Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Microwave Mishap, Hollow Lentil Beads and Charging for Actual Time Spent, I wish. . .

Hollow, Image Transfer beads, using my digital images. . . 1'' 25mm.

Having managed to lay myself low with relatively minor but still unpleasant food poisoning, due to not heating up leftover moussaka sufficiently in the microwave, duh. . . I have had a day or two of sitting around, feeling delicate, and recovering my equilibrium, which is a poncy way of saying 'getting my guts back to normal'. I'm not normally that dozy, not quite anyway. Dunno what I was thinking, but I wasn't concentrating on the matter in hand that's for sure. Still, lesson learned and no lasting harm done.

Hollow polka dot image trans beads, first experiment.

I'm feeling hugely better now and have been in the workshop/studio messing around with stuff. A valued regular customer asked me to make some more hollow, lentil shape, textured beads like some I had sold previously, so I made a set or two. While I was making hollow forms I decided to try the lentil shape with image transfers instead of textures. I liked how it looked so I tried some experiments to define the best way of getting the result I wanted.

Not too bad. Not so sure about the varnished look but I shall live with it for a while and see.

I got quite close to the look I was after but the process was pretty time consuming. I will do a step by step with pics if anyone is interested.

The reverse side of the ones in the top pic

Which leads me to wonder about the whole subject of charging enough for the time things take to make. Especially with supplies like beads, which people mainly buy in order to use in items which they then sell on. Whatever the theories about pricing, I don't think it is realistic for me to charge twice the unit cost (although not a lot when using polymer clay) plus a generally acceptable hourly rate etc etc if I actually want to sell what I'm making.
Finished items, like jewellery, maybe, as perceived value is connected to price and many sellers say that raising prices helped sales, but supplies are a bit different I think. Maybe?

I made some smaller ones 3/4" 18mm. maybe a more usable size.

I tend to look at what other people have sold similar things for, and price bearing that in mind. I suppose, pragmatically, if something is not economically viable to make, it's probably not a good idea to continue making it.
But then again, there is a lot more than economics involved in what I do, and a lot of my time is spent on all sorts of unproductive things anyway, so the question 'Is it worth it?' becomes a more complex and subjective one ;-)

Any thoughts?

Jon x

ps - I'm still not sure how much to try to sell these for. . .

More groovy small ones

And another

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Rural Bliss, Good and Bad Consequences of Sparkling Wine and Inspired Upcycling

This is a day or two late. Drat. I have been trying to post every ten days but this time it’s slipped a bit. Not that I’m going to beat myself up about it you understand. . . ;-)

Well, late or not, this post finds me at 8 a.m. sitting here in the garden, in the sun, in my dressing gown (an impressive garment, hand made long ago out of blue and gold damask pattern furnishing fabric from John Lewis fabric dept, with a silk lining, but that’s another story. . .)
As I was saying, here I am, in the garden, in my dressing gown, enjoying the sun, nursing an unexpectedly mild hangover and appreciating the gentle sounds of nature coming at me from all directions. Moorhens chinking at each other on the pond, robins singing from the bushes, a woodpecker calling as it flies over, a couple of swallows chattering, fat wood pigeons cooing throatily in their rather comical, self-important sounding way, all mixed in with the sound of chickens from the farm down the road and Sheila bringing her two horses up to our paddock for the grazing. (I know, we have a paddock fer god’s sake, but not being horsey people we let our neighbour use it). It’s all rather lovely, apart from the hangover, but that is fading. A cup of tea and a bowl of porridge with brown sugar helped. Bacon later to complete the cure!

A path down to Arncliffe in Littondale. An example of The North not being grim. . .

We’ve been away for a few days doing the duty trip to see my wife’s dad up north, which for various reasons which I won’t go into, is a bit depressing. We managed to stay somewhere nice in the north yorks dales which helped to sugar the pill somewhat. Very scenic and all that. So that’s why I’m running a bit late.

The river Skirfare

And why there’s not much to report on the polymer clay stuff. But before we left, I had been playing some more with earring ideas.
You are no doubt familiar with those metal, twisted wire things that keep corks in place on sparkling wine bottles. Of course you are. Well, we are anyway. I have been saving them up for a while with a view to maybe making something out of them, or re-using the wire etc. But nothing had inspired me to actually take the creative leap, and use them, until the other day, when I found a rusted and flattened one in the gravel on the drive. (I’m afraid to say I pounce on bits of rusty wire these days, and store them away for future possibilities too.) This aforementioned rusted wire artefact sparked an idea. 

