Polymer Clay Love

The long weekend has been a crafting staycation for me, mostly with me getting back to polymer clay.  I have amassed enough clay to keep me kneading and conditioning for quite a bit, so I went back to work on unfinished projects.  I also started to collate the work I had done so far, and much of them will evolve into something new cooking up in my head.

I found molds I had created but which I had not used to mold clay with, and a striking ornate brass stamping of a lion head I have had for a while came to life in clay.
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I am a novice at this but I find it very rewarding with minimal frustration because you can turn it into whatever it is you might want it to be.  It can be fanciful and candy colored, or almost like faux metal or faux stone.  I have enjoyed working with it and creating things to wear that make people stop and wonder what the necklace or earrings are made of.  

I find great inspiration from Cynthia Tinnaple’s Polymer Clay Daily where artisans from all over the world are featured.  Just browsing the short blurbs and the gorgeous pictures are enough to get me thinking about how I want to work with my polyclay.  So many possibilities!

While I work mainly with gemstones and glass beads for my etsy shop, I have pieces which have incorporated handmade cabochons I fashioned from my own molds.  I find that polymer clay cabochons are actually more elegant and have a more subtle color range than the regular resin cabochons that are in the market.  I’ve bought one or two and made molds, but my best tool is a set of carved opal cabochons that I got as a gift from my late mother-in-law.  They were loose cabochons meant to be a set of three, but the intricacy and uniqueness of the carving was what made them standout.  I see them as peonies.

I have worked with both pour on (liquid) molds and the more common mold putty.  I can’t say I like one more than the other because I’ve found that one can be better depending on what type of mold you’re making.  For intricately designed originals with lots of crevices and detail, the pourbob mold is more suitable as you will see in the end product below.
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The pink and lavender cabs, I will use as is, but the beige ones will rendered with a hint of gold patina using gilders paste later.

Below you will find my raw polymer clay lion head cabochons fashioned from the brass stamping on the picture on the left.  I actually did two versions of this with two different clays.  The harder in consistency went under the brass stamping itself, and the softer beige one went into a putty mold I cast off of the stamping.  
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The brass stamping wasn’t all that expensive but was hollow and unwieldy to work with, needing attaching to a cloth or plastic base.  So I thought I’d try to create a solid cabochon instead of a hollow form, and experimented with a subtler patina that wouldn’t make the head too loud a part of a piece I had in mind.  Here you can see what I mean when I put the real brass with the faux metal polymer clay lion head.  It isn’t quite as shiny, but you can pass it off as metallic.

This second I worked on is more of a cost and weight work around.  I fell in love with the original casting the minute I saw it but the price was a bit of a splurge for a finding.  The slots were too big and uneven a size for me to find actual cabochons for, so I knew right there and then I’d have to make the cabochons myself.  The piece was also rather heavy and I worried that further embellishing it would make it too heavy on the neck.  

This one is a work in progress as I purposely left out the bail on the original piece, and I am thinking of creating a solid backing for the pendant to have the bail cling to.  But below you will see the original rendering, and the golden tint it took on after an application of gilders paste.

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Rendered this way, I can fill in the setting with my choice of metallic polymer clay, or do that and add gemstones or other embellishments around the cross form to create a larger statement piece.  It’s just trickier to get all the rope details around the frame, but the finished setting in polyclay worked quite well and turned out as I had expected it to.

I’m going to save the before and after of the flower cabochons I tinted into a dark gold hue for later when I have them set into Earrings.  

I just found a shoebox full of other polymer clay bead experiments which I need to turn into something workable.  That’s another post altogether.  I am also working with doing another form of polymer clay Earrings but I’m still thinking about how I can render it well.  Back to my polymer clay I go..

Craft experiments: Photo Transfer to Canvas

I love taking photographs.  Even before the age of smartphones and selfies, I would hold my point and shoot DSL-like camera and click it framing my son and I in a photo that looks like it was taken by someone in front of me.  Friends would often wonder how I did it.  I kept telling them, it’s plain and simple practice.

  1. I would look at the lens and make sure that the reflection I saw there was the framing I was hoping to achieve.
  2. Whether I was taking a blind selfie or not, or taking the photo of another subject, I already knew not to place the subject’s head in the middle of the frame.  (A common  mistake), and instead put it on the upper center of the photo.
  3. I also knew I had to look at the lens, not at my hand.

