Polymer Clay Canes Blog
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This is not for the squeamish. This is not for the faint of heart. This is not for those who prefer to NOT look behind the curtain or know how their food is made.
Here is the entire bead making process in its rawest form. The dirty hands, the messy desk, the mushy clay and the icky beads in their crudest form.
This slab of clay is a custom blend of coral that I did from Cadmium Red and some white. I mixed and blended until I had the color I wanted, then I ran it through my pasta machine until I had it completely blended into this sheet of clay.
Note the view of the pond from my table. That makes you look away from my oodles of clay canes that I have scattered to the left and all the chain and findings I have scattered to the right. I also have a couple rocks on the right. They are from the Missouri headwaters where Lewis and Clark crossed. I picked them up and they remind me of how big this world is.
That bucket in the left corner is filled with scraps that I will sort and put up on eBay. There are a lot of not so right flowers in there that people love to snap up.
I have rolled my clay into measurable tubes that are 6-inches in length. I will cut them at half-inch increments to get my 15mm beads. It is hard to see, but the clay is scored.
I work one tube at a time, regardless of the colors of the clay. I prefer to create a single tube of beads at one sitting, so that they all match in size and canes. The sets I am creating here are in sets of six. I am getting two full sets of beads for each tube that I mangle. I loosely roll them in my hands to make sure that I am getting the right size. I have been doing this so long that I can feel the size of the beads in the palm of my hand and know when they are not quite the right size.
I am adding translucent checkerboard slices to these beads now. I am working with translucent canes that I want under all the other leaves and flowers that I am going to add. I like my ghost canes on the bottom, although, that is a personal preference and they look equally cool on top of the flowers. Thin slices with my tissue blade. This is a real tissue blade that is used to slice real tissue. This is the way that I can get a thin, thin, thin slice of my cane to add to the beads.
I like to add my leaves under my flowers and over the translucent clays. This is random, and I make no plans about where to lay any of the canes. I have developed a silly pattern that I unconsciously stick with, though. I add all my little leaves and watch the baby ducks float around the pond. The view beyond the pond that is not visible in the photos is the Bridger Mountain Range. I get to make beads and stare at the mountains while listening to whatever I chose to that day. I like NPR and the radio. We got snow last night. Yes, June 13, 2013 gave us snow at the 6,000 foot level.
I have added some of my flower canes to these pretty beads. They are lumpy, bumpy and odd at this point. The translucent clay is very visible in these pictures. That is the white that surrounds the flowers and the white slabs of clay that is part of my checkerboard pattern. I am ready to roll these beads into something smooth and round. I use the palms of my hands to give them their shape. It takes a certain pressure to get them round without smashing them. I do have a very light touch and it is by feel at this point in the game.
When I have them smooth and round, I use a needle tool to pierce the beads through and through without distorting them. The trick is to start on one end while gently holding the bead and when the tip peeks through the other side, flip the bead over and pierce the other direction. This keeps the edges of the beads from poking out and they are tucked back inside the hole.
I use a 2mm size hole for these for double stringing if needed. I like to tuck my stringing material back through when I finish crimping, and I want a lot of room to work with without making them loosey goosey. I string on 7 and up wire.
Here are my beads on their rack ready for baking.
The next step after they come out of the oven is to drop them immediately into ice water. This helps to clear up the translucent clay; making it crystal clear.
After I take them out of the ice water bath, which usually lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, I determine how much I will sand or polish them. If the edges of the cane slices are too thick for whatever reason, I will start with a 600 grit wet-dry sandpaper. If they are smooth and no edges are showing, I will hit them with 800 grit, and now I have all the way up to 4000 grit for polishing. Each bead goes through some sort of sanding or polishing.
Then they get a very light coat of Minwax waterbased varathene clear gloss. It is only to give them a shine and boost the color.
See how the translucent clay disappears? The photo was shot late in the afternoon, which gave me the wrong white balance, but the beads are actually a coral pink and quite pretty.
Now, you know all my secrets :)
Julie and Blu
Emmys and ducks are on the horizon.
The first batch of little ones floated across the pond last night. It has been worrisome since two mama ducks showed back up on the banks last week for the first time in three weeks or so. They should have had a brood with them, but instead, they went and hung out with the guys on the driveway. This made me think that the skunk I smelled a week or so ago ate all the duck eggs. They could have succumbed to a rampaging raccoon as well. Either way, I was worried that little ducks would not be peeping on the pond and pooping in the yard.
