Art Elements Mar Theme – Nests

I’ve loved following the Component of the Month challenges from the folks at Art Elements, where team members would give away components every month to design with. I’ve seen some gorgeous stuff from the AE team as well as the guests. The only reason that kept me from participating is that historically, I’ve received most international packages of any perceived value after substantial delays (or they’ve gotten lost), so there was no guarantee that I could make something in time for these challenges.

Now, Art Elements has changed its design challenge format to monthly themes that encompass all art mediums, and I jumped at the chance to be a part of it! The theme for this month is Nests.

Of course, I thought of a birds nest first, but I wanted to see if I could come up with something different, so it was relegated to Plan B. I went through my bead stash for inspiration, and I thought of a pearl nested inside a clamshell. I spent some time with the idea, but found I wasn’t going anywhere with it.

While I was ruminating, other options that could replace a clamshell were also flitting around my mind – and I settled on the idea of an organic-looking nest for the pearl using polymer clay. Now that could work as a pendant! By now, however, I only had a week to make the piece. (How do I always end up here? 😉 ) To my relief, I managed to find the time to work on it, and this is how it turned out –

Art Elements Challenge - Polymer Clay Pendant with Nested Pearl

The outermost layer, and the upper part of the inner layer, are quite iridescent, but we know that it’s difficult to capture that shine sometimes. 🙂

The nest layers: I conditioned my Fimo clay just enough for it to be pliable but still have jagged edges. From this, I cut two strips – one for the inner layer and one for the outer one. Along the jagged edge of the inner layer, I added some slices from a mokume gane slab that I’d worked on a while back. On the outer surface of the outer layer, I used a texture sheet repeatedly to make quite a few ridges. Then I smoothed out any remaining jaggedness from the edges.

I attached the layers onto a base, shaped them, and baked them. While baking, I used little paper balls to keep the layers from drooping out of shape. This bake was a short one, because I still had to make the back of the pendant.

The back: I first smeared liquid clay on the back. From a length of wire, I made eye loops on both ends for the bails, and placed it on the back, between the top and center. I covered the back with a mildly textured circular sheet of clay. More baking followed, for a standard bake period this time.

Surface treatments: I painted the outer layer with acrylics, and sanded away the paint from the raised surfaces for a distressed effect. I then added more surface treatment using waxes and mousse from Art Alchemy and Nuvo.

Finishing: I placed a large faux pearl bead within the inner nest layer. For now, I’ve strung a stray cord through the bails for the necklace, but I’ll replace it with something else better soon.

Phew, I’m still surprised, and jubilant, that I managed to finish this pendant! 🙂


If you’re curious to find out what the AE team and the other guests have made for this challenge, go have a peek at their blogs!

Guests:    Alysen    •    Anita (that’s me!)    •    Divya    •    Kathy    •    Kym    •    Mona    •    Rosantia    •    Sarajo    •    Tammy

AE team members:    Caroline    •    Cathy    •    Claire    •    Jenny    •    Laney    •    Leslie    •    Lindsay    •    Marsha    •    Niky

Advertisements

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.

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? 😉

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. 😀 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. 😉