Monday, February 18, 2019

Adventures in Polymer Clay, Resin & Beading

I need to confess that I was shocked at how long it has been since I last wrote a blog post.  While it appears as if I took a hiatus, that is far from the case.  I have been writing instructions, teaching classes and creating but my schedule looks like color-coded organized chaos.  That aside, I wanted to share an adventure I went on recently.

A few weeks back my incredibly talented sister-in-law, Hailey Rodgers of Found in Fire Studios, asked if I would attend a Blue Ridge Polymer Clay Guild Meeting in Asheville, NC.  The meeting we would be attending included a heart swap.  Everyone would make a heart-themed polymer clay item and would swap with another artist during the meeting.  Now, let me be clear -- I am NOT a polymer clay artist.  I have dabbled in the medium but never really did much with it...regardless, I thought I would give it a try.

I decided I would make a cabochon I could bead and make into a necklace - this way I incorporate MY talent into something that would likely be a disaster otherwise.

I started with a lump of grey Sculpy Souffle.  This is supposed to be a softer clay but honestly, if any of you have ever conditioned clay, it was still a utter pain in the tookus to condition -- just less than other clays.  Once the clay was soft enough, I flattened it with my hands and then smooshed it flat with a big jewelers steel block (I didn't have anything to roll it out with).  Then, I found like the only 2 stamps I have in my possession and pressed one into the clay.  Unimpressive.  (Or impressive, if you want to be punny.)

I originally intended to use acrylic paint to help the image stand out but I was running out of time (I had about 36 hours to get this done) and the stamp impression was very shallow - which meant it would be hard to only highlight the upper level with paint.  I remembered that some polymer clay artists use mica powder on their pieces...I didn't have that either.  But I did have a very expensive and uber glittery eyeshadow palette...Urban Decay's Moondust Palette, for you curious ones out there.

I took a few colors, and lightly rubbed the surface of the clay with the eyeshadow and WALLA!  It worked!!  I baked the clay and pulled this out of the oven:

I realize this isn't terribly exciting (yet)...but it was to me!  I wish the photos could adequately capture the color and shine of the eyeshadow...

I was concerned about protecting the surface of the cab since any little ding would damage the eyeshadow treatment.  So.....I RESINED IT!  I have NEVER tried resin in any form so this also was an adventure.  I followed the instructions to the letter.  Well...sort of.  I did have a cleaning-up disaster in which I completely panicked, had sticky goo all over my hands, the cups, my alcohol bottle, soap bars and my entire bathroom sink but that story is reserved for live action storytelling since it requires lots of muppety arms and wild gesturing.  I digress...once the resin set, I began the bezel capture.

Aside from the afore mentioned clean-up disaster, this was a smashing success!  The resin not only protects the surface treatment, it brought depth, gloss and a "finished" look to the cab. I chose a shiny blue AB finished Delica bead and began to bezel the cab.  The odd shape I cut made the dip of the heart a little challenging, but it turned out beautifully.

I wanted this pendant to be relatively simple since the star is the polymer clay cab itself.  I chose a pinkish mauve size 8 seed bead to border the heart and then cut away the excess backing.

The last few steps were typical - apply the Ultra Suede to the back, edge the piece, add a little bit of "laciness" to the edging, add a crystal drop and attach straps!  The final piece surprised me!  It was almost difficult to give it away!

I definitely learned a lot from this process and have since purchased some black clay and mica powder - I figure there will be future reasons to use this technique so I should be ready, right?

I do have to brag a little on my sister-in-law (see piece below).  She constructed this with a foil form wrapped in Sculpy and sculpted.  She then used her incredible painting skills and hand painted it!

The class demo for the meeting was actually to make template plates with different textures that we could take home.  I made a couple and am excited to try them on my newly learned technique!

I hope you enjoyed going on this adventure with me!  Be looking for another post soon!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Shifting Tidepools

I legitimately dream of tide pools.  There is something about sea life that has always drawn me and inspired my work - the strange shapes, textures and mysteries the ocean holds.  I am not a beach lover unless its primarily beach combing and looking in tide pools for beautiful creatures.  This particular theme from Art Elements blog is right up my alley.

Honestly, at first I wanted to create my typical bead embroidery version of a tide pool and had some rather unique ideas for accomplishing this, however, I was not very fast on the uptake of ordering the supplies I would need for my initial idea so I decided to go another direction entirely.

