Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Polymer Clay Tutorial: Blue Stitched Flower Cane

Sometimes, when I start a project, I carefully plan everything out with sketches and color chips and recipes.  Sometimes I just grab some clay and start creating.

Whenever I can't decide on a color for a project, I gather all the little bits and pieces of one color family and just mix them together, using whatever color I end up with.  (I am a little more careful with the coordinating colors.)  That's what I did with this one.  It's a good way to use up all of those bits and pieces of pretty colors that I just can't bring myself to add to the mud pile- just make sure you don't get rid of any solids that you might need to go with other canes.

Anyway, on to the tutorial...

Blue Stitched Flower Cane

polymer clay in tan, white, black, blue, translucent  (I didn't keep track of amounts very well.  Just keep in mind that you'll need about 8 times more blue than tan.)

pasta machine
tissue blade
needle tool or thin knitting needle
extruder with tiny round disk (optional, but highly recommended)

Step 1:  The Center of the Flower
Use equal amounts of tan and white to make a skinner blend (if you don't know how to do a skinner blend, click here for a great tutorial).

Roll it up with the lighter end in the middle.  (I'm going to have a lot of leftover center cane!)

Make a log of black clay and wrap it in a medium-thick sheet of white.  Reduce it and cut into a bunch of pieces.  Arrange them around the blended log.  (The less space between the black logs, the rounder they will stay.  Mine will be fairly flat.)

Pinch and squeeze the black and white logs around the blend until the cane becomes round.  Reduce and cut into seven equal pieces.

Put the pieces together as shown below and squeeze together.

Reduce cane and set aside.

Step 2: Building the Petals
Use the blue and some white to make another skinner blend, about 8 times bigger than the first one.

Roll it with the light end in the middle.

Roll or extrude some tiny black strings.  (I rolled mine by hand.  Only do this if you have plenty of time. :)  I probably should have used the extruder.)  Make them smaller that the ones shown here.  (You'll see in the next photo.)

Cut the blended log in half the long way.

Lay one of the halves, flat side up, on the work surface and lay several tiny strings along the length of the half log.

Put the two halves of the blended log back together and press firmly.

Make two new cuts in the log as shown and repeat with the strings. Only do about 3/4 of the cut with strings, leaving the top without strings.

Put it back together firmly and make two more cuts as shown.  More strings in the cut- this time only go about halfway up.  Put it back together and reduce a little.

Add a thin sheet of black about 1/3 of the way around, centered over the point where all of the cuts met.

Reduce the cane and cut into 6 pieces.

Step 3: Putting it All Together
Pinch each log into a petal shape, going down the middle of the black sheet (I can see now that I wasn't too careful about that on one of these- but I'm not telling which one.)  Arrange them around the center cane.  Resize the center as needed to get the petals to go around with enough space between each petal for a thick sheet of translucent clay.  (I was right, I've got enough center left to make 3 or 4 more canes.)

Add a thick sheet of trans clay between each petal and place them around the center cane.  Make sure the trans hangs out a ways so you can trim it.  (See the next photo.)

Trim the trans clay at an angle along each petal so it tapers really well.  The more gradually you taper this, the less distorted the petals will be after reducing.  It's really hard to tell in this photo.

Roll a long thick sheet of trans clay and start wrapping it around the cane.  Use a needle tool to press the sheet into the creases.

Cut the end flush with the beginning of the sheet and butt them up against each other.

Make 6 shallow wedges of trans clay and press one into each crease of the cane.

Looking straight down on the cane, trim away the excess clay of the wedges.  Shaving off a little at a time is better than trying to get it all at once.  If your blade is flexible, you can curve it a little to help with the shaving.  The idea is to get the cane as round as you can before you start to reduce. (I didn't get a photo of that step.)

Reduce as needed for your project.
I haven't made anything with this cane yet but I'll likely be making a pen from it soon.  When I do, I'll post a photo here.

P.S.  I know it's been a while since I've shared a clay tutorial.  Sorry.  I hope this one was worth the wait. ;)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Baked Mac and Cheese

My husband spent two years in South Africa before we were married and this was one of his favorite recipes.  I rather suspect the dish is more English than African, but then again, most of the food he ate there was...

Anyway, while he was there, he bought a South African cookbook in the hopes that his mom could replicate some of his new favorite foods.  It never happened and not long after we were married, I discovered the book and found some really great stuff inside. 

This is almost straight from that cookbook.  Of course, all of the measurements are metric so I had to do some converting and, over the years, I've tweaked it to fit our family's tastes better.

So, here it is:

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
My 12 year old daughter made this.
1 lb macaroni
6 eggs
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t mustard
4 c milk
3/4 lbs shredded sharp cheddar
2 T butter
1 tomato cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 325.  Cook the macaroni until done.  Drain.  Beat eggs, add seasonings and milk.  Add the macaroni and the cheese and spoon into a large greased oven dish.  Dot with butter.  Garnish with tomato wedges.  Bake for 60-90 min until middle of casserole is set.

