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.

Martha Makes a Slab

My friend Patty asked me if I wanted to participate in a craft fair with her. I said yes even though I don’t do many of these, and don’t even know if we’ll be accepted. I went into my workshop and pulled out a bunch of earring components I made a couple of years ago.

Bletch! I didn’t remember them being so ugly! I threw them all away before I took pictures. Good riddance. I decided to try my hand at slab making. Here’s some pictures.

Start with a slab
Add squares and cut strips
Add red dots
Blue slices look sloppy so out they go.
Get out the extruder!
Add dark blue snakes and some simple canes
Cover with parchment paper and smooth over
Cut out shapes. I’m also experimenting with making my own cutters. I’ll post more on this in the future.
Shapes
Baked shapes. Earring maybe?

Designing Earrings

I’m still experimenting with dark annealed steel and bronze. i decided to make some earrings. Normally, I draw out my designs first. This time, I went straight to the metal.

I made some leaf shapes in 16 gauge wire that I planned to wrap with 28 gauge wire.


That didn’t go very well. Steel wire is stiff and hard to control. i will have to work with it more before I get the hang of it. On to plan B.

I wanted to add interest and contrast to the earrings with bronze. i tried some washers and jump rings to see how they hung. i didn’t like this result.

This looked better, but I didn’t think I could find a good solution for the other end for a post or an ear wire.

Better, but didn’t want to tackle soldering brass to steel. And the washer started to look clunky to me. I decided to solder some steel rings onto the leaves for added interest.

Trying different places for the jump rings.

This is how I ended up soldering the rings to the leaf shapes. Still don’t like the look of the washer. Too thick and clunky next to the steel wire.

i found some square wire bronze jump rings in this short chain I madw that I thought would be more compatible with the steel wire.

And here’s how they ended up. The ear wires are not visible when you wear them. Soldered posts might be a better solution. I think I will try that on my next pair.

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

Earringsnew1

These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

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Earringsnew2

Another example

Earringsnew2detail

So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

What I made in Olivia Surratt’s Class


I first met Olivia Surratt at a two-day workshop the  Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild sponsored with Robert Dancik.  For some reason, I liked Olivia right from the start.  I don’t know why; sometimes that’s the way it goes.  So when Olivia offered to teach a wire and fusing class to benefit the guild, I jumped at the chance to take it, even though wire working is not new to me.  Not only has Olivia studied with some great teachers, no matter what you think you know, you can always learn something new or a better way to do something from a good teacher.  Olivia did not disappoint me.

One of the first things I did was to replace my portable butane torch with the model Olivia likes best, the original Blazer GB 2001 Self Igniting Micro Blazer Torch. It actually costs less than the torch I already have, but works so much better.

Olivia  and Pauline, her trusty assistant, led us through her methods for fusing fine solver and  wrapping with copper wire.  I used beads I made. Here are some pictures.  I give the class an A plus!

It’s Mural Arts Month in Philadelphia.  Go out and kiss a mural!!!

For earlier posts on Philadelphia Murals,  press here and here.

Shades of Blue Earrings

Blue

You can read my newest project article on how to make these cool drop earrings  in the November/December issue of Step By Step Beads. You probably know that SBS Beads will cease publication  with the January/February 2010 issue,   The good news from the Interweave site is that it is being merged into Beadwork Magazine, and that Step By Step Wire is still going strong.  I had a clasp making article published there earlier this year.

More Metal Etching Experiments

Last week   I said that I would post some pictures of my etching experiments.  Here they are.  DSCF0267

 This is a piece of brass etched with the  Edinburgh etch  solution.  I copied the image onto a transparency and ironed it on to the metal before etching.

 

 

 

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 This is copper etched with ferric chloride.  I drew the design with a Sharpie marker.

 

 

 

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 These are pieces of a brass charger plate I cut up.  I stamped the image on the left with a rubber stamp and Stayz on Ink 

 

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 This is a black and white image I reproduced onto a sheet of label backing with a laser printer  then ironed on to copper.  I used Edinburgh etch  solution.

 

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 Here, I inked a rubber stamp with a black Sharpie pen and etched the copper with ferric chloride.

 

 

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 I made this resist pattern with a silk screen and thick acrylic paint.  It worked well, but I  found it difficult to get a paint that would not bead up on the metal.  

Try making findings, components and texture sheets for polymer clay.                  DSCF0217DSCF0261DSCF0287

        

Earrings Earrings Earrings!

    
Here are some polymer clay earrings I’ve made over the years.  The techniques include screen printing, stamping, geometric caning, mica shift and the use of inclusions and washi paper. The lantern earrings with the copper dangles are hollow, light and comfortable to wear.

I’ve started to make my own ear wires and I recommend that you try it.  You’ll save money and will be able to fashion a custom wire that compliments your design.

McFarland Designs offers an excellent tutorial on how to make round ear wires. To learn how to make fish hook ear wires, check out this video from My Daily Bead on YouTube.