Darleen Bellan’s Unique Ornaments and Mementos

I met Darleen Bellan this summer at Clay ConneCTion, the semi-annual retreat of the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild and  fell in love with her quirky and inspired polymer clay figurines and ornaments. When she agreed to do an interview with fellow sculptor Sherman Oberson for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s YouTube Channel, I grabbed my equipment, met them in a quiet hallway and we did the interview on the spot.

Darleen’s an animal lover and her ornaments are lots of fun (Chicken ala King anyone?) But Darleen doesn’t restrict herself to ornaments and figurines; she crafts made-to-order pieces memorializing  departed pets and gives each one a unique twist  that gives it  personal meaning.  So what’s the unique twist?   Go to the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s Blog and watch  the video to  find out.

Most of Darleen’s  work is  one of a kind and she welcomes commissions.  If you are interested in buying or commissioning her work, go to her web site or her etsy shop.    Here are some pictures.

Sherman also has some great ornaments for sale in his etsy shop.  His style is different from Darleen’s but

his work is charming and will make you laugh.

Here’s one I bought

and here are some more!

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My Grandmothers’ Christmas Legacy

My Grandmothers Emma Montgomery (nee Peterson on the right) and Mattia Aleo (nee Moceri, left picture)  had several things in common even though the worlds they came from were so different. Emma’s mother died around 1896 when Emma was ten. Mattia’s father died when she was seven-I estimate this was around 1901 or 1902. Both girls left home within a few months of their respective parents’ deaths to assume positions as servants or companions to wealthy families.  They were paid only in room and board, but their absence meant that their families had one less mouth to feed.

Emma lived in Southern Ohio and Mattia lived in Sicily. Emma met her husband-to-be a few counties over from where she was born; Mattia met her future husband in America where she had come to find work so she could send money back home.

Emma met her husband at an ice cream social; theirs was a love match. Mattia’s marriage was arranged by a match maker when her older sister and brother-in-law decided it was time for her to marry.  Both women  were married before the  United States entered the First World War and raised their children during the Great Depression and the Second World War.  Times were hard and life’s uncertainties took their toll on both families.  When my mother and father married, they brought this history to the new family they made. Our  family life could be stressful and unpredictable.

But one thing sticks in my memory: for some reason, the strife died down during the winter holiday season. I think this is because my parents felt safe at this time of the year. This tells me that their parents also felt safe during the holiday season and were able to create a temporary haven for their families. This is another tradition they handed down to my parents.

I remember that the safest I felt as a child was during the Christmas season. The craziness of the world was kept at bay and the adults seemed happier and calmer. My family was not big on extravagant gifts, but there were always decorations,  family and the smell of Christmas cooking.  This was part of my Grndmothers’ legacy-one I treasure.

Recipes are another important part of family tradition. We had Emma’s Brown Bread  and Mattia’s biscotti  every Christmas. Here are their recipes.

Mattia’s Biscotti

Three cups flour, one and one-half cups sugar, one-half teaspoon salt, four teaspoons baking powder, one teaspoon vanilla, eight eggs, anise seeds.
Beat eggs and sugar until well blended. Add vanilla. Add flour, salt and baking powder (I just dump it in) and mix until blended. Pour into eight by fourteen inch pan which you have lined with a piece of buttered wax paper. Sprinkle  liberally with anise seeds. Bake at 350 degrees until baked through, twenty to thirty mintues.
Remember this is not a cake so it will not rise very much and will seem a bit rubbery.
Remove from oven. Flip pan over on a work surface. The cake should fall right out. Peel off the wax paper and cut cake in half crosswise. Cut each half into long biscotti-sized pieces. Place back in pan cut sides up and return to oven set at 250 degrees. Leave in oven until the biscotti achieves  the desired level of hardness. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, you can choose to leave the biscotti there overnight.