In truth, this was really one of the skills of motherhood.  Ever since I became a Mom, I took numerous snapshots of my then little baby on a daily basis, capturing every essence of his day.  My camera and I were inseparable.  This is the reason why I have always opted for a fancy point and shoot rather than an actual DSLR.

Through the years, I’ve also learned that taking a snapshot of an actual photograph can produce better results than an actual scan.  (This, of course, is just my humble opinion.)

I have always had a deeply sentimental nature when it came to photographs.  I brought home a ton of my pictures through the years through my various trips home to Manila, and what I couldn’t take  (or chose not to take), I took photos of.  Holding a photo and looking at it, whether or not it’s me in the photo or someone else, evokes a wave of emotions and memories that a simple thought cannot bring.  It is a magical experience all its own.

Then I fell in love with the idea of photographing jeepneys and the many scenes of New York.  From the flora of Bryant Park to the gorgeous foliage of Central Park, to the never-ordinary cityscape showing any of our iconic buildings like the Empire State Building — I have amassed quite a personal trove of photos.

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One thing that the digital age has robbed us of, I think, is the need to actually produce these pictures as hard copy mementos of the moments they captured.  We have become content with visually beholding them in our smart phones or on our computer screens.  We have stopped printing them or creating a physical copy.

I’ve always wanted to incorporate these photos in my artwork but have really not had the chance to try until recently.  Again, I’m a crafter more than an artist, so my creative process is about acquiring the skill rather than cultivating a talent.  I am so green with envy of the real artists out there who can grab a pencil or a brush and with a few strokes create something others can drool over.  I call my attempts, “Personal art”.

Scouring the internet, I’ve found several resources that give tutorials on photo transfers on canvas using a gel or glue medium.  Over the previous week, I tried using regular mod podge after having painted small canvas panels with acrylic beforehand.  I’ve had some practice doing this on Artist Trading Card backgrounds half a lifetime ago, so the backgrounds were the easy piece of the puzzle.

Since this was purely experimental, I decided to go with a 4×5 canvas panel.  Aim small, miss small, as they say.

I already had future projects in mind so I decided to experiment with (1) a full-photo transfer, and (2) a collage transfer, essentially focusing on a cut out.  Below is a macro shot of Angelo when he was maybe 4 or 5, laser printed as recommended.  I printed the photo slightly larger than the canvas panel but I didn’t intend to wrap the edge of the photo print out on the sides of the frame.  From the get-go, I meant to show some of the background by exposing the edges.  I wanted it to be a distressed transfer to give the photo more drama.

The background was a hodge podge of gold, copper and silver acrylic.

This second one was a cut out of the dancing girl figure, a picture of me when I was maybe 3-4 years old.

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Chalk it to my impatience — instead of waiting for the customary drying time of 24 hours, I wanted to see as quickly as possible if the ink would indeed be transferred by applying a generous amount of transfer medium to the print out and then pasting it onto the canvas panel.  (This was, after all, an experiment only, so I threw all caution to the wind.)

Cutting out the figure that I wanted, I pasted it onto the canvas but being careful not to let any glue get onto the backside of the picture.  Two or three tutorials I viewed warned against this because any part of the printout with glue on the backside (the reverse side) would not be rubbed out when you tried to get the transfer reveal.

I think my transfers went well for a first attempt, and as far as first attempts go.  I’ve already stocked up on regular canvas to work with bigger projects which I hope to showcase here in future posts.

MATERIALS USED:

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Learning how to sew

Once upon a time I was taught how to use a sewing machine.   This was in high school two lifetimes ago and I actually learned how to thread the manual ones — where you had to put your feet on top of a mono-pedal of sorts and power it.  I wasn’t quite as crafty back then, plus trying to sew jammies as a class project to be graded wasn’t all that interesting.

Fast forward to today.