I had recently been talking to other beaders who are a part of the Embroiderers Guild of America (EGA) in a nearby city.  There were a lot of interesting things going on in their chapter and I decided I was tired of not being a part of a LOCAL community of like-minded people.  After a little searching I came across a chapter in my tiny city and decided to give it a try.  I met with a number of ladies and while there were not other beaders attending, it was nice to find some people with interests that segwayed into my own.

And then I went down a long and VERY cool Pinterest black hole of embroidery...and it was FABULOUS!  Embroidery is no longer just your grandmother's hobby - it is being turned on it's head and modern embroiderers are doing things with needle and thread that are breaking barriers.  I decided I really wanted to explore this medium a bit and what better time than now?  So I snapped up some supplies and fiddled around with a few random flowers until I figured out what I wanted to do for this challenge.

Once I felt like understood some of the basic techniques I grabbed some colors to start on my tide pool piece.

I decided to do radiating long and short stitches to give a gradient look.  First, I chose a deep denimy blue.
Then I added a lighter color, making sure to "blend" by stitching in different lengths between the threads of denim blue.

I continued this process with sea greens until I reached close to the edge of the hoop and stopped...

I didn't really have a goal or end result in mind, which isn't my normal M.O...creating jewelry is nice in that I know the piece will ultimately become adornment.  This was more of an exploration into another medium and finding a way to incorporate it into my repertoire of skills.  I am finding that I like embroidery and want to learn more, especially considering some of the incredible artwork coming out of this arena:

Please join me in seeing all the cool artwork others made with this theme...


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Adventures in writing class instructions

That time I accidently deleted an entire post...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My ↑s Creed

Photo cred: Niky Sayers
The Art Elements Bloggers have really got it goin' on (if you didn't already know) - I consistently find it hard to pass up the opportunity to work with such a wonderful cast of artisans and once again I have been given that opportunity!  February's Component of the Month is hosted by the incredible Niky Sayers!  Niky made these super cool runes from copper metal clay - the moment I saw them I was chomping at the bit to have one.

Confession: I know NOTHING about runes except that I immediately think of Lord of the Rings - because LOTR is like my favorite thing.  As soon as I knew I was picked, ideas of hobbit holes, secret doors and trees began to swim in front of me.  I briefly looked up what some of them meant and then waited for 'Brown Santa' (USPS) to arrive.

It arrived!  And it is even more awesome in person...except...Warrior.  Hmmm.  So I hadn't considered that all my LOTR thoughts wouldn't necessarily suite this piece.  Now what?  After some consideration, I realized getting "Warrior" was more apropos than any other rune, as my first name has a similar meaning.  I have always believed that there is something to names.  I have an aggressive, bold, I-don't-put-up-with-crap personality which matches my name therefore this rune is like a symbol for who I am.  Inspiration for my piece didn't have to come from ancient Viking beliefs or a favorite fantasy - it can come from the simplest of things - my name.

I began to think about what kind of warrior I would want to be known for and 2 things came to mind - advocate & defensive.  More in my past than recently, I have lobbied for more strict and defined laws against human trafficking, educated the public on the issue, written senators and even lobbied at the White House.  I want to be a warrior who advocates for the freedom of others.  I also have a tendency to "mother".  I may not BE a mother but, whether my friends and family like it or not, I often find myself mothering them or giving counsel.  I want to be a warrior who takes up arms in defense of others - not one that seeks battle.

These thoughts led me to a relatively obvious inspiration - armor.  Armor is fascinating both in structure, history and workmanship.  (Random aside: check out my AWESOME finger armor ring!)
With this as inspiration, I began working on the details of the centerpiece for a necklace that may only be suited (pun!) for wear at a Ren Faire but has a deeper meaning.  I began sketching out a shape...

You know how sometimes things come together super easily?  Well this was one of those moments.  A beader friend of mine, Madleen Demaras, had given me a number of vintage nailheads just the day before - in that mix were some metal embellishments with a coppery tone that were PERFECT for rivet heads.

I traced out my sketched shape on a piece of Lacy's and got to work arranging and securing these little beauties.

The next step was to bead the border.  I decided to bead the inner and outer border with black and fill in with my favorite silver 15s.  Once again, I chose 15s.  Sometimes I don't know why I do things - I just do.  Though there is a part of me that does get satisfaction beading on such a small scale because you do have more control with fluid lines.

