Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thought for the Week

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

Okay, here it is... the blog post I promised.

I've been working frantically on Christmas stuff for my Etsy shop for the last several weeks because I realized at the beginning of November that I really needed to have Christmas things listed by Thanksgiving.  Of course that meant designing, creating, photographing, writing descriptions, and listing several items in just a matter of weeks.  Hence, no time for blogging or anything else. 

Anyway, so here's a little bit about my journey to getting Christmas ornaments in my shop.

My first idea was to make 4 different snowflake canes in translucent (snowflakes) and white (backgrounds) so that I could place them over a colored base layer and have the snowflakes be any pastel color I wanted.  That's where I hit my first snag.  I apparently can't make a pretty snowflake cane to save my life.  This is what I came up with:
The only one that looks even remotely like a snowflake to me is the bottom right one.  (The top right is actually leftover from the center of the bottom right.)

But I made the ornament I had in mind anyway:
Except for the snowflakes that look more like kaleidoscopes, it turned out pretty much how I imagined.  Of course, it didn't go all smoothly.  I had it propped on a skewer on my work table, waiting to be baked when my 18month-old decided it looked like a lollipop (she loves to chew clay anyway-she doesn't swallow it, just chews it up and spits it out) and took a couple of bites out of it.  Luckily, I had extra strings and was able to fix it up good as new.

All in all, I decided I'd had enough of that idea and scrapped it for now.  I might revisit it next year.

So, I thought I'd try some traditional polyclay filigree this time:
It turned out gorgeous if I do say so myself.  However, it took probably 10 hours or more to make and I'm not sure I love doing filigree on a round surface enough to make these to sell.  Oh, well, another ornament for me.

BTW, you wanna know what happens when your clay is done and you just turn the oven off and leave your project in there and forget about it and then later you go to make dinner and you turn on the broiler to preheat and all of a sudden the house is full of this terrible burning plastic smell and you realize you still had clay in the oven that is now getting broiled?  Take a look:
Yeah, I'm using plastic bulbs for a base and needless to say, they didn't stand up to the heat any better than the clay did.  It's a good thing Christmas tree ornaments only show on one side at a time 'cause I hung it on the tree anyway.

I was trying to come up with something pretty, unusual and relatively quick and enjoyable to make.  Here's the one that finally made it in my Etsy shop:
It took a little engineering to get all of the petals lined up so that they covered the entire bulb and still looked like a flower but I think I was successful.

Next I wanted to try some different colors.  I Googled poinsettias and found out that they come in almost any color but I chose a few of the more traditional ones.

 Blue (although I think the veins should have been skinnier):
And last but not least, pink:
So, that's what I've got in there now.  I've also done some mini ornaments that I will have to blog about later.

Oh, and one last one that I am still experimenting with and trying to decide whether I like it or not.  The photos aren't very good but it's teal and silver.  The skinny stripes were done using a mica shift technique  so they sparkle two different ways.  
Side view:
Top view:
Bottom view:

Hey, let me know what you think and if you have any other ideas for me to try.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cyber Monday Sale!

Oh my heavens!!  It's been way too long since I blogged last.  Don't have time now, either.  Just a quick word:


There it is.  Everything in my Etsy shop is 50% off until Monday night.  I'm trying really hard to get the word out about my work so help me out and tell everyone you know!


P.S. I will do a real blog post as soon as I can steal some time. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Forbidden Forest- I won!

Okay, thanks to any of you who voted for me on the Polymer Clay Central Challenge!  In case you haven't looked yet, I won 1st place!

Anyway, I loved making that particular piece.  I wasn't going to enter the contest this month 'cause the theme was "Spooks" and I'm not really all that into the whole Halloween thing... :P  Anyway, Rocke talked me into it and so I had to find something I could do with the theme.  Then I realized that Harry Potter has everything to do with Halloween and I set out in search of inspiration.  I found it in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."  It was the illustration for the chapter titled "The Eye of the Snake" (not sure of the chapter # offhand).  And the rest is history.  It was so much fun to make and now I'm ready to try a few of the other pictures in the books as well.

