Sunday, 20 January 2013

Using tutorials/books week 2 - Donna Kato

One of my favourite polymer clay books is Dona Kato's - The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques. I have always admired the Translucent Overlay Beads featured in the book, as has my friend Hannah so this week we decided to try them out together.

We both made a couple of canes from the selection Donna suggests and put them together. The instructions are pretty clear and as all the canes themselves are reasonably simple we had no trouble making the canes. We made coloured translucent clay by adding Kato concentrates to translucent Kato clay, this is the red and blue clay shown in the canes below. Here's our cane collection.

We both made a large bead/pendant out of scrap clay which we covered with a layer of white clay - so that we didn't get murky mud colours showing through any translucent parts. Here's Hannah's in progress. Again Donna gives instructions of how to construct the beads which are relatively straight forward.

The layers need to be really thin, the Kato translucent clay was pretty soft so we put the canes in the fridge for a while but they were still pretty hard to 'shave' thin layers from without terrible distortion. Leaching the soft clay at the start probably would of been helpful. I would also recommend practising shaving thin layers on a block of scrap clay before using your canes if you haven't done it before. I need more practise still I think!

The photos above are in progress snapshots captured with my little point and shoot camera whilst we worked. I am currently taking part in an excellent guided online photography course with Brit Hammer - Photographing Fine Art and Craft . so I took a little more time to photograph my end result. Here's a couple of shots - I'd be interested to know which you prefer if you have the time to leave a comment. The course is keeping me busy but hopefully I will have plenty of beautiful photos to share with you soon. I would highly recommend it as Brit really takes time to find out what it is you want from your photos and helps you to achieve it. I am having great fun and learning loads!

I wish I had taken more care in placing  my overlapping translucent skinner blend striped layers.  I don't like the way they meet in places. The ripple cut mokume cane (the red and slightly zig zaggy gold bits) is a subtle effect when done with a fine ripple blade. My favourite part is the jelly roll mokume gane which is the gold and translucent spiral cane. It looks like gold fingerprints to me! You can't sand it much as the layers on the surface are so thin. I just gave this a light sand/polish with some micromesh cloths. 

I made my bead quite large as I wanted it to be bold and striking. Well it's certainly bold! Perhaps a little on the large side so I shall make smaller ones next time!

 I am pleased with my end result although it's not quite as I had in mind when I started out. Of course I much prefer Donna Kato's beads so at some point I shall revisit this and try out different colours and different placement of the component canes. 

I hope you are having fun in 2013 so far!


Monday, 7 January 2013

Using tutorials/books week 1

I randomly picked a publication from my bookshelf to try out something new (my new year challenge - to use the wonderful resources sat under my nose!) and picked the magazine From Polymer to Art - Orange. A quick flick through and I chose to try out a project by Fabi. Her pendant in the magazine was orange and green - not really my colours so I changed the colours to some more 'me' ones from some left over clay I had from other projects.

I understand it's difficult explaining projects fully for magazines as there are limited steps and limited text. I struggled at a few points to understand but luckily the pictures are good and helped me through to the finished pendant. It didn't take too long and there's a lot of different bits to the project, many of which I had done before but it still taught me a couple of new tricks.

However my first attempt didn't work out quite so well due to me trying to rush. A common theme in my life - trying to squeeze too much in and not giving it the time it needs. I am trying to slow down and take more care but  I forgot all about that. I decided in my wisdom that I could put the back on at the same time instead of baking the front and then applying the bail to the cured front piece to save time. But I made a couple of critical errors - I rushed putting the back on and tried to bake it on the baking paper I was using to smooth the surface. When the pendant went to the oven there was air trapped under the back layer (because I had rushed and just placed it down rather than laying it down carefully), which bubbled and ballooned. If the pendant was on a tile the front surface would probably have stuck to the tile and just the back would be deformed but because it was on the light weight paper the front was able to lift up and deform too. The result - the front of the pendant instead of remaining nice and smooth and flat and needing minimal sanding looked corrugated! I decided I could solve this with sanding as the layers were quite thick I'd just sand it flat. There was a lot of sanding to do and I had run out of my normal 'I need some serious sanding' 320 grit sandpaper so used 240 grit sandpaper instead. Another error - it was so rough it made deep scratches in my pendant which I haven't quite managed to sand out as I then realised that although the layers were quite thick the stripes on the edge pieces were only on the surface so that pattern was ruined - so I gave up. I am left with an unsatisfactory piece due to my haste!

Made in too much haste - see ruined stripe pattern on the right hand edge - the scratches don't show too badly here but they look terrible in real life.

I still had some patterned pieces left so I made another pendant - baked the front piece and then took my time to add the back and bail to the cured pendant with care.

I'm pleased with the result and will try out some more like this sometime soon I am sure. The brighter colour and better contrast made Fabi's pendant look good - I will try and be bolder next time. Thanks Fabi! It was great to play with clay again after a couple of weeks of family time!

I hope your 2013 has got off to a great start! I'm off to browse my bookshelf for this weeks project...