The other pair I made

I cut out two of the twisted ‘struts’, each of which had a convenient loop like feature at each end, and, after brushing any loose bits off and applying a bit of Ren wax to seal them, used them as part of a pair of earrings, attaching them between oxidized copper ear wires and two of the grungy, textured polymer clay charms I had been making. I think they work pretty well. So now I just have to take my collection of sparkling wine wires, throw them into a puddle and run them over several times before leaving them for a month to achieve a suitable patina. . . ;-)

Here are some more grungy, textured poly clay charm thingies I mentioned just now.

I hope to get back into the studio/workshop in the next few days and get stuck into some more creative stuff.

Cheerio until next time,
Jon x

Monday, 14 August 2017

First Year 'Houseversary', Timely Perseids, Lack of Jam and More Uncertainty about Earrings

Our house from the end of the garden. The paint job we did made a disproportionate amount of difference. 

It's our 'Houseversary'! We've been here exactly 12 months! We absolutely love it here. We couldn't be happier ;-) All the stress and anxiety of the move has turned out to be totally worth it. . . 

We wouldn't do it again, mind, no matter how worth it it might ultimately turn out to be, but that's academic, as I can't see a reason why we would ever want to move again. Like I said before, we both feel that the only way we would leave this place is in a box. . .

view across the pond to the conservatory

What made the moving in day even more memorable than it might ordinarily have been was that it coincided with the peak of the Perseids meteor shower.
That night we dragged our exhausted selves and our cane sofa onto the lawn and sprawled on that, sipping prosecco and watching sporadic shooting stars whizz across a clear starry sky. . . This year we did the same again, only it was a bit colder and less clear, and we had no prosecco. . . but we had just got back from the pub and as luck would have it we timed it just right. There was just enough clear sky to see the show. Until we started to get cold and went to bed. ;-)

I hope you got to see it too.

The 'lack of jam' thing refers, jokingly, (ha ha hee hee etc) not to a shortage of preserved fruit condiment, which would be a serious matter, but to the monthly jam night at a pub in the next village (an event which also had no connection to preserved fruit condiment). I hadn't been before so I was feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing as I lugged my bass guitar down there, but, due to it being the time of year when many people are away on their holidays, there was a distinct lack of musicians. 'Dearth' would be a better word ;-) We found only the organiser and his wife there. Undeterred, we had a drink and a good chat with them and will come back next month when folks will be back from vacations etc, we hope. They were both artists too and were very nice people, so that was a good connection made.

Anyway, or 'Any road up' as my wife says when in Yorkshire mode, this is turning into a bit of a diary so, without further ado I will get onto the earring stuff. . .

'Biscuit' charms, polymer clay image transfer with wooden backs, with copper jump rings and oxidised copper ear wires

As a non earring wearing male, I do feel as though any foray I make into earring construction involves a lot of guesswork and certain amount of copying what others do in order to get things 'right' (whatever that is). This makes me a bit nervous about it all. I've posted about this earring insecurity before, which didn't seem to move me forward even though I got many supportive comments. Hopefully I have worked through the anxiety and now can just make the blooming things, leaving the question of whether anyone except me likes them up to fate/life and not worry about it.

rough polymer clay beads on flattened copper wire with copper ear wires

I have realised that ear wires can be any shape I like, as long as they fulfil their purpose and look good at the same time.

Round image trans beads on oxidised copper ear wires

I think that certain amount of eccentricity can be a good thing too. Probably. Well, me being me it's going to have to be. ;-)

distressed wooden beads on up cycled nails with steel wire wrap and titanium ear wires

Upcycling is fine too. And using non standard materials. Well, I think it's fine and I am working by my rules. . .

Textured polymer clay charms with textured beads on oxidised copper wire.

And, it's ok to make more conventional looking earrings as long as everything works well together and there is enough quirkiness in the choice of beads. . . For me, 'conventional' counts as a radical departure from the norm, being one of those annoying people who just has to be 'different' for all sorts of unexamined reasons. . . :-)

I'm still enjoying making earring charms/beads too. Trying different types of image and treatments.