In the last couple of years, crafting for me has essentially been jewelry and paper crafts.  I am a crafter, not an artist — and I say that with pride.  I like creating things and putting my personal stamp on it.  I actually can do almost professional hand sewing, to the point that I’ve stitched close and embroidered over holes in dress shirts, or successfully hemmed my pants and jacket cuffs.  For some reason, I’ve been drawn to making fabric clutches which I envision as canvases for gemstone and freshwater pearl embellishments, crafted by yours truly.

So the dilemma was actually being able to create that base product.  I thought about the hard case minaudier frames that are available, but that would limit the shape and size of the clutch I would decorate.  (Still an option, though.)  I browsed online and loved the many different cloth clutches available.  How else can you make them besides sewing with a machine?  Of course, there is the option of doing everything by hand, but I’d like to think it would be faster and easier to actually be able to use a sewing machine, and it would guarantee better integrity for the product.  I had a sewing machine in the attic courtesy of my mother-in-law who actually made the bridal party dresses for her daughter more than two decades ago.  But I don’t know how to work that machine.

Then there was the pull of actually being able to sew clothes I could wear.  I am in between losing weight and trying to lose more weight — most of which has worked in my favor, but which has caused me to find myself iffy when it comes to apparel sizing.  At a 36D, I usually land in the Large or 12.  But my body is continuing to shrink even if it’s still flabby, so there are times when I can actually get away with a Medium, depending on the cut and the fabric.  I have enjoyed dressing in more form-fitting clothes — something I used to dread given my shape and size.  (I have to admit, I have great admiration for the plus size women who can carry their figure hugging outfits with such confidence!)

These days, though, I am slowly working my way to a healthier body.  I have actually been told time and again, I am not fat.  (It’s hard to pit that against the repeated subliminal message that I was from the one whose opinion used to matter the most to me.)  I do know I am not a supermodel.

I love to dress in feminine styles.  I have learned to highlight my best features (like the 36D and everything that comes with it! LOL), and to minimize the problem areas.  There is still a “thin bias” that’s very pronounced in the clothing lines that are commercially available, and I often catch myself returning something I had tried on because it looked good on me, but only up to the shoulders, then somehow spelled “not worth it” when it came to the lower portion.

Of late, I’ve been looking at simple pieces that came without sleeves but which could be altered to accommodate lace sleeves.  (Lace is all the rage this spring and summer!)  I’ve also been drawing up plans to create scarves to use as accessories.

My good friend, @ehawkinsillustion (on Instagram) actually encouraged me to learn how to sew.   A fashion illustrator by trade, but a student of fashion design as of this writing, I’ve always admired how she has pursued her passion after acquiring a kick-ass degree in Statistics from the most prestigious university back home in Manila.  (Okay, I’m trying to hold back the fan love here.)

She told me that Mood Fabrics was offering free sewing classes — and they are right in my neighborhood here in Midtown!  I registered, picking the Saturday classes which were the most convenient, and last Saturday was our first of six classes.

nybsaWhile the class is free, they do require you to purchase the sewing kit from their store on the first day of the 6-week class.  Mine came to $144.00 which came in a clear Mood U tote to carry it in.  The class is taught by Benjamin Mach, an Australian fashion designer based in New York and who is in charge of Mood University here in NYC.  He instantly made everyone at ease by introducing himself and having everyone else in class do the same.  (Why are you here?  I said I’m crafty but never really learned how to sew.)

There was a diverse mix of sewer-wannabes, some who are actually into fashion, and some who are into crafts like me — as well as a smattering of people brought in by friends.  (I had two in tow, but only one made it to the first class.)   There were people who wanted to get a refresher course on sewing after having worked with sewing machines while creating Barbie dresses back in their childhood.  We talked about the goodies in our sewing kit and were taught about fabrics that were suitable for the class project which was a fabric tote.  Towards the end of the class, we cut the pattern for our tote and were soon merrily on our way to find the fabrics required.

I was giddy happy — and very excited to be learning something new.  I have always been a student at heart — so much so that when all was said and done and there was no more studying to do, I actually missed the classroom. But this time, I was doubly excited about learning what was being taught because I had definite plans in mind about how I want to utilize the knowledge gained.  I’ll write more about the actual class in a separate post, not necessarily about the class content (well, partly), but more about the experience.

I’m happy to report that this puts me in sync with my craft calendar which I wrote about here, and I’m hoping to keep the rhythm going through the other to-dos on that list.