With the border complete, it was time to attach the rune and begin filling in the center!  The back of the rune actually had some unevenness so before I attached it to the center of my shield/breastplate, I used scrap pieces of Lacy's Stiff Stuff to even it out for a flat surface.  I also used a black Sharpie to darken the edges of the scrap Lacy's so that it wouldn't show in-between the beadwork  especially since I decided not to bezel it.

After securing the rune I looked at the beads I had chosen to use to fill in the center and realized I didn't like them for this after all.  I searched for something more appropriate and landed on a coppery bronze 11 and began the process of filling in.

As you can see from the photos above, I worked in diagonal from a center line.  I knew I could bead each row all the way across, however, it isn't always easy keeping each row completely diagonal so I decided to work each half separately.  This allowed me to concentrate on one angle at a time catching weird bendy issues early.  Finally, after a couple days of intense beading, I finished.

Because the Lacy's was heavy with beadwork, it was very curly and bendy so I needed to reinforce the piece with something - I chose a piece of plastic with an exceptionally chill cow on it.  Before gluing down this vacationing bovine, I took a picture of the back of the piece.  For some reason I keep doing this - I have mentioned it before but the back of beadwork is fascinating - a historical account of every artistic decision.  I think its beautiful and something worth documenting.

With the plastic sandwiched securely between the beadwork and Ultrasuede, I worked on the edging of the piece.  All along I had this cool idea of mimicking the articulated shoulders of armor for part of the strap.  I had a few ideas of how to accomplish this but I needed to make 4-6 pieces of separate beadwork for this.  I drew out my template, traced it to Lacey's and was about to start the process of beading all these thingies when....
The thingies - a technical term.




Boy do I ever keep you on your toes lol!!!  About 1/2 way through completing the edging I was showing my graphic designer mother the piece and she had a BRILLIANT idea that completely shifted my thinking.  She suggested that instead of turning the piece into a necklace, it was much more suited as a kind of "patch" on a book or purse.  She held up the beadwork next to a army green canvas purse and I was IMMEDIATELY sold.  I knew it would be a strange necklace - which I don't really mind...but the piece is far more suited to a bag embellishment!  I have never done this sort of thing before so I knew it would be an adventure.  I began to disassemble part of the work I did on the backing so that I could attach the shield/breastplate to a bag. (BTW, this is the day prior to the blog post that I began this process...I also keep myself on my toes apparently.)
Starting disassembling process
I removed the edging, the Ultrasuede and the plastic I used to support the piece.  Thankfully this was a very easy process just carefully peeling off the layers.
The 3 stooges of disassembly. (One of which is a fading vacationing bovine.)
With the beadwork detached from the backing pieces, I took a Sharpie and blackened all the edges of the Lacy's.  The edge doesn't really show, however, since there would be no bead edging on the canvas bag, I didn't want to take a chance that the white would show through.  Then I used a ruler and the seams of the purse to find the middle and tacked down the beadwork.

The next step was to see how many needles I could sacrifice in the attempt to sew through the thick layers while still avoiding stitching through the lining.  If I was amazing I would have pulled stitches at the inside seam of the purse so that I could easily stitch the piece down before reattaching the lining...however, I hate fabric sewing AND am not particularly skilled at it so I decided to do the least hard way (for me) and stitch it down without ripping stitches and reattaching lining.  I also realized that the needles I used were NOT made for this, however, I am out of time and the only needles I have accessible are beading needles.  Lookie at all the fun shapes I made!
Tour de Force
It took some doing to properly attach the patch but now I have a snazzy new custom Warrior bag!  I might get around to doing some more detail work on it someday, but until then I will carry this with pride!

Want to see what others made with their runes?  Um...yes, of course you do!  Click below to see what others created!


Kelly Rodgers -↑s live here

Art Element Members:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Stash Has Been Used & Weirdness Insued

Today is the reveal for Art Elements' Use Your Stash Challenge hosted by my good friend, Lindsay Starr!  Today is also the day I am late to the party - I have had a crazy week and didn't get to write my lovely little blog post until the day of.  Not my normal style but it is what it is!