DIY permitting I'll continue my earring exploration and see where it gets me. I mean, if others don't find my beads useful I can always use them myself ;-)

And to finish, a garden update. Not that you wanted one, but you're getting it anyway. . .


We will be inundated with various kinds of fruit soon. The pear tree is looking promising, but the pears won't be ripe for a while. The gooseberries and blackcurrants have just finished, but we do have ripe victoria plums, early apples, mulberries and the last of the redcurrents. Damsons, greengages, medlars, quince, and the other apples to follow. Lots of apples. . . I've never lived anywhere with so much fruit involved ;-)

I tried to make cider last year but it was a disaster, I will get more serious about it this year.

On the veg front, the asparagus finished a while ago and so did the artichokes, though we hardly ate any of them. Right now we have potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes and beans all demanding to be dug up/picked/cut including some very red potatoes. I'm pleased with those as I actually grew them myself rather than inherited the previous owner's plantings.

Very red potatoes. They cook quickly and tend to fall apart, but taste really nice. I must try cooking them more slowly and carefully. I'm too used to supermarket spuds. . .

On the DIY front, for those interested, a minority group for sure, the fake panelling is nearly done. The colour is a darker, greyer turquoise-lish colour than in the pic but I had to use flash which bleached it out somewhat.
Next we finish the painting, get some pictures up and construct or buy a radiator cover of some kind. And we lose the green carpet of course! Yech. . .

My round stones collection and bust of Beethoven are in place already. .

So, onwards and upwards as they say. 

Even though Etsy is, perplexingly, still not what it was and my new shop and site is not visited as much as I had hoped, I will plough on. . . I need to research ways of amassing more 'traffic', but it's still early days and these things take time.
Jon x

Thursday, 3 August 2017

How Rough and Distressed Can You Stand? More Biscuit Stuff and Actual Shards. . .

Click the pic the visit my shop

Well, I've been experimenting again ;-) This time using 'the other' way of transferring images. Namely, using Kato Clear Liquid polymer clay and a heat gun. 

The interesting thing was that I could transfer directly onto the wood rather than a polymer clay shape. 
(see my last post for an explanation of what these wood shapes actually are)

The other interesting thing is that using this method you don't have to have laser prints, you can use inkjet prints, even on photo paper.

For the charms/beads in the images above and below I deliberately went for a rough, distressed look. I split the wooden 'biscuit' twice, to get a splintered texture on both sides. They are three ply so this is possible, if finicky to achieve. I splurged a bit of Kato Clear on one side, squashed the image down onto that then blasted it with the heat gun for about 20/30 seconds, or until the paper started to go brown and before the wood started to singe. . .

Click the pic the visit my shop

Then I dropped them in water to make the paper easier to scrape off the baked Kato. (the image is transferred onto the thin layer of Kato clear, not the wood base) This was a bit problematic as the Kato started to peel off the wet wood. I let it dry somewhat and then stuck it down with gorilla glue. You may want to wet the paper in a more gradual way, trying not to soak the wood. Lesson learned.

I then painted the wood with alcohol inks diluted with rubbing alcohol to add a subtle tint to it. The backs were painted with alcohol inks or acrylic paint. I varnished them, more to protect the wood than the Kato, as Kato is very tough. Below are some 'half biscuits' I made using the same technique. And the same pattern. . .
Seriously rough and battered looking, especially the ones at the top of this post. Too rough for public consumption? A niche market for sure ;-)
Also the top ones are extremely light weight, not sure if this is a good thing or not. I would probably make a polymer clay backing sheet another time, to add a touch more weight. . . dunno. . .

Click the pic the visit my shop

The ones below are polymer clay fronted, normal image trans method half biscuits, with a cool organic distressed looking image on them, which was of course further distressed by me. . .

Click the pic the visit my shop

I also made some earring charms from actual shards, gasp! Not faux ceramic, but the real thing. I broke one of my image transferred tiles (more about them in my next post), and decided to try filing down and drilling a couple of the resulting shards to see if they might work as earring charms or some such. I think they look pretty good.

Click the pic the visit my shop

Kittens? What kittens? ;-) Oh, you mean those ones. . 

Well we have introduced them to the outside world, insofar as our garden counts as the outside world. They have had fun, strictly supervised of course, prowling through the herbaceous border and running madly after each other in that patented kitten way that they have. They had calmed down a bit when I took the pic. Not for long, mind.