Although I have cut this recipe in half, it still makes quite a lot.  Feel free to halve it again...


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I've Been Working On

I haven't been able to get into my clay studio for a couple of weeks so I don't have any new clay to share.  But that isn't to say that I haven't been doing anything at all.  My sister-in-law and I started a new business a couple of months ago that involves creating community websites for small towns near us and family members.  We have 3 of them so far and hope to eventually expand to 50 or more websites.  Anyway, I'm doing the technical/design stuff and she does pretty much everything else.  So that's what I've been working on.  Here are a few of the banner and button ads I've created in the last few weeks:

Most of these are placeholders for our websites but one is for KaelMijoy and two of them are for other businesses.

Links to our three websites are on the right side of this page.  If you live in one of these areas, hang around and check things out.  All of them include a ton of valuable information.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There's a Budding Novelist in My House!

It's Tuesday- the day I am supposed to post a tutorial.  A tutorial!  Are you kidding?  I haven't been near my studio in at least 2 weeks!  Hopefully I'll be able to get in there in time for next week's tute.

Meanwhile, when I got up this morning and sat at the computer as usual, the word document that was open on the screen caught my eye and I started to read.  I realized at once what it was, and as I read, my mouth fell open in wonder.
My oldest daughter, Kjerstin, who is 14 years old, has been making up stories her whole life.  When she was 4, I remember going to the grocery store and having to stand next to the car with the door open for several minutes so her imaginary ducklings could all (it varied, but there were usually about 20 of them) get out of the car.  If we closed the door too soon she would get upset because it wasn't safe to leave ducklings alone in the car.  At about the same age, she started telling us her dreams.  Okay, so we weren't dumb enough to believe that she could remember hour-long dreams in minute detail- but we did realize that for her it was a good excuse to tell stories.  I admit, I got sick of hearing about them before she was done, but I just let her keep talking.

A couple of years ago, she started writing her stories down.  She now has 5 (I think) notebooks entirely full of stories.  There are several short stories and 2 novels.  I've never read any of them.  She says she wants me to wait until she has them typed because I won't be able to read her handwriting.  She has, however, read them aloud to her siblings and they absolutely love her stories.

I've read bits and pieces of her work now and then so I knew she was good.  But I didn't realize how good she was until I read the document on the computer screen this morning. 

In her last drama class, the students were assigned an essay.  They were to write about their personal experience on the stage.  I imagined the assignment to be a lot different than what she came up with, but maybe I missed something when she told me about it. 

Anyway, as you've probably guessed, the word document I read this morning was her drama essay.  I haven't edited anything here- just copied and pasted and added the title.  I think it's safe to say that, if she continues writing, someday you'll all have heard of the the famous author, Kjerstin Robinson.
Kjeri's Drama Essay

On stage the lights shimmer in white brilliance. It is empty for now. A soft murmur of voices came from the rows of seats lining below the anxious actors. The soft music starts and the velvet curtains slide open with a heavy swish. As my fellow actors and actresses step on stage I can smell their fear, see them with shaky hands as they step up to take their place. Not me. I hear my queue so I gently walk onto center stage. With confidence that only I could produce I delivered my lines perfectly. No fear came through my voice and that confidence permeated the air around me, influencing my fellow performers into a sense of comfort. My acting partner and I swept off the stage. I was born to act, nothing could stop me. I quickly changed into my next costume. I stood behind the red curtain and peeked into the crowd. They all laughed at a joke from on stage. “Our turn.” My actor whispered in my ear then we marched on stage. I felt happy and content up there on stage. I could do this forever. I fall onto the ground, but not before being caught by an actor and carried off the stage. I leapt from his arms and turned to watch some more of the play. “Go on Ian, get out there.” our play director said, pushing him back out. The performance was finished with much applause and cheering as all the actors and actresses stood in a line and bowed gracefully. It was over and I was tired but I could not wait for the next time I was in the spotlight.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy

I made up this recipe last night out of stuff I already had in the house.  This is the kind of recipe I used to make a lot when Rock and I were first married- when we were poor and I really had to work hard to provide variety on a budget.  The ingredients are simple as is the food- nothing fancy here but the family really liked it.

You can use purchased meatballs (as I did) or you can make your own.  I don't have a recipe for that but I'm sure a quick Google search will provide you with lots of choices (probably too many).

So, on to the recipe:

Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy
1 1/2 lbs turkey meatballs
1 pkg mushroom gravy mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups water
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
cooked rice or egg noodles
If the meatballs aren't pre-cooked, fry them in a little hot oil until cooked through.  If they are the frozen kind, just thaw them.  Mix the gravy mix and soup together in a large saucepan until smooth; add the water gradually to keep it from going lumpy.  Stir in the mushrooms and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Keep cooking until gravy thickens.  Add the meatballs and heat through.  Serve over cooked rice or egg noodles.