Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mokume Gane - My Way: The Burlesque Blend

Spring is finally here, and, along with spring rains comes a packed spring teaching schedule! I'm home now for a couple of weeks, then off to Florida and after that, a final workshop to be given back here, in Montreal.   I'm focused on teaching the Burlesque Blend this year, so, for now, the rustic, gritty, organic stuff will have to take a back burner. I find it interesting to see the effect that teaching has on my creativity - it squelches it totally!!! I get so left brain that my family refer to me as "Sheldon". For those of you who watch The Big Bang Theory, you'll get the point. It becomes all about the chemistry, the physics, the engineering, even the mathematics (even Sandra is working out the math of her latest effort!) of the project. For me, it's important that students not only understand the "how" but also the "why" of a particular aspect of the technique. I've always felt that an artist who understands his medium is in the best possible position to explore and take risks, and therefore is more likely to make new discoveries. Putting all this information into digestible form is time-consuming and laborious, but I started out as a "lab rat" and I love it there!
I've come to realize that there are many new artists coming to polymer clay who don't have a solid background in the medium or in the basics of working with the medium. I would like to do a Polymer Clay 101 post, once a month, with progressive technical as well as technique information. Some of it you will undoubtedly already be familiar with, but there may be little tidbits that will help you with a niggling problem.

For example, I was asked to look at a bracelet that had broken after wearing. The artist asked if I had any idea what the problem was. She had not reinforced the bracelet with wire, but stated that she thought maybe the problem was that she had used an inferior clay, Premo. After picking my jaw up off the table, I told her that Premo is a high-quality, artist-grade polymer clay and not likely the cause of her problem. Ultimately it turned out the problem was not knowing what time or what temperature was needed to cure Premo properly. The result of too low a temperature and a very short cure cycle led to the breakage.

If you think this kind of monthly post would be of benefit, please leave a comment and let me know. If there are specific questions you have that you would like to see addressed in this post, please let me know. I'll be glad to do my best to deal with it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rustic Relics

Please click on the pictures for larger images
Yin and Yang, contrast - it is as vital in approach as it is in design. We've talked about taking a class - controlled, anticipated outcome. Now we'll talk about the contrast: the "fly by the seat of your pants, breathlessly, fearlessly, giddy with fear and expectation of what lies over the next rise" kind of contrast - going into the unknown, risking, experimenting. This is where intriguing discoveries are made, most often disguised as so-called mistakes. Judging an outcome as a mistake reveals that one has already set the parameters for the outcome of the effort. There is an expected result, and, barring achievement of that result, we judge the outcome a failure, a mistake.

Here I present my latest Eureka! Pretty? Not by any definition! Fabulous? Absolutely!
light shining through behind to show translucency of top

Here's how it came about. It was time for me to
experiment. I wanted to work with the ivory and add the feel of glass and get really rustic - the primitive ceramic/pottery/faience type rustic. My studio does not even remotely resemble those pictured in glossy magazines. I usually have to search around for a clear space that will hold my backside, so fat chance of finding a clear space to park a sheet of clay! (The Arctic Fox often suggests that he hang a large sheet of melamine/plywood from a pulley system bolted into the ceiling above my work surface. That way, when I run out of space, I can just winch a clean surface down onto the existing chaos and start fresh). He thinks he's witty!!!

I try to find a used piece of wax paper to place the sheet of bone/ivory clay down onto. I don't want to use deli wrap (silicon-too hard to find, or dry wax-leaches plasticizer) or plain paper (leaches also). I spot a piece and plunk the clay down. I make up the translucent, adding dry pigment, white acrylic paint, embossing powders-just a trace (white, black and pale turquoise) onto half the clay, roll out thinly, tear in half, place the relatively clean half on top, roll out thinly, then roll up roughly, leaving creases and overlapping edge, cut into sections about 1/4 the height I want the finished bead to be.

 I then pick up the bone/ivory sheet and notice something has stuck to my clay. It is thin, transparent, and brittle. I realize it is dried white glue. I use wax paper under items that I glue, and now I have dried glue on my clay. No problem. I know that PVA glue is very compatible with polymer clay (I bake it into the cores of thin bangles braced with paper). I'll just leave it. It will probably just disappear. I roll up the bone/ivory, shape it into the bead, affix the translucent on top, blend the two, distress with my favorite texturizing tools (another post another day) and bake. I decide this time to antique with black acrylic paint because I don't want oil paint staining into the surface of this bone/ivory (maybe my right brain knew something I didn't!).

without the red outlines

I wipe off the excess paint with a damp rag and notice distinct spots that have taken no paint at all, smooth in the midst of texture, outlined with strong detail! I love the look! It has to be the dried glue. It prevented the texture from affecting that area and being dried and brittle when attached, it "broke" when manipulated into shape. (I will play around with this and see where it takes me) Knowing that I've used acrylic paint for the antiquing, and that acrylic paint buffs to a beautiful high gloss, I use the buffer to make it gleam. It really fascinates me! I ask The Arctic Fox why I find this so much more intriguing and delightful than all the "pretty" pieces I make periodically. He responds, "Because you love the process!" He's absolutely right! Don't tell him - he's already too male!

Sometimes it's good to push through your "mistakes"!

Some more images below:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Annus Horribilis!

My first attempt at a Rock Cuff Bracelet
After the fire at Buckingham Palace, The Queen stated the above! Ditto! 6 weeks of Whooping Cough, a  failed colonoscopy (the doctor finally told me he was going to stop the procedure and end the torture), and now major dental work on all 4 quadrants - I'm swimming through a red fog of pain and wondering if this is what the writer meant who said, "old age is not for the faint of heart!" My poor little right brain is cowering in a far corner, whimpering and making weird gestures with her hands. Will she ever risk the cold hard light of reality again? What to do? What to do?

I know! Take a class!

Not only does a class relieve you of having to make any decisions, it's delightful and approved playground time and it keeps you current with progress being made by leaders in the field. Regardless of how many years you have been working with polymer clay, there are still new techniques being developed and you may find it sets you off on entirely new path in your efforts. If you find that the work of a particular artist is intriguing, beguiling and leaves you wondering how certain aspects were done, take the class. If you can attend one in person, that's even better. The camaraderie will lighten your spirits considerably, and, as my Arctic Fox says, "Creative people need to be with creative people." However, if that is not possible, this is the age of technology and classes are given on dvd, online, and through podcasts, and they are frequently of high caliber. Thank you Melanie Muir and Alison Lee of Craftcast. Melanie has a Craftcast class (moderated by Alison) that is fabulous. She has amalgamated many existing techniques and added her own twist and come up with a wonderful, entertaining, instructive class on her Rock Cuff Bracelets. For over an hour I lost myself in her wonderful Scottish burr and her lucid and logical instruction. She holds nothing back, and, what makes me happy, does not require you to purchase scarce items to accomplish a beautiful end result. Thanks again, ladies. You managed to get me hoping this new year will be an Annus Mirabilis!

PS. No, this is not a paid advertisement. These ladies do not know I'm posting this (I hope they don't mind!)