So, here's a few notes about how this piece came to be:

So, I wanted to put a hint of something hiding back there in the trees (for those who don't know, it's a thestral) besides just the eyes (which glow in the dark, by the way) so I put some translucent liquid clay on there and then took my heat gun to it to shine it up a bit.  Well, I overdid the heat a little and browned some of the leaves.  Luckily, it worked out okay.  I really like the results. (Of course, I had to burn some more of the leaves to make it look like it was on purpose, and then I discovered that hitting the tree trunks with the heat brought out the colors in them- smoked up the house real good.  Not a technique I recommend unless you are outside and wearing a mask.)

Here's a closeup of the grass and rocks.  I put several shades of green through the extruder with a really tiny hole, cut short pieces and rolled one end to a point for each blade of grass.  For the rocks, I mixed three bits of translucent clay with pepper, ground oregano, and ground cloves.  Then I made them into the little shapes you see here.  (I burned the rocks with the heat gun a little too, although that wasn't intentional- the trans clay just really burns easily.  Hmmm, I think Rocke needs to take away the heat gun...)

And here you can see the depth of the piece.  I absolutely love it! 

I plan on making some more similar pieces only with joshua trees and cacti.  We used to live in Arizona and I love the shapes the trunks of those trees make.  We'll see how that goes.

I know I promised another tutorial soon but I had a few setbacks and am still working on it.  Bear with me, maybe I'll have two in a row.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so I don't really mean it.  I actually hate Halloween.  When I was a kid I loved being allowed to dress up and act like an idiot all day.  Even in high school I loved the attention I got from dressing up.

Then I had kids.

When they were really little it was fun.  They were too young to trick-or-treat so we'd dress them up for the grandparents and take pictures and that was about it.  Now, however...

Six costumes, six buckets of candy, six months of sugar high.  Yes, I said six months.  Halloween is the first holiday of what I call "candy season."  Think about it.  Trick-or-treat candy, halloween candy that comes a week or two later from Grandma- by then the Christmas candy is in the stores.  After Thanksgiving we start making the Christmas goodies for all of the family and friends, then the candy we get in our stockings lasts at least several weeks after that and then we are into Valentine's Day.  Then we get a break- for about a month- 'cause here comes Easter.  Mercifully, there's not much candy from Easter to Halloween except the stuff they get at the 4th of July parade in the middle of the summer.

Anyway, enough ranting, what I really wanted to do was show off the pictures of the kids the other night for the church "trunk-or-treat:"

Okay, my camera was acting weird so this was really the only photo that turned out at all.  In case you can't tell what we (yes, I'm in there too) were all dressed as... From left to right, back row first: Witch, bumblebee, Jedi knight, black cat, race car and driver, alien (pronounce the "l" as /w/) and yes, her hair really was that color, and fairy princess.  The "awien" and the race car both won prizes at the church party.

So, in spite of it all, I admit that it's pretty fun to dress up (as long as someone else comes up with the costumes- which 13yo daughter did) and they really didn't get that much candy after all.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Homeschooling Hard?

Okay, a couple of weeks ago, I was waiting for something in the car in the parking lot at the grocery store ("there's a frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea...") and I started writing this blog post.  I'm typing it here without editing because I was feeling very passionate about homeschooling at that moment and I'm afraid it will lose something if I edit it. So keep in mind that it is probably not great writing but it most certainly comes from the heart...

Today at the checkout stand at the grocery store I mentioned to the cashier that I homeschool my kids.  She asked me, "Is homeschooling hard?"  I said, "It depends on the day..." and we went on to chat a little more about homeschooling in general as she went on ringing up my groceries. 

Later, I got to thinking about that question -- Is homeschooling hard?  And my answer is, "Heck, yeah!  It's the hardest thing I've ever done."  Does that mean it's not worthwhile?  No way!  It's also the most rewarding thing I've every done.