I’ve always believed that it is never too late to learn anything, because it contributes to our continuing growth.  We don’t stop growing only because we are physically matured — there is so much to learn about and see out there.  I’d take another university course if I had the luxury (and the funds) to do it, but I’ll settle for learning how to sew for now.

 

 

My Craft Calendar

My dream job is to really be able to schedule time to work on my crafts between trying to keep a presence here, write what I want to write, and stay on top of my almost 12-year-old.  Right now, my days revolve around a day job that pretty much takes up my whole day from 8am when I am usually on the bus to Manhattan, to 7:30pm when I walk in the door.  After that, 80% of what’s left of my moments awake are devoted to motherhood.  The usual chat and hugs between homework and dinner leave me very little time to sit down and unwind and fiddle with my projects.  What happens is that I end up sleeping at or just past midnight, but it doesn’t mean waking up later.  I will get up before 6am to start my day over the following day, no matter what time I slept the night before.

#craft toys just arrived!  Working on some #invitations using my #spellbinders #grandcalibur machine.  Just waiting for my #paperstock to arrive.  #crafthappy. And can't wait to get started!  Love these #dies..I found it rather frustrating that I came up with projects last year which turned out okay, but which would have really been “great” if only I had found the time to work on them way in advance.  So four months into 2016, (late, I know..),  I thought I’d plan ahead for the rest of the year.

So for the most part, only I can really understand what the calendar is about, but the point is for it to remind me of what I plan to do and keep me focused.  And yet again, I’m hoping to start posting here more regularly, not monthly.

Here’s what I hope to focus on in the coming months:

April

  •  Get started on my fabric clutches.  (Something I’m currently working on.)
  • Create more pieces and post in the shop. (Ongoing)
  • Start taking sewing classes at Mood Fabrics. (Free, already enrolled, due to begin end of the month.. Yay!)

May 

  • Get my tour guide license.  (More on this later.)
  • Start making pieces to wear and bring to Fiji.  (Trip planned for end of June  with bestfriend, Donna.)

June

  • Start planning my halloween costume, another paper fairy gown.
  • Design my holiday card for the end of the year.  (Need to determine materials.)
  • Create pieces to bring home to Manila in late July or August.
  • Launch bead tours.

July

  • Work on throw pillows (if the living room renovation has already started, if not, just make designs.)
  • Post a clutch for sale in the etsy shop.
  • Launch first postcard set project.
  • Take photographs and source materials in the Philippines.

August

  • Start creating the halloween costume.  (Will try to actually sew one instead of pinning one together like last year.)
  • Create paper boxes.

September

  • Work on Christmas decor.
  • Produce holiday cards.
  • Create gifts to give for the holidays.
  • Launch second postcard set.
  • Stock up the shop and launch holiday promo.

October

  • Finish holiday card.
  • Handmade gifts.
  • Put up my Christmas tree last week of October.

November

  • Mail out holiday cards.
  • Decorate tree first week, deck out the house.
  • Create wrappers for the holiday gifts.

December

  • Create and make gift packaging.  (Wrapper, embellishments, tags)

The calendar is obviously not set in stone and is meant to just be a guide to help me focus.  As crafting is not my number one priority, it usually becomes an afterthought and then a cause for a flood of “should haves” and “if onlys”.  I’ll revisit the list from time to time to report on how I’ve been doing.

“Goldifying” Metal Accents

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I have always been partial to gold as an accent, even when silver tone is what’s preferred for a certain stone or color scheme.  For one thing, gold tone accents age and fade better than silver-tone ones that tend to rust or oxidize into black.  I also love antique brass, but while it lends a rustic look to your creation, it doesn’t quite exude the same kind of elegance gold-tone accents give.  Thankfully, I’m getting comfortable mixing my metals — but I am still careful in pulling combinations.  There are times when you can get away with it, but there are also times when it just won’t work.
Gilders paste
Last year, I discovered Gilders Paste and I have a few shades handy to work into my metal accents.  I’ve experimented with using one shade and combining two different colors.  Depending on the effect you want to achieve, the applications of gilders paste to recolor your findings is endless!