Emma’s Boston Brown Bread

Combine two cups boiling water, two teaspoons baking soda, one cup raisins. Let sit until warm. Cream together two tablespoons of unsalted butter, two cups sugar, two eggs and one teaspoon vanilla. Add two cups white flour, two cups whole wheat flour and the water/raisin mixture. Beat well. Add one cup chopped walnuts and mix to incorporate.
Fill four greased and floured #2 cans two-thirds full. Bake one hour at 350 degrees. Let stand in oven one hour after baking. The batter will rise about two to three inches above the top of of the cans. The bread should slide right out of the can although you will probably need to loosen the bread from the sides of the can by running a knife around the bread.
A #2 can will hold about one and one-fourth cups batter and give the bread room to rise. If you don’t want to use a can (this is an old recipe-people didn’t worry about doing this in the old days. The original recipe calls for “seeded muskets.” I don’t know where you would get raisins with seeds these days), you can try mini loaf pans. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted i. the bread comes out clean.
This bread is good sliced thin and spread with butter. It’s even better with cream cheese.

Season’s Greetings!

Plumpton agreed to help with this week’s post but as you can see, he is not very happy about it.  Not to worry.  He has some turkey in his future that will wipe out all memories of this Yuletide ignominy. If you want to check out holiday posts from years past, press here and here.

New Ideas for Christmas Ornaments

Santa’s Workshop is in full swing again this year, but I’m falling behind. I hoped to have all the new ornaments done by tonight, but as you can see, some are still baking.

The glass ornament with the tassel is a recycle. I found it in the trash, but the bottom part was broken. I cut it off and replaced it with a beaded tassel (I bought a box of them years ago at an “After Christmas” sale) and tied some fancy ribbon to the top.

The rest are glass balls covered with polymer clay. I like to collect interesting yarns, fibers and ribbons and I think they make nice tassels for the ornaments. One of the tassels has big metal and ceramic beads tied into the yarn.









Centsationalgirl.com has a post with great ideas for making ornaments, and links to more than one hundred other pages with ornament ideas and tutorials. Now you have no excuse not to deck the halls. Get down with your bad elf!

Some pictures of more finished ornaments

Happy Holidays South Philly Style

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People live in rowhouses in South Philadelphia and they decorate their front windows and doors when someone has a baby, someone gets married, someone graduates, someone gets paroled or the Flyers win the Stanley Cup.  In other words,  people here don’t need much of an excuse to decorate.  You can keep your fancy suburbs with your large expanse of lawns, triple car garages and gabled roofs.  We’re just fine with our flat roofs, front stoops and double parking.  The constraints just make for more creativity, as you can see from the pictures I took on one frozen night. Heathen’s Greetings.

Christmas Ornaments with Repurposed Materials

I make lamp worked beads; sometimes with scrap glass and I fuse glass, too.  I was pondering whether to toss the little odd  scraps.  ugly beads and fused pieces that didn’t come out quite right.  Then I decided to try something new.  I started playing with the materials and ended up making Christmas ornaments using the copper foiling method.  Here’s what I came up with.   I will give them away as gifts.  They might make nice sun catchers  when the tree is taken down.

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Santa’s Workshop-South Philadelphia Branch

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Some More Christmas Ornament Ideas

xmas121 Here are some more  very  simple ideas for  for Christmas ornaments.  The one on the left is a hollow paper mache ball covered with black, copper and  pearl clay and metal leaf.  I covered the ball in black clay, ran the pearl copper and black clay  through the pasta machine with metal leaf, and then tore the metal-leafed clay and arranged it on the black clay.  The tassel is made of scraps of eyelash and novelty yarn threaded though  a base metal bead and the top of the ornament is finished with a base metal and glass bead.

The second ornament is made from the  leaf cane I first learned from Leigh Ross. I applied the leaves from the bottom up, in an overlapping pattern over a hollow paper mache form and inserted a beaded tassel (bought at an after Christmas sale)  through the end of the ornament and up through the top where I finished it off with beads. I applied small red balls of clay to the ornament to make it resemble holly.

You could cover cheap glass ornaments with clay, and glue or embed a wire on the bottom to hold your tassel.  These would be great projects for kids, especially the first one becaus0e you can use any color clay and yarn, and left your imagination run wild.