I could not even hear any of the little telltale peeps from a nest. These little ones were quiet. There were/are 11 in this brood. I could not count them while they were swimming; they are like watching cottonwood spin across the pond. They are impossible to count. They are fast and agile. They can RUN across the pond at a high rate of speed if they think they are going to be left behind. Soon their lessons will include bobbing under water to feed. That is always a hoot since they do not bob at this size, they pop like little corks.
It is not a very good photo of the ducks, but I was shooting from inside the house, and Blu was bouncing around trying to shove me out of the way so HE could see what all the fuss was about. That way he would know what to bark incessantly at. When there is something in the pond or in the yard that I want to take a photo of, he is right there in my way to bark it away. If I pick up the camera and head to the window, he is on high alert and ready to save me from the baby deer, the little bunnies, the baby ducks and a raccoon or two. Then you are supposed to take HIS picture.
We saw one gosling the other day with its Canadian goose parents. I am not sure where or if there were any more, but that was all that was on the pond.
The mama duck gets the award for making it through the perils of pond life and barking dogs.
Since I have been a member of The Artisan Group (TAG), I have been working on two gifting opportunities. The first opportunity I have is to gift the Press at the 2013 Primetime Emmys. This is through the GBK’s 2013 Primetime Emmys Gift Lounge, which provides SWAG bags to celebrities and the press. I fussed with many earring designs before settling on the one that I chose. I also chose to send all the same thing.
Here is my contribution to the Press bags.
These earrings represent a new design and bead shape for me. I have had it on my list of things to do for a long time, but never finished the design or shape prior to now. I had two pairs left over that I took over to the Gallatin Valley Mall as part of my retail spot in Simply Montana LLC. As of this moment, I have not created any of these loose beads or finished earrings for my website.
I still have a lot of other bead and earring designs that I have not finished yet. I have the list posted next to my work bench, but it will be awhile before I get back to them.
Here is the next project:
This is half of the amount of beads I need to create for the next event. I am sending bracelets to the GBK's NY Fashion Week Luxury Gift Lounge. It includes both celebrities and press. It takes place in the fall as well.
The bracelet is a simple beaded bracelet featuring my handmade beads and Swarovski crystals.
While all these projects will keep me busy for the next couple of months, I still have so many other things that I want to get accomplished. New products and new designs are just the start of my “to do” list. It may all keep me tied to my chair at my workbench, but I can look out over the pond and count baby ducks while I work on beads. Hopefully, this is just the first brood of the season and we will see many more.
Julie and Blu
I forgot how much I loved the look, feel and uniqueness of jasper until I went to a gem and bead show a few weeks back. I stood for 45 minutes in front of a display of oodles and oodles of strands of jasper in every color imaginable. I held the beads. I touched the cabs. I stroked the tubes. I sighed. I mentally expensed out the cost of the strands of beads in comparison to my 200+ order status at Fire Mountain Gems. I sighed again. Yes, it was cheaper for me to buy in bulk. But, but, I had my hands on these beads and a stamp on my hand that said I could come back in again tomorrow. Deeper sigh.
After I got home I scoured the pages of the virtual catalog of FMG. I got out my jasper beads and held them. I compared them to what I had seen and tried to justify buying hundreds and hundreds of new beads. I finally talked myself out of the purchase and instead, ran through Artfire putting things in my cart like a crazy woman. I kept them in my cart until they expired. I went back and put them all back in my cart. They expired again. In a fit of silliness, I put them all back in my cart for a third time and hit the buy now button over and over again until I had them all purchased.
Now, I wait and wait and wait for all my beads to start rolling in. I am putting more and more in my cart until my new ones come in.
What is it about jasper that is so mesmerizing and intriguing?
I think it is the amazing patterns, colors and uniqueness of the beads that has me drooling and slobbering like a Mastiff worthy of a Hollywood role. I just find these beads so fascinating that I could look at them for hours trying to find the patterns and designs. Then, of course, one must marry them up with other beads and spacers. They are so much fun that designing is a blast with jasper.
I know that I have written about jasper and that most already know that it is a sedimentary rock that is opaque in nature. It is that sedimentary condition that gives the stones their unique appearance and patterns. The stones reflect the area from which they came. They are a quartz with chalcedony properties, which makes the stones home to tiny mineral growths that give quartz their color and shine.
The word jasper means treasurer. It is an energizing stone that provides protection, nourishment and warmth. It has been used throughout history and found all through ancient jewelry and decoration. It can be used as a vessel as well and makes a great vase. It is a feng shui favorite.
Those who need nourishment or comfort will find a piece of jewelry containing jasper a perfect way to feel protected.
These designers from the JCUIN guild have incorporated jasper into their lovely jewelry.
