Monday, January 16, 2017

Embossing Powders on Polymer Clay

A few weeks ago I bought a heat gun and then last week I saw a video on Instagram in which gold embossing powder was used on calligraphy. These two unrelated events caused two more things to happen: I thought, "Hey! I can use embossing powders because now I have a heat gun." And I headed off Michael's to get some embossing powders.

At first I just got gold and white, and a mixed sample kit of black and silver, along with two Perfect Pearls glue pens (brush and bullets points), and an adhesive applicator with a sponge top.

My initial thought about the embossing powder was, "Yay! Finally, there's a way a way to make bold, opaque metallic lines on a bead. (And, also, now I want to learn modern calligraphy!)

So the first experiments were these:

But then, two more things happened:
1. As I heated the bead while it was mounted on a skewer, I saw the similarity to flameworking.
2. Now that I knew the powders were functioning as I had hoped, I bought more powders: sparkly gold, white, black, bronze, sparkly black, silver, clear, and chunky gold.

I pulled some not-so-good beads out of my stash and used the embossing powders as faux flameworking, though I think the finished products look more like ceramics than glass.

I put a cured bead on a skewer. The bead had been made on a skewer so the hole was tight enough that the bead didn't slide up and down and then I went to town...

The original bead was mostly turquoise with some gold and yellow on it. I very, very lightly coated the bead with the Perfect Pearls adhesive in a sponge top applicator. I sprinkled a tiny bit of scrap powder all over the bead and hit it with the heat gun on the lower speed.
I have a Black & Decker heat gun with two speeds. The lower speed doesn't blow the powder off if you hold it at a distance and only move closer when the powder starts to melt.

After the first layer of powder is on, you no longer need the glue. If you turn the skewer while heating the bead the surface will be warm enough to make the powder stick.

Next I sprinkled on some white. I sprinkle the powder directly from the container. Put a piece of paper below where you're working to catch any excess and put it back into the container.
Or, if that's too much trouble, dump all your powder "scraps" into one container and use it as the base for your next beads.

More gold.
Sometimes I put layers of clear between the opaque layers to give the illusion of depth.

...and chunky gold...

If you keep the heat in one spot, the powder will begin to break up (a little bit is good but don't over-do it -- the melted powder will flow if you're not careful.)

Keep the bead on the stick a while to let it cool off. But if you get impatient and you touch it while it's still warm and leave a fingerprint, no worries! Just hit it with the heat again and the fingerprint will melt right out.
If you get a few bubbles from air trapped between the layers, wait until the bead cools a little, pat the bubble with your finger, and then melt the fingerprint.

In the example below I didn't want to cover up the pretty colors underneath so I put the adhesive on the bead and sprinkled it only with clear powder and the chunky gold bits which I had mixed together.

I made a video to show the basic process. You can't see detail but you'll get the idea.
(If you can't view it on your phone, view it on a laptop. I don't know why, but the video that was shot and edited on my phone, cannot now be viewed on my phone when I try to launch it from the blog. Go figure.)


I tested the beads to see how well the finish holds up. I threw the clear one above 
 10 times and there's not a scratch or crack on it. See the video...


Monday, October 31, 2016

Transfer, Paint, Ink Experiments

I've been experimenting with liquid clay, toner transfers (learned from Lorraine Vogel's tutorial), colored pencils, inks, and paint pens. I started working with the paint pens as a way to salvage ugly old clay pieces but this weekend I worked on made-from-scratch pieces.

I created my own designs for the transfers with shapes I had drawn and scanned then arranged in Illustrator. After that I layered, colored, sliced and diced in Photoshop.

Layer 1 -- toner transfers. My transfers came out a little patchy but it won't matter for this purpose.

Layer 2 -- I put a thin layer of liquid clay over the transfer and cured it before using oil-paint pens to draw lines. The layer of clay is critical to keeping your pens in working order. If you draw directly on the transfer layer, the slight bit of tackiness of the transfer seems to gum up the works.

The "extra fine" point Sharpie pens make the nicest lines. I also tried the relatively cheap CraftSmart brand at Michael's and a more expensive Sakura pen but the Sharpies work well and don't remain gummy after I do the final spray of PYMII. The CraftSmart pens stayed a little tacky so I don't recommend for this purpose but they could be pretty decent for other uses.

The pic of the four pieces were done with the Extra Fine point; the fish was done with the Fine Point which is actually fairly thick).

I put a thin layer of liquid clay over the ink lines once they were dry and cured the pieces.

Layer 3 -- I started shading with colored pencils but they didn't like the liquid clay surface. So I pulled out my favorite ballpoint pens, Ink Joy by PaperMate, and started shading. I shaded as though light was coming from above to give the pieces a bit of 3D effect. After coloring I put another layer of liquid clay on the surface and cured it.