More Ideas for Polymer Clay Christmas Ornaments

Here are two more ideas for polymer clay Christmas ornaments.   I made the one on the left by covering a store-bought paper mache form with a leaf cane  made from a Skinner Blend of Pearl and Forest Green Premo Clay.  The veins are done in gold with a bit of red sandwiched between the layers for depth.  While there are many versions of this cane, I learned this particular cane from Leigh Ross.  You can find her  instructions at Polymer Clay Central. I used balls of red clay to make holly berries. After the ornament was baked, I attached a store bought tassel.

For the doggy ornament, I scanned a picture into my printer,changed the background and printed it out.  I made a frame to hold the picture, decorated it with simple canes and made two matching beads.  After baking the frame and letting it cool, I laid in the picture.  I used  a level to make sure the frame was perfectly level before pouring a layer Envirotex Lite over the picture.  A level surface is vital when using Envirotex Lite. You also need a barrier, in my case the edge of the frame, because this material is self leveling and will run all over the place without something to stop it. I sprinkled some glitter in the background of the picture and let it cure for 48 hours. Then I attached the beads, tassel and a hanging wire.

I could not make a photo transfer ornament with my ink jet printer like I did last year because I had run out of the old Epson paper. You might know from Donna Kato’s announcement that the new Epson paper does not work. There are plenty of new ideas for photo transfers on Donna’s siteand on the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s blog, The Guild Reporter.

Last but not least, I also have a project article on how to make a silk screened polymer clay pendant in the latest issue of Polymer Cafe.polymercafe2.jpg

Spoon Bracelet from Recycled Materials

     I wanted to make a meaningful Christmas present for a younger family member.  My mother had given me my Grandmother’s  silver plate and  said that it would be OK if I made jewelry out of it.  I took two teaspoons and heated them until they were cherry red with my lamp working torch.  After letting them cool, I clamped them into a vise and sawed off the handles with my jeweler’s saw.  I filed off the rough edges and drilled holes in both ends of each handle.  I shaped the pieces with a rubber covered mallet and a form made to hammer out dents in cars.  Then I threw the handles in the pickle pot to clean off most of the fire scale.  Next, I used a wire brush attachment in my drill to clean off the rest of the dirt and shine them up.  I filed around the rough edges of the holes I’d drilled and went over the handles with steel wool before polishing them with muslin buffing wheel and rouge.

          I assembled the pieces with jump rings I’d made previously, and a lobster clasp.  When I don’t solder jump rings, I like to make them oval shaped with the cut on the side because they are stronger and less likely to pull apart which is important for a bracelet.  I was going to put a lamp-worked bead dangle on the front with a wrapped loop.  I ended up using the dangle you see in the picture-an  odd earring belonging to my mother. 

          I have a full set of my Grandmother’s silver plate and a ton of ideas for using it to make jewelry.  What about a ring or bracelet for my maternal girl cousins?  That’s a thought.  It would be a good way to share the silver plate with the family. 

          Yesterday, my Mother was telling me about the wonderful Christmas dinners  my Grandmother  cooked years ago.  I imagine they enjoyed more than one with the spoons I used on this bracelet.  I never knew my Grandmother.  The picture of her below must have been taken when she was 16  or so, which would make it circa 1900.

    

Emma Peterson Montgomery

 

 

 

Polymer Clay Christmas Ornaments

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Here’s an easy idea for a Christmas ornament that people will love.  Make a photo transfer using the method of your choice.  The above pictures were digital images loaded onto a computer and reversed.  Then I played with the software to get rid of distracting backgrounds.  After making  and baking my transfer, I mounted it on green clay or gold  rolled to the thickest setting.  I used my wavy blade and needle tool to make holly leaves and berries.  You could also use a leaf cookie cutter.  On the ornament of Max the dog, I cut a bone out of bone colored clay and scribed his name in with a needle tool.  After baking, I rubbed in brown ochre paint and wiped it off.   I drilled holes at the top of the ornaments and used 16 gauge copper wire with wrapped loops for the hangers.  On two of the ornaments, I  drilled a hole in the bottom and looped store bought tassels through.

People who have a new baby in the house love these ornaments.   Here is an example, made in a slightly different way, but you can get the idea by looking at the picture.

Ornament

For more information on polymer clay photo transfers,  check out the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s blog, The PAPCG Reporter, Dotty McMillan’s instructions, and Donna Kato’s blog.