The guinea fowl continue to fascinate. The fascination was mutual actually. The scale is deceptive in the pic as the kitten is smaller than he looks and the guineas are larger. 
It all ended amicably with a mutual orderly retreat. Albeit with some less than melodious sound effects from the guineas. . .

In other news, DIY continues apace but i will spare you the WIP pics for now. I was turned down by Norfolk Craft Soc (humph!) but will (probably) try showing my stuff to some local galleries/shops to see what they reckon. Research is needed.
Anyway, until the next time,
cheers, Jon x

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Secret Life of Biscuits (A Tutorial of Sorts), Stone Pelicans and an Interesting New Glue. . .

Wood or Polymer clay?

Well, I've been horribly busy with a long discussed and procrastinated over DIY project - vis, Putting up false wood panelling in the hall of our house. False, because I am using MDF to make a series of 'frames', the inside of which is the plain wall. Paint it all and you wouldn't know that it wasn't all wood, and if you are careful, you can make it look like it's been there a long time. . .

You see, our house dates from circa 1780, but you wouldn't really know to see it on the inside apart from the proportions, nice high ceilings etc. It was messed about with a fair bit over the years, including being, what our local builder calls, 'farmerised', which is a process of covering over or ripping out old clay tile floors, likewise with old inglenook fireplaces, bannisters etc and generally getting rid of rustic charm or Georgian detail wherever it can be found and replacing with lino, plasterboard, york stone and strange wallpaper ;-) Something farmers seem to have got the blame for. Well, it was a farmhouse so I guess in this case farmers were the culprits. . . We are lucky in that the house wasn't totally trashed, and that the previous owner uncovered a nice tile floor and a previously boxed in inglenook fireplace when they bought the place forty years ago.

Our task, as we see it, is to pretend that none of the farmerising happened, and reconstruct a kind of faux Georgian-ish interior. Not making it a slavish restoration project as such, but more of a creative injection of charm and interest in line with our ideas of what might have been there before and what we would like to see, and all in line with a low budget too!

Work in progress, plus kitten

Anyway, the reason I am wittering on about it is that I am finding that my DIY excursions often have a the side effect of giving my ideas for beads etc. 
The MDF 'frames' I am making are joined together using something called a 'biscuit joiner'. This tool makes a groove in the piece of MDF or other wood you wish to join to another piece of same, in which you made a similar groove. Using the same tool set up the same means that your grooves should line up perfectly and be in exactly the right place for the two pieces to join up seamlessly by using a 'biscuit' which fits nicely in the two grooves. It works well, once you know what you are doing (I'm getting there. . .) These 'biscuits are like small, flat ovals of plywood, and are of a size and shape that to my mind could make a good template for a polymer clay bead/charm. (15mm by 19mm by 4mm)

size 10 biscuit - 15 x 19 x 4mm

Above is what they look like. You could view the following as a sort of tutorial or at least something to try if you come across a biscuit or two, (100 for about ten pounds online) follow along. . .
They are made of three layers, like plywood, and are maybe a bit thick, so I tried carefully splitting one down the middle with a craft knife/tissue blade. 

Split in half to expose nice wood texture and reduce thickness

I liked the splintered wood texture that resulted, so firstly I tried pressing that into a piece of raw polymer clay as a texture stamp, then cutting round it with a craft knife and baking the resulting shape. 
Once it was baked I decided to use the wooden half biscuit as a backing piece for it, so I stuck it, splintered texture side out, onto the back. Actually, I used the other half of the biscuit I split earlier as it had a slightly different texture pattern but the principle is the same. 
Then I had some fun treating the surface with alcohol inks, sanding it off, etc. It turned out looking cool, but a lot like wood. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not, or if it was what I wanted, as if it looked like wood I might as well not have used polymer clay at all ;-)

I painted the back too. I used acrylic inks this time, the coverage was better on wood than alc inks I found.

The real wood back of the faux wood bead

Following on from that my next experiment was to use a different texture instead of splintered wood, so I reached for my stack of digital photopolymer texture sheets and tried one of those. I used the same technique as before and the same half biscuit backing concept. It looked promising, and  after a bit of painting and distressing etc it looked really interesting. So I reckon there is quite a lot of scope for polymer clay experimentation here. . . 