I'm sure you can imagine all of the hard parts about homeschooling -- hours of planning, choosing just the right curricula, coaxing reluctant scholars into being enthusiastic scholars, wondering if they are learning enough, wondering if they are learning at all, convincing loving but skeptical family members and friends that you haven't completely lost your mind (and wondering if they're right)... the list goes on and on.

But the rewards are immensely greater than the sacrifices.

I have six children, four of whom are school-aged.  I have never experienced the teary goodbye with my 5-year-old on the first day of school.  The only bullies my kids have had to deal with were neighborhood ones.  None of them have ever been "behind" or "ahead" of the class -- each of them is the class.  No school lunches, long bus rides, cranky teachers (except Mom), or separation of church and school. 

In history, we learn where the Native Americans really came from, the scriptures are history books, not just a collection of stories with a moral.  We learn that God created us, we are his children, and not one person on this earth ever descended from apes.  We learn about the Mormon migration right along with the California gold rush and we know that the pilgrims were thanking God, not the Indians, at the first Thanksgiving feast.  We are able to add eternal truths to all of the other subjects we study (particularly science), and gospel study is a school subject for us -- not just something for Sunday meetings.

But the rewards don't all belong to the children. (Although I benefit from the above as much as they.)  Do your remember the joy and excitement you felt when your child took his first step?  Imagine experiencing that feeling when he realizes that all of those letters on the page combine to make words, which make sentences and paragraphs and stories, which open whole new worlds!  There is one moment, you know, when it clicks in their minds and if you watch carefully, you might see it.

It's not just reading either -- how about that math concept she's been struggling with and all of a sudden -- "Oh my gosh, Mom, I get it now!"  And it's not just in academics.  What about when their pretend play is based on stories (not textbook chapters) they've read in history?  They're not playing "war," but "American Revolution."  Mummies are no longer scary Halloween creatures but the ultimate dissection project!

There's nothing that fills my heart more than looking out the back window and seeing my 13-year-old daughter sitting on the trampoline with her 1-year-old sister on her lap and all of the other kids jumping around them... or watching them all playing board games or building with legos together (while trying to keep the baby occupied enough to not make a mess of things). 

Instead of worrying about my kids being overscheduled with sports, homework, music and dance lessons, and other activities, I sometimes wonder if they are underscheduled.  After all, they only have their church activities once a week and have friends over once in a while.  We eat dinner together every day and (oh, my gosh!) lunch and dinner too. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, yes, homeschooling is hard (though not impossible) but isn't everything really worth doing difficult?  I've often told people, "I can't send my kids to public school -- I'd miss them too much!"  In my mind, that would be harder than homeschooling.

(I'm not trying to convince anyone else with this post to start homeschooling.  My hope is that others can better understand why I chose this method of education for my children.)


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Contests, Commercials, Concussions, and Measles

1.  It's voting time!  No, not for your local leaders (well, that might be a good idea, too), but for your favorite polymer clay project over at Polymer Clay Central.  One of the pieces is mine but I'm not allowed to say which one.  (But here's a hint: Look at my favorite book list by clicking on "View Complete Profile" over there on the right!)  So vote for your favorite and maybe I can get a gift certificate for more clay supplies so I can make more projects so I can enter more contests, so I can win more gift certificates...  Anyway, you can vote here!

2.  I'm going to be a radio star!  (Just kidding)  Since January, I've had two businesses to run.  Rock (my husband) and I started a computer repair business at the beginning of the year as he had been unemployed nearly a year and still had no job prospects.  The last few weeks, we have been talking about doing a radio ad and finally yesterday we went to the station and got it recorded.  I'm very excited about it although I'm not sure I want to hear my own voice on the radio; I really think it will help improve our sales.

