New Tools for Making Polymer Clay Earrings

I wrote last week about my latest attempts to design and create unique polymer clay earrings. I’m designing my own shapes rather than relying on purchased cutters. This involves creating designs on Vectornator and making templates on a Silhouette Portrait 3 machine using plastic notebook dividers I’ve found around my house. I’m able to design and cut almost any shape I want. The notebook divider material is not rigid, but it’s easy to trace around it with a craft blade. And you can use the shapes over and over.

You will always have to clean up your shapes, whether make them with a cutter, or a craft knife. But it seemed that I could never catch every burr and crumb before I baked. I thought that a bow sander would be handy for getting into tight places. Why not use an emery board, a sanding stick, or a file? Didn’t work for me. I wanted to be able to choose any grit of sandpaper, and I didn’t want to be throwing away spent sanding sticks and emery boards and constantly buying more. But most of the bow sanders I saw were too big or too expensive. Then I saw these.

The bow files are on the left and the sanding blocks are on the right. I bought them from Rockwell Exchange on Etsy. They are small, 3d printed, and reasonably priced. I started out with the bow sanders and liked them so well, I ordered the block sanders a few weeks later. The tools are held together with plastic screws. You unscrew them, insert strips of sandpaper that you’ve cut, reassemble them, and you’re good to go. Since they’re plastic, you can wet sand without fear of them rusting. Here’s how I’ve been using them.

Some shapes

You can see that the sanders let you get into tight corners and wrap around curves. I know that a lot of people like to use rotary tools or Dremels for finishing, and sometimes I do too. But a problem with mechanical tools is that they can spin too fast and do some damage if you’re not careful. Hand tools are great when you’re trying to slow down like me.

I’m not the kind of person who buys every tool under the sun, and I try to make my own tools when I can. And I don’t accept any payment or other remuneration for products I recommend on this site. (See my Disclosure statement.)

But I have found these sanding tools very useful and recommend them if you are looking for some sanding help. You can buy them here.

I’ve found a few other inexpensive tools to recommend and will write about them in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the earring adventures continue.

On My Work Table

I continue to experiment with making polymer earrings. Why earrings? I know that seemingly everyone went on a polymer clay making earring bender during the pandemic lockdown. YouTube is full of tutorials on how to make and sell them. There are Facebook groups dedicated to polymer clay earrings (including this group which I belong to), and a myriad of earring sellers on Etsy. But that’s not why I chose to start making earrings. I chose to focus on earrings (for now) because they’re small projects, I can move from project to project quickly, and I can try new things as soon as ideas jump into my head.

And I haven’t really been making earrings. What I’ve been doing is making components and shapes.

See all the shapes I’ve been collecting? Some of them might even find their way into earrings one of these days.

Here’s one of my favorite tools: a hair curler that Susan Gross gave me at a Clayathon. It’s great for texturing the back of earrings.

For now, I am designing new shapes with Vectornator, and cutting out templates on my Silhouette Portrait 3. I want to stay away from cutters except for basic shapes I can alter. I am trying to make something unique. I have succeeded in making plenty of duds but I am making progress slowly.

I’ve also been working on my craftsmanship and slowing down. And making a LOT of pieces. Practice really does make better. A few years ago, I designed this necklace for Step by Step Wire Magazine. It took 10 feet of wire and someone remarked that I was very good at making those coils. I replied that if I didn’t start off that way, I was certainly good at it by the time I finished the necklace. You’d be surprised at how good you get when you do something over and over.

People always say that it’s easier to smooth out the boo boo’s in polymer before you bake. Well, yes and no. The key is touching the clay as little as possible to get the effect you want. And that takes practice. The right tools help, but a tool will not automatically make you a better crafter unless you know how to use it. And that takes practice. Didn’t I just say that?

Another thing I learned is that UV resin, as beautiful as it can be, can’t make up for bad craftsmanship. Ask me how I know.

And with earrings, you can get the shape and the color, and you still have to decide how to hang it from the ear. Kathleen Dustin says that the ear wire should be an integral part of the design or totally invisible. Beading Yoda agrees. I like to make my own findings so I can try different alternatives and see what works.

At the rate I’m going, I wonder if I am going to have any of my own teeth left when I finally produce a well-designed, well-crafted pair of earrings. We’ll see.

The Cat Collection

I wasn’t always a cat lover, believe it or not. I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t understand them. I loved dogs, but I didn’t get cats at all. Then, when I was in my 20’s, someone offered me a cat. It seemed like a reasonable proposition. I had mice in my apartment. So a cat named Electra came to live with me. That pretentious name had to go, and she became Pooky. It took me a year to get used to her. And then I was a cat lover.

That’s Pooky on the right in the little frame and her nemesis Bandersnatch on the left. Boris’s likeness is on the mug to the rear.

Pooky and Bandersnatch have gone to the bridge, as well as Plumpton who lived with us for 20 years.

Why did I start collecting cat memorabilia. Why do people collect anything? We traveled widely before the pandemic and it seemed nice to focus on one kind of travel memento. Plus I have a very small house and there’s not a lot of room to display things. An added benefit is that it makes it easy for people who want to give me a gift. I can always find room for another little cat on the three shelves and corner walls in my dining room that hold the collection. And unlike Pooky and Bandersnatch, the cats never fight with one another.

Boris

I haven’t shown all of the cats in this post. Even a cat lover needs a rest now and then. If you are ever in Amsterdam and want to see a great collection of feline keepsakes, be sure to check out The Katten Kabinet.

Ziggy Stardust (A cat from Japan)

Young Artists at Fleisher Art Memorial

I didn’t have regular art classes when I was a child. I went to a Catholic grade school and art class happened a few times a year. The teacher, usually a nun, would give each child one piece of art paper, a box of eight Perma Pressed crayons, and a postcard with a religious painting on it. A painting like The Last Supper, or The Flight into Egypt. We were instructed to copy the painting onto the art paper with our crayons. That was it. I remember one nun must have been having a particularly bad day because she informed us that she would inspect our work carefully when the class ended. If there was a trace of white anywhere on the paper, it would mean detention for a week for the hapless child artist. We spent most of that class filing our crayons to nubs on the rough art paper terrified of the prospect of detention with this whack job dressed in a habit. To be fair, not all of them were quite so bad. I finally got to take a real art class in the 7th grade with Sister Louise who was a great teacher. I still have the box of pastels from that class.

I’ve always loved children’s art. I’m not sure why. Children’s art displays a simplicity and an honesty that can get suppressed as people grow older. (See above for one example of how this happens). We know now that art is important to a child’s development, and not just a frill. I mean, there was a time when going to school after the second grade was considered a frill, right? Art education, like all education, costs money. You need more than supplies and teachers, you need access in the first place.

Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia offers low cost art classes for children and teens. Every year, Fleisher puts on a Young Artist Exhibition. This year’s exhibit closes on July 29. It’s always better to see the work in person, but in case you can’t, here are some pictures.