For this challenge I rummaged through my stash and pulled a ceramic piece I have had sitting in my box for years - I almost didn't want to make anything with it because I love it so much:  A trilobite by Diana Ptaszynski!  I knew I wanted to finally use the trilo and I had recently added a cool ring from Joan Miller to my stash, so I threw them into my project box. That day I had a bead-in at my local bead shop, Cindy's Crafts so I knew I would have plenty of time to work out my design.

I began by snipping off the wire loop connectors from the trilo and bezeling it like a cab.

At this point I really didn't know what I wanted this to end up looking like.  Often I get stuck on the shape of the piece.  It tends to work out better if you have a overall shape in mind when you are working but this time I had to do a little Pinteresting for shape inspiration.

I didn't find exactly what I was looking in my search on Pinterest, however, after a while a general shape and layout came to mind...I immediately sketched it and despite my poor skills with a pen, I was able to capture the shape and some of the design elements I wanted to include.

As is typical with the way I work, I let the beads do what they wanted, adding design elements as they came to me.  Sometimes this process gets me trapped in my own thoughts but if I consciously 'let go' I usually find that the end result is more pleasing than it would have been if I forced myself through the process.

The more I worked on this piece the more I loved it.  Sometimes you run into an 'ugly duckling' phase and then struggle to complete a piece because you aren't "feeling it".  This one never reached that point for me.  Somehow everything just flowed as I worked.

But...sometimes in art things kinda happen without you realizing it.  Sometimes you unintentionally create within your creation.  This apparently happened to me...and I am still not sure how I feel about it...

In a relatively short amount of time I had created a piece I truly loved without buying a single bead - all from my stash...and upon sharing the end result with others, found out that everyone thought it was a bird.  *laugh*  I just wanted to have a trilo and ammonite hanging out in a pool of beads...but weirdly - oh so weirdly I had created a trilo hanging out in the belly of a bird!  Do you see it???

I used a metal clay brass ring by Gail DeLuca and a metal clay brass toggle clasp by One Sweet Bead to finish it all off.  Intention or not, I love this piece, bird and all.  And because my graphic designer mother said, "It's an awesome bird, own it!"  I am officially calling this piece, "Oops, bird!"  *laugh*

Don't forget to check out what these other amazing artists did with their stash!
Kelly Rodgers
Sarajo Wentling
Samantha Wescott
Kathy Lindemer
Patty Miller
Linda Landig
Renetha Stanziano
Samantha Wescott

Art Elements:
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Jen Cameron
Claire Fabian
Sue Kennedy
Niky Sayers
Lindsay Starr

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Music to My Eyes Blog Hop

I am a huge fan of blog hops - I love how differently each artist takes the theme and creates something of their own.  They also challenge me to finish a piece (usually) within a limited time period which means I can't dwell in indecision for long.  So, for the first time in all of history, I hosted my first ever Blog Hop!  The theme: create something inspired by your favorite song (or at least one you like a lot).  I wanted to leave the hop open to all who create - from painting & drawing to beads & baubles.  We all have something in common and I wanted to bring that out by inviting all artisans.  I am SO excited to share with you what I created along with all the beautifully talented artists that joined me!  Please be sure to read all, as I am also posting the talented Vicky Sophon's work.

It didn't take me long to think of which musicians I could use...I was torn between two options:


Thing is...if I went with Queen, I would DEFINATELY be using a fossil (teehee - Another One Bites the Dust...get it?) but Starset is my favorite band as of late and there is this one line in Ricochet that I wanted to replicate: "We were one and the same, running like moths to a flame..."  It was decided...I would go for the harder option and create a MOTH...because MOTHS!  As a side note, all I could think about as I stitched this little fuzzy wonder of the night was Mon Mothma. For all you non-Star Wars geeks out she is in all her glory:

Sometimes you can't escape your nerdom...just saying.