3. Last week, our one-year-old gave me a huge scare.  She was running from her sister and tripped over her own feet and fell on her face.  I wasn't too worried at first because she does that all the time.  The 11yo picked her up and noticed she was acting funny so I took her and she was going in and out of conciousness!  I panicked, called 911 and, while waiting for the ambulance, bawled hysterically.  My 13yo, however, kept her cool and calmed down the younger kids while I tried to get a grip.  When the ambulance got here and I took her out and put her on the gurney, she opened her eyes (she had stayed unconcious the last several minutes).  I said, "Hi, baby," and she grinned at me!  The paramedics could tell right then that she was okay but we took her to the hospital anyway to keep an eye on her for a while.  Apparently she just had a concussion and it knocked her silly for a while.
Of course, when it rains, it pours.  A couple of days later, I was up all night with her 'cause she had a relatively high fever and was miserable but no other symptoms so I figured it couldn't be anything too serious.  Sure enough, the next night she had spots all over.  It was measles!  We decided that we weren't going to immunize the two younger kids while they were little so she hasn't had the MMR.  (We don't plan on ever doing that one.)  Well, let me say... other than staying up all night with a feverish baby, that wasn't any worse than a cold.  In fact, it was a lot easier because it only lasted three days.  Colds seem to last all winter long sometimes.  So now we're waiting for 3yo to start showing the signs 'cause she hasn't had the MMR either.

Anyway, I'm working on a new clay tutorial for next week so stay tuned...

Friday, October 15, 2010


Okay, so I intended to post every week and here I've missed one already!  So here it is:


Didja blink? :)

No seriously, to make up for it, I updated all of my profile information.  Not very informative unless you happen to be interested in my favorite books and movies but there you are!

I promise to provide something interesting and/or educational next week!

(While you're waiting, you could check out my Etsy shop here. *wink, wink*)


Monday, October 11, 2010

Cured-On-Raw Mosaic Tutorial

Okay, so I decided I wanted to do a mosaic using the techniques I taught the kids a few weeks ago and I thought I might as well write a tutorial while I'm at it.  So here goes:

(BTW, I'm a lefty so if the photos with my hand in them look awkward...)

This is the project I am going to show you:

Okay, so first make a pattern.  Mine is based on an abstract drawing I did in a drawing class years ago. (The gray stuff is a copy of the original drawing.)  I didn't want as much detail so I simplified a bit:

Color your pattern if you want.  Of course, these aren't the actual colors I will use, just a rough idea:

Next, mix your colors.  I keep all of my color families in separate containers (pinks, blues, green, metallics, etc) and just toss the scraps in there.  When I get a lot of little balls of any given "color," I mix them up into a new color and see what I get.  Since the colors in this weren't desperately important, I decided to do that:  (I had already started mixing the green.)

Now, normally I would tell you to condition your clay before you start work, but since all of these colors were mixed, they are conditioned already.  If you are using new clay, make sure you mix and knead it really well before starting work.  Then roll it through the pasta machine at a medium-thin setting:

Now, to save clay, I try to cut about the amount I'm going to need rather than just guesstimating.  So I laid my pattern on each color of clay and traced (loosely) around that color in the pattern to impress the design a little:

Then cut along the lines that you made.  I actually should have done a little more pink- I ran out:

Put the extra away (that's the wadded up piece).  Bunch up the stuff you are going to use and flatten it into more of a square shape. Roll it through the pasta machine at the same thickness as before and lay them out on an oven-safe tile.  Do this with all of your colors:

Now, you need to impress little squares into your clay.  I couldn't find my texture sheet with the grid pattern so I used this piece of plastic canvas.  (You could also cut the tiles freehand if you want.)  Lay it on there and roll over it with a brayer or something.  Make sure you do all the way out to the edges:

Score your clay along the impressed lines with a sharp blade.  Leave the tiles on your bakeable surface:
(You can scrap the rough edges if you want to eliminate even more waste.)

Bake your tiles according to your clay manufacturer's directions.  I usually bake everything at 230 degrees for 45+ minutes.  At that temperature it won't burn even if you forget it for a couple of hours. 