I discovered the purple pen bleeds. I had to touch up the white lines on the tall skinny spike before going further. The orange pen bleeds a bit also so I touched it up too.

Layer 4 -- I glued a clutch pin back on the back of each piece. I covered the backs with a full sheet of a coordinating color that I wrapped around the edges and trimmed flush. I covered the front surface with another layer of liquid clay before curing. The last liquid faded the white somewhat so I revived it with a white pen. When the piece was dry, I gave it a spray of PYMII to protect the last white lines.

Friday, March 4, 2016

New York City "Photo Fishing"

When I'm in a city environment with my camera phone, I turn it on and click-click-click as I walk along the street. I usually use the "cartoonify" filter on my Samsung Galaxy Note because I love the faux screen-print look it gives.

I take several hundred pictures and then go through them to see what I "caught" just like a fisherman dragging his line in the water.

Sometimes it's just a little section of the picture that I like and I blow it up. For example, this:

came from a small section of this:

Then I take the photos into Photoshop and mess with the colors and exposure, crop in to capture the interesting parts, and apply various filters and effects to the pics to "dirty 'em up." I am in loooove with the poster edges filter.

Manhattan 3/3/16
Military Mini

I often take pictures of windows because reflections can introduce collage-like visual textures in the image.
This is my favorite of the bunch.
I call it an "in-camera collage" because it's got so much goin' on!

This looks like Beatle shoes crossing the street. Abbey Road from a different angle?


Waiting to cross

Morning Trudgery

The Lunch Date


Lady and Little Dog

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Sleep Talk videos

I made a permanent page for my sleep talking videos. I post them on Facebook but if you're not a Facebooker, you can see them here.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tutorial: Super Easy Earrings to Match Your Outfit

I think we all agree that part of the fun of clay is the ability to whip up jewelry to match any outfit. Here's an easy way to make half-moon curved dangly earrings. 

Mix up an assortment of colors roughly like the colors in the garment you want to match.

Roll each color on the 3 setting (on my pasta machine, 1 is the thickest) and
tear into rough edged strips. Work with the strips on a small smooth tile so you can easily
move it around to roll it, and hold it up next to your garment as you work.
Roll the layers with the acrylic rod to flatten the them. It's important to roll along
the length of the strips and start in the center and work out to the center. Otherwise you
may just worsen gaps between the colors and not end up with a smooth surface.
I needed to muddy the colors up a bit and work some sparkle in, so I added a thin layer of metallic clay to the back and blended some more with the gold on the inside.
Fold the clay in half with the fold on the short edge of the stripes.
Run it through the pasta machine several times to blend the colors for a softer effect.
I should have used the magnet on the roller trick to keep the clay from getting too wide.
But I didn't, so instead...
...I ripped off the blue and purple from the ends and put them back into the center.
I was planning on big earrings, but not that big! I needed to make sure all the colors stayed within a 2-2.5" area.
I checked the colors against my top every so often to see how my blend looked.
I ended up liking the back side of the clay so I flipped it over.
I waited to the end of my blending to add a strip of black so it wouldn't overtake the other colors.

When I was happy with my colors, I backed the sheet with a layer of black
and rolled it lightly to make sure the layers adhered to each other.

I determined where I wanted the colors to hit inside the circle, making sure to get
a little bit of purple and green because they are prominent colors in the shirt I was matching.

I laid the circle on a curved surface to cure.
This is the bottom of a soda can that the ever-helpful Jan Montarsi gave to me.

Cut the circle in half. (I used my blade while the clay was on the curved form.)
I used the point of a bamboo skewer to create the holes. I gently poked it in and then
wiggled it in a tiny circular pattern until the hole was the size I wanted.

I cured the clay, sanded the finished pieces, and buffed them.
I made earwires out of two head pins and voila, earrings to wear out to a lunch with friends.

And here's what they look like on!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gift Exchange with the Gals? Play the Note Card!

Do you exchange gifts with a group of friends? Or need to have a collection of hostess gifts or something nice for the kids' teachers? Here's an idea for a gift that supports artists and provides you with a perfect all-ages, all-occasion gift. 

There are many, many choices of lovely notecards with blank insides on Buy a handful of different sets and then mix them up into sets of 5 or 6. Make as many sets as you need for all your gift-giving occasions. Put each set into a small printed paper bag or colorful envelope with a bow and you're ready to go.

I made a Pinterest page of a zillion choices. Each one links to the page where you can buy.

Don't forget to keep one set for yourself... they are perfect for thank you, congratulations, or sympathy notes.


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