Red poppy jasper donut necklace freshwater pearl copper handmade
Aqua Terra Jasper and Hammered Copper Earrings
Brown and Teal Heart Charm Bracelet with Jasper and Shells Red Copper
Carved Unakite and Faceted Jasper Beads in Opera Length Necklace
Honeyed Amber Watermelon Jasper Gemstone Bead Drop Earrings Handmade
Earthtone Gemstone Stretch Bracelets Jasper Carnelian Tiger Wood
Red Sesame Jasper and Mother of Pearl Catholic Rosary
Caramel Colored Stone Pendant Copper Wire Wrap Chain and Leather
Beautifully Veined Red Jasper Necklace
Picture Jasper and Sterling Silver Pendant ppje2133
Copper Necklace with Gemstone Brown Picasso Jasper and Red Garnet
OOAK MIDNIGHT TURQUOISE NECKLACE SET
Peacock Vista and Red Jasper Cluster Earrings, Quartz, Earthy Dangles
Paintbrush Jasper Handmade Necklace Yellow Brown Swarovski OOAK Desert
Ocean Jasper Subtle Steampunk Pendant
Picture Jasper Gems with elephant - OOAK Bracelet
No one can ever accuse jasper of being boring. Take a look at all the other wonderful creations these artists have in their studio.
Julie and Blu
Volume 10 Issue 6, June 2013
What's New in June?
A lot of rain! However, with the rain comes all the bright, pretty flowers as
they decide they no longer want to sleep. They start to poke up through the
cold mountain pockets of snow, and they show up with brilliant colors.
I have moved into summer mode already and started working in the colors
of the summer days. Bright glasses of lemonade and sparkling water in
glasses bring the summer fun to the patio. The baby ducks have not
come out of the reeds yet, but I am watching for them.
My first hike of the season was a six mile round trip to a mountain lake. It
was a cool day that made exploring a lot of fun. While these colors are
pretty, they are not the ones that are ending up in my latest designs.
I am looking for lots of color in the new designs!
So, I decided upon a lot of yellows, oranges and reds in the new jewelry and beads.
I also have had a great time playing with faux turquoise and teal colored clay.
New Jewelry—There will be a lot of new bracelets and necklaces soon.
I am currently getting ready to do another big bead production run for a
project I am working on and to create a lot of new bracelets. I have a lot
of new watch faces that need to be strung and lots of new earrings designs
on the drawing board.
New Canes—I did a handful of new rose canes for a customer, and I added all of them to the websites.
My website has been the focus of my attention and it is newly updated with all my latest beads and canes. Newsletter readers can take 30 percent off by using coupon code 30PERCENT
I have them in my Artfire studio, my Etsy shop and my
Until next month,
Julie & Blu
Things to Look Forward To:
New Watches—I have designed several new watches with my spring flower
New Bracelets— I have a few new bracelets and more on the way.
Thimbles—These thimbles are only available through Simply Montana, but
I will be creating more for the website shortly.
I have purchased a few tutorials over the years, some on Artfire, Etsy and even eBay. Most of these tutorials I have glanced through and put them aside as projects to complete or play with later. We all know how often later comes around.
So, for my latest project, I had to design 10 pairs of new earrings that I wanted to create. I also added a couple chain necklaces to the mix. I poured over my thousands and thousands of bead magazines in search of ideas for simple earrings that I could modify to meet my clay bead needs. As I was thinking about this project, which usually involves days and weeks pondering things, I decided to do some faux work. I looked at all my supplies – you know, all those beads, wire, stringing material, chains and other oddities – and decided I wanted to work in faux turquoise. This is by far one of the easiest stones to replicate in clay, and I had all this great chain that I bought from Elaine of Zoomgraphik. It had been sitting in a box in the closet.
Now it is sitting on my desk.
I started my faux turquoise recipe from scratch. I have not done any faux work in six years, so I was a bit rusty. I did not go looking for any tutorials or any recipe books. Those things are all in Florida; I am not.
I made one batch of faux turquoise and totally forgot what I was doing and threw it away as it was not salvageable.
The next go round, I made sure it was correct.
Here is my mess:
My clay is a mix of teal, ecru and lots and lots of ground pepper. Yes, ground black pepper, or as we clayers like to call it: INCLUSIONS! They are a happy accident most of the time, but this was a true inclusion that I worked through my clay to give it the specks I was going to use as different spots. The trick to inclusions is to keep them from hindering your clay by stopping it from sticking together.
Once I was happy with the texture and color, I chopped the heck out of the wad of clay. I managed to slice open my hand and skin a knuckle. I went to bed. Tools are sharp and in my case, dangerous.