After the clay has cooled, scrape your tiles off whatever you baked them on:

Here's all of my pretty tiles piled up on my clay board:

Condition some black clay and roll it out on your thickest pasta machine setting.  Make sure it is bigger than your pattern:

Lay your pattern on the black clay and trace it with a needle tool or other pointy object:

Spread some liquid clay or white glue on the black clay in a very thin layer: (This will help the cured tiles to stick to the raw clay.)

Start laying your tiles on the clay, following your pattern:

When you need to fill in a small space or go around a sharp curve, use a craft knife to cut tiles to fit.

Keep filling in the design with tiles...

...until the whole pattern is covered: (You can see in the upper left where I ran out of pink and filled it in with purple.  I could have made more pink tiles but...)

Now, take your roller again and roll firmly over the entire mosaic, going in all directions, until all of the tiles are firmly pressed into the background and the background is starting to rise up around the tiles:

Cut the background away with your craft knife.  I originally was going to make the edges straight but when I got done, I decided I liked the edges the way they were so I cut around the tiles that were sticking out:

Ready to bake again.  This time I left it in for an hour:

Now, you can leave it the way it is or you can sand and buff the piece, or you can glaze it somehow.  I have been experimenting with using liquid clay to get a high-gloss finish.  So I spread liquid clay all over the mosaic...

...making sure to get it in all of the cracks and not getting it too thick:

I experimented with the heat gun for curing the liquid clay but it's not a craft heat gun and it blows too much air- pushing the clay around and making it ridged and lumpy.  So I baked it at 340 (yes, 340) degrees for about 5 minutes.  The high temp helps the liquid clay cure clearer and sets it so the heat gun won't blow it around.  Then I hit it with the heat gun, making sure to watch closely- as soon as a spot had a high gloss, I moved on to the next one.  It did smoke a little but I didn't burn anything (so far as I could tell).  Anyway, It has some air bubbles and I still need to work on the technique but it turned out pretty good.

If you don't want to mess with the liquid clay and heat gun, I recommend glazing it with liquid varathane (don't use a spray glaze) on a paint brush.  You can give it a few coats and even buff it after it's dry.

You can see my high shine a little better in this photo:

So, there it is!  I hope you enjoyed my first blog tutorial and if you have any questions, feel free to comment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fair Winnings Part Three: The Kids' Entries

Okay, so just about a week or so before we had to have stuff to the fairgrounds, my two oldest daughters decided they wanted to enter stuff with me- and of course it had to be polymer clay.

So here we go!  I think I'll show Emmy's first- she's 11, and loves dolphins:

It is a mosaic but I didn't have her do hers all in raw clay the way I do mine.  I wasn't sure she would have the steady hand required for that yet. 

So, I had her roll out very thin sheets of clay and lay them on my stone tile, then score them with a sharp blade.  Then I had her bake them.  After they were baked, she scraped them off the tile and broke them along the scores. 

Then I had her roll out a thick sheet of white clay, trace the pattern onto it, and stick the tiles into the white clay.  Then she baked it again. 

There were a few tiles that weren't stuck in deep enough and they fell out the morning we were headed to the fairgrounds.  She tried to fix them with raw clay (without saying anything to me).  If she had said something to me, I would have just had her glue them back in.  But it turned out really well nonetheless. 

I'm extremely proud of her.

Moving on to Kjeri- she's 13:

(In case you can't tell, that's a blue ribbon hanging off the vase.) After watching a couple of video tutorials on youtube and flipping through my clay books, she decided she wanted to sculpt a bouquet of flowers.  I don't sculpt myself so she was totally on her own here.  She did such a good job that I think I might have to try some flowers, too.  Here's a close-up photo:

That was her first project.  Then she decided she had time to do a mosaic like Emmy.  Same procedure only she chose a pegasus instead of a dolphin:

Once again, she did a really good job!

I am so proud of both of my daughters and I think their work and seeing other kids' work at the fair has inspired the younger kids to do a few projects for next year.  We'll see what happens!