video by Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry, so I used that here, using the same haematite 11/0’s from my bracelet, and some small pearl beads that seemed to fit the pattern. I finished the edges of the bead with the gold 11/0’s.

I love how this bracelet turned out, and I totally love slipping it on and off my wrist! πŸ˜€ How about you — do you change your design often after you start working on a project?

Attempt at Mokume Gane

Now that I have a good amount of clay at my disposal, I tried my hand at some Mokume Gane.

I layered multiple sheets of different clay colors, and used a texture plate for my first try at pressing down on the ‘block’, and quite a few presses with a blade. When I tried slicing a few layers, I realized the impression wasn’t deep enough. For my second attempt, I used a stamp instead of the texture plate. And this time, I loved the patterns!

Mokume Gane attempt

I still need to work on my slicing, though. My slices turn out tiny — I probably move the blade upwards as I slice. And when I compensated for that, I ended up gouging out a huge section! (Ugh… πŸ˜€ ) I’m hoping I’ll be able to slice away nice, thin, large layers as I practice more.

Of course, I’ll still use the tiny slices — and the gouged out part — from this attempt as veneers for some jewelry.

Until my next post, then!

Opposite Earrings

Another PCA-inspired project this time — an earring pair with the stripes in one running in a direction opposite to the other.

Opposite embellished earrings

The course that inspired me is Embellished veneer cabochons by Debbie Crothers. Debbie teaches how to make cabochons by applying multiple veneers, created using various techniques, onto a surface. A key component in her veneers — silkscreens — is still elusive in my local market, so I decided to work without silkscreens. I made some new veneers, and also reused leftover ones from other projects. I also made some stud earrings to attach the dangles to. I love the studs too. πŸ™‚

I finally used some techniques that I’d been wanting to for a while —

I applied gold foil onto my clay. I rubbed the foil backing with my fingers, and the transfer was decent. Maybe it’ll be better with some quick waves of a heat gun? I’ll need to try that out sometime.

I also used liquid clay on the surface for some glossy shine! I have to consciously stop myself from abusing this technique. πŸ™‚

I had some plans to fill up the zigzagging line in the middle, but in the end, I decided to scrap them. I’m pretty happy with this pair.

Wire Weave Bangle

Time for a wire weaving project!

I made a wire-weave bangle last week, with a pearl bead duo forming the focal element.

Wire weave bangle

Wire weave bangle

Or it could be a wire-weave tiara, if you ask my favorite model, Penguin. πŸ˜‰

Wire weave tiara?

For this bangle, I used three 16-gauge base wires and a 24-gauge weaving wire, both in a gold color. (Yup, I still use the thick wires that I ordered a long time ago.) I cut the base wires just a tiny bit longer than the intended circumference of the finished bracelet, because I wanted to add some small focal element in the end to actually finish it.

I kept my weaving wire uncut, since I’m still not good at estimating the length of wire I might need. I’d thought of measuring the wire as I unwind more and more of it, but somewhere along the way, I lost track. (This is what happens if you watch movies while working on projects! πŸ™‚ )

I left a margin of about 2-3cm (1″) when I started to weave. The pattern is an uncomplicated one — loop twice around bottom two base wires, loop twice around top two, repeat. The weaving itself was fun, since I also had the aforementioned movie-watching to accompany it. When I reached the end, I left the same margin as the beginning. At each end, I curled the middle base wire into loops, and bent its companion wires around it. That was the difficult part — since these are 16-gauge wires, it’s pretty difficult to make minute adjustments with them, and it was impossible to not nick the wires.

I then gradually curved the entire strip into an open bangle. To close it, I strung two pearl beads onto a length of wire, added eye loops at both ends of the wire and attached it to the loops of the bracelet.

I’m pretty happy with this bangle. πŸ™‚ My next bangle will have a new weave, of course, but I’ll also make at least one more of this one, maybe with a different color of weaving wire, since both my sis and my mom like it!