I started looking at moth pictures and drawings and picked this little guy as my model.  I really loved his fuzziness and thought that the brown and white coloration would provide some good contrast to the warm colors of a flame.
Then I started to do strange things (shocker).  I don't know if this happens to any of you, but I was so excited about this little guy, I forgot all my best practices for beading.  I cut out wings from Lacy's Stiff Stuff before I had even started beading.  This isn't really a WRONG tactic...just not best practice in my book - I am not even sure why I did it.  Anyway, I cut out the wing shapes and grabbed a small snippet of brown bunny fur I had picked up from Mood Fabrics in NYC (it was in the scrap bin and I couldn't help myself) and started beading.
Wings with floof!
For the second time in the last couple months I found myself beading...with 15s.  UGH!  I figured the only way to get the level of detail I wanted would be to use smaller beads.  I wanted to mimic the picture of the real moth's wing pattern as closely as possible so I chose 4 colors, brown, matte brown, matte cream & a bronze.  I knew the brown and bronze appear very subtly different, similar to the picture of the real moth's vein structure in the wing.  Its harder to tell the difference in the pics.
I began by beading the veins and the lighter coloration areas and then began to fill in with the matte brown color.  Once I completed this I realized that I didn't really account for the head of the moth so I snipped a tiny piece of fur and then trimmed the fuzz down just enough that I could make a distinction between the head and the...collar (?) of the bug, glued it to Lacy's, and added eyes.  I then attached the head with a few stitches hidden in the fur and began the process of backing and edging.
This is how the little guy turned out.  In all the beading I somehow missed I also needed a body - for some reason I didn't really account for this in my plans so I went digging around in my stash and found the PERFECT bead.  Every time this happens I am is it that I only had one of this bead and it turned out perfect for this project? Who knows!
The next thing I had to create was the flame.  I had an idea for this in my head before I started...I was going to use soutache to create a flame.  *facepalm*  So...a few things to note:  1) I have only used soutache twice EVER 2) I was doing something I had never even seen done before 3) This wouldn't be a piece of mine if I didn't somehow get myself in a pickle.

I will be honest here...I really don't want to show you the awfulness that happened as a result of my ill planning.  Its sad.  It reminds me of a poor attempt at drawing flames as a 3 year old.  *sigh*  But...for the sake of being honest about how sometimes arting is an adventure that goes down the wrong path and then a bear chases you down that path and you run but get lost and then somehow you find yourself naked in the woods with no is the pic of my horrid attempt at soutache flames...
So anyway...that was an epic failure.  After that debacle I kinda dropped the project for a week - I was irritated and unsure how to move forward.  I have a bad habit of getting stuck when things don't work out as planned.  I finally decided I just needed to go back to what I know.  So I picked up some Lacy's and drew out a shape.

SO much better!  This time I was not ABOUT to use size 15 beads - not only did I not have time, it was completely unnecessary....thank heavens!

I didn't take many pics of the process...but here is the end result of the flame beading:
What you don't see here is that cutting out a shape like this delightful *glowers*.  And then I had to do it again with the backing material...yay!  Here is the pic I took before the worst part.  I think I felt like I needed to document the fact that this was my favoritest thing ever...*drips with sarcasm*
I am realizing that while I didn't really bite off more than I could chew...I really didn't plan well.  The end result isn't my favorite thing...but it did what it was supposed to do.  I have a few things I need to correct - like the crazy strap wire (the stuff I used was WAY too thin and it ended up curling a bunch).  It also needs a bit more weight in the middle.
I wouldn't' say this was a success...but I don't think it was a complete failure either.  This really is just the nature of art - sometimes you have a direction...and sometimes you don't.  The bright part is that no matter where that journey leads you (yes...even naked in the woods without food LOL), you always learn something in the process.

Now I'm off to see if I can get some concert tickets so that I can show off my music inspired necklace (maybe I will get to meet the band?!)

Don't forget to check out what the other artists in this hop created!

Here is Vicky Sophon:

I have to admit that when I decided to join this blog hop, I was primarily trying not to be "booted" from the group. I hadn't really done much beading in months and my musical taste runs somewhat towards the eclectic. I figured the challenge would be good for me.

Classical music has always had a special place in my heart. The nuns exposed us to it beginning in the first grade. In fact, my first concert was by the local symphony orchestra. Later, in college, I worked in a local gift/stained glass shop called, "Classical Glass." Classical music played all day.

The first time I remember hearing Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik SATIE was on a holiday tape I had picked up at Victoria's Secret.  It felt so familiar. It's lyrical and sweet -- romantic, yet innocent.

In my research into Satie's piece, a certain image kept popping up - dancing naked youth. Eureka! I had my focal point.

For years, my go-to technique has been bead embroidery. I find it affords me a degree of freedom to draw in a variety of colors, texture, sizes and materials. I hope you enjoy it.

Gymnopedie No. 1 - Erik Satie

Kelly Rodgers - You are here!
Vicky Sophon - and here!