You can see the two “nuggets” that I created for my test earrings. The clay is wadded back together into pieces and then remodeled into the shape that I wanted to see. I planned a pair of earrings that were going to be a three hole bead as seen in the top left hand sketch in the other photo. I created these beads to hold chains.
Here are more beads in single hole and triple hole varieties. They are going to be for both earrings and chain pendants.
This blue is really pretty, but it is not what I am looking for in a color. The beads are darker than what is shown here, but not by much.
I took my baked beads, my bottle of black acrylic paint and a wet paper towel in order to start distressing and aging my beads.
I wanted the black into the cracks and to accent the pepper spots. These beads have not been done yet, as they just came out of the oven.
When I got the beads looking the way that I wanted, I varnished them lightly with minwax. Now, they are ready to be strung on a pair of earrings. This was when the power went out, so I sat in the dark by the window and wrapped up a pair of earrings. They are different than the drawing because once I started on them, I thought of new things to do to them. :)
Here is the pair of earrings that have been completed and distressed to the point I wanted.
I was reading a great blog post from Catherine of Shadow Dog Designs regarding Natural Turquoise vs. All Others
In looking at all the beautiful examples of turquoise she is showing off, I am not sure where my colors fall into the scheme of things, but I am certain I was shooting for Kingman, but ended up in the dyed howlite range.
There is so much that you can do with polymer clay that I will always be excited and enjoy experimenting when the time allows.
Julie and Blu
It all started when I saw Linda’s (jnldesigns) beautiful pink charm bracelet. It is so feminine and delicate; especially all the filigree work.
I had just finished my own charm bracelet using up some of my stashed lampwork beads and some antique copper chain.
Being in a charming mood, I decided to create a charm bracelet collection for this week’s collection contest on Artfire LInk. I collected the bracelets from the Checked In Today! guild members for this collection.
Since I have been pondering a subject title for my monthly JCUIN blog post, I decided on the charm bracelet.
The traditional charm bracelet consists of memories wired to a chain that is worn around the wrist. My charm bracelet was started when I was 9 or 10 and consists of charms that were given to me as momentous events in my life happened. They were also a part of my gifts from family as I was growing up. I have horses, horse shoes, mustard seed, my dad’s baby ring, graduation, sweet 16, state charms from states I visited, hearts and all types of other symbols of growing up.
The history of they charm bracelet may surround the warding off of evil. Amulets and other trinkets were used to protect the wearer. 75,000 years ago African shells were part of the first charm bracelets found. The Germans carved mammoth tusks into decorative charms over 30,000 years ago. Christians wore fish charms to identify themselves to other Christians during the Roman Empire. The Egyptians used them to identify themselves to the gods they worshipped. Around 600 BC, Persian women were wearing charm bracelets.
They became quite the trend once Queen Victoria started wearing them. She made it fashionable for the upper class of England to wear a charm bracelet. It was a symbol of nobility. She gave them as gifts and she popularized the creation of charms to symbolize events in one’s life. When Prince Albert died, she created a mourning charm with a locket of his hair. She also popularized small portrait charms.
Tiffany set the charm bracelet in motion. They hung a simple heart from a chain and called it a charm bracelet. This bracelet is the symbol of Tiffany today, and it was the start of the modern trend.
The Great Depression brought us platinum and diamonds to the charm bracelet. Liz Taylor and Joan Crawford made the charm bracelet very popular in the 50s and 60s.
Once again, we are seeing a resurgence of the traditional charm bracelet made popular by The Pirates of the Caribbean. The Bradford Exchange showcased a charm bracelet with the Black Pearl along with photos of Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp. Good enough for me!
We also have the Pandora bracelet and Italian charms.
The charm of these bracelets is not lost on the designers of the Jewelry Creators Unite in Numbers (JCUIN) guild members as they use the charm as the main interest point of these creations.
Flip Flop Pearl Bracelet
Red Hot Golden Charm Bracelet - N054
Green Leaf and Gold Chain Charm Bracelet with Toggle Clasp
Rose Pink Crystal Rose Quartz Charm Dangle Cha Cha Bracelet Handmade
Gold Silver Heart Charms Swarovski Crystal Silver Chain Bracelet
Vintage Typewriter Key Charm Bracelet Brass Brown
Bracelet, charm, goldtone links,purple beads,look of glass,
Butterfly Carved Bone Bracelet, Green Crystals, Amethyst, Flower Charm
While not considered a charm bracelet, this latest trend shows another use for charms.
Enameled Embossed Brass and Shell "Winos" Wine Glass Charms
I trust these bracelets will all charm you with their whimsical and creative energy.
Enjoy the history of the charm bracelet and stop by any one of these studios and enjoy the rest of their creativity.
Julie and Blu