Textured and treated surface

Talking of which, I had another idea and tried cutting the half biscuit in half again across the width, which gave me another nice couple of shapes which could be more of a manageable size for earring charms maybe. 
I tried another of my texture sheets, a simple, bold one this time, combined it lightly with the splintered wood texture on top of it, and then, after baking,  kind of wiped the two pieces gently across a blue stazon ink pad. I was pleased with how they came out too. I'll definitely try some more of those. . . And get a couple of different colour ink pads.

Half biscuits - textured and coloured

This post has been a bit long so I will keep the rest of this missive brief. . .

We found a pair of stone pelicans at our local antiques street fair at the weekend. They fit in nicely with our front door area and add a bit of eccentricity, not to mention a slightly gothic vibe too. Fun. They can keep a careful eye on any visitors ;-)

Stone pelicans in place above the door

As for the interesting new glue. The adhesive I was using to attach bits of moulding and dado rail to the fake panelling was new to me. It's a kind of two part epoxy stuff, but part one is a spray. You spray one surface, let it evaporate, then apply glue to the other surface, when pressed together they form a very strong, superglue type bond in about ten seconds. Brilliant. It may have polymer clay and jewellery uses. Not sure yet but I will keep it in mind.
Well, until next time,
Jon x

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Polymer Clay 'Turned Technique' Hints, A New Discovery and just maybe. . . KITTENS!!

Turned technique on Image Transfer beads. . .

Well, not wishing to start off what is supposed to be a polymer clay bead type blog with pictures of kittens, I will start off with a pic of my newest discovery/experiment ;-)

I realised that I can use my 'turned effect' technique on image transfer beads. Interestingly, this confirms to anyone wondering what I am doing, that, even though the results may look like it, I am not using a lathe. (though I like the idea of trying one out. . .)

So, I hear you cry, what are you doing? Good question. It's hardly rocket science but in case you hadn't worked it out, what I am doing is basically rolling unbaked polymer clay between various things. All sorts of things but mainly everyday/hardware store/DIYleftover type things. For some deep seated and so far unexplored reason I love using things for purposes for which they were never intended. . . Especially when the results are really cool. And as you know I am always ready to follow the fascination. . .
The above pic is a record of my first experiments. Nothing that useful in themselves, but the possibilities are certainly there. I was quite pleased that the process doesn't degrade the image as much as I thought it might. And anyway, even if it does, it's part of the effect as far as I am concerned. 
So now you know.

Anyway, enough polymer clay rubbish. The main story in my life this week has been KITTENS!

Our neighbour is a fosterer for the local branch of a cat rescue charity, and some time ago I had mentioned the possibility that we might want to adopt a kitten, or maybe, just maybe, two. . .
Well, last week she came round to tell us that three little silver tabby and white kittens were ready for rehoming. The catch was that they don't let single kittens from a litter go, we would have to take two. . . We discussed this, and agreed, but very firmly drew the line at three. No way. Out of the question we said. . .

Yeah right. 

Say hello to our three newly adopted kittens! Our firm line was obliterated the millisecond we saw them. I mean, how could we leave one all on it's own? Hard as nails, us. . . sigh. . .

The one at the back is the boy, the other two are the girls, and very sweet they are too ;-)

Awwwwwww. . .

OK enough about kittens, this is a polymer clay blog after all, below are a selection of rolled/turned effect beads I made last week. You may have seen them before on FB or IG but they are worth another look. They are in my SHOP, along with some more recent stuff and just about all my Etsy shop's stuff which I have transferred but still not finished rejigging the titles etc.
I changed the theme to a more mobile friendly one, which was a pain, but had to be done as when I checked the last one out on my iPad the writing was so small as to be illegible. Not good. It should look much better now.


click the pic to view the shop listing

click the pic to view the shop listing

click the pic to view the shop listing

 Further to my image transfer rolled/turned beads at the top of this post, I made a few further experiments and the beads below were the result. Kind of cool without being obviously image trans. Hmmmm. . .

click the pic to view the shop listing

I couldn't possibly go without sharing another pic of the kittens, or at least two of them, showing how deeply traumatised they were by the adoption process ;-) They are such happy, socialised, well adjusted little beasties. . . I wish they wouldn't insist on walking over the trackpad on my laptop though. One managed to erase three lines of text, and another one just launched iTunes. . . !

See you next time,
Jon x