This is most specially helpful when there are so many gorgeous filigree findings in antique brass and which aren’t readily available in gold.  I also like the different quality the gilders paste gives the metal it adheres to which makes the piece look personalized with the artist’s own patina.

Working with Gilders Paste

One thing you have to remember is that like polymer clay, the consistency of the paste differs from container to container.  It is important to keep the tin container sealed tight when you are not working with it.  The following are some tips to help you work better with the medium.

  • Choose an airy workspace because gilders paste gives off fumes which are chemical in nature.  It isn’t something you would choose or want to inhale directly.
  • Try to avoid touching the paste as much as possible. I use gloves when handling “wet” or “just painted” pieces to make sure I don’t get any on my hands, or that I don’t smudge my pieces with unsightly fingerprints.
  • Work on a disposable surface like a paper plate, a paper towel, or some cardboard you are looking to throw away like an old cereal box laid flat on the table, with the cardboard inside surface as your workboard.
  • Experiment on pieces similar if not the same metal as the one you are working on for your project.  Different surfaces react in varied ways — and the color of your gilders paste will come off differently depending again on what it is applied to.  Antique brass is very “receptive” to paste but it’s darker color tends to mute or darken the shade of gilders paste you are using.  Silver tone metals tend to be more difficult to apply on and doesn’t always “take” the gilders paste well.
  • Clean your piece with a dry piece of cloth or paper towel to make sure that you are applying the gilders paste to a clean surface.  If it has a coating of even just skin oil, it will affect the way your gilders paste adheres.
  • Use a disposable brush as cleaning the gilders paste off the bristles is a bit of a challenge and generally not worth the time.  I purchase these hard bristle brushes from the dollar store.  Make sure you choose the harder bristles because this will help you “push” bits of the gilders paste into the crevices of the smaller pieces you are applying the paste on, or on the finer details of the bigger items you are recoloring.
  • Dab the paste on, do not brush it.  Stipple the paste with the brush into rugged or recessed portions of the piece such as in smaller charms.  One thing I try to do is use the inside of the cover of the tin as a work surface for pieces that will fit in it, so that the bits of gilders paste that form into smaller balls or pebble-like granules can go back to the tin for future use.  (You will know what I’m talking about when you work with it.)  I would only do this, though, if you are only applying one shade.  In instances when you are trying to achieve a different tonal quality by combining two or more shades, I’d use a specific work surface for each color so they don’t mix.
  • Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you may need to do two or three coatings.  Remember to let the first coating dry before applying the next coating.  In some instances, once is good enough if you are just staining or tinting the piece and not fully recoloring it from one tone to the other, like antique brass to gold.

These are my own methods for working with gilders paste.  There are other crafters with more experience in it who use sealants or thinners depending on the application.  Try it with one tub and see if you like the way it comes off of your project.  Some crafters like the antique greenish shade to show a faux antique effect on the metal.  It has a million potential uses to enhance your projects once you get the hang of it.

De-stashing and upcycling

Promises should be kept, I know. I had promised to post more regularly but everything has been moving rather simultaneously in the different facets of my world. It has been a struggle but I haven’t quite given up yet on reviving this space.

Spring is gone, and summer is here.

While I have successfully gone back to creating and selling on Etsy, I need to step up the posting and the creating, while indulging my continuing experimentation and organizing.

Work in Progress: learning my way around a hammerThe good news is, I’m beginning to use up my stash and I’ve found a new way of creating findings by using my hammered wire. I’m also working on being braver with stringing and I’m looking to do more of that in the coming weeks. So while I haven’t posted much here, I have been doing a lot of experimentation and crafting as far as the shop is concerned. There are nights when I don’t realize how I’ve let the time pass me by as I sit working in my craft corner, and before I know it, it’s past midnight already!

Crafting has always calmed me and has helped me to bring myself to a quiet place where I can think more clearly.  Maybe that’s why I get so absorbed in the creating process and I lose myself in it.

I’m also trying to upcycle this ton of freecards (advertising postcards) that have been stocked in my attic forever.  I’m doing a “Thank You” project that will utilize them but I’d like to leave it at that for now.  That should help me move my supplies which have been sitting untouched here and in the office.  I’m trying to sort what I need and what I don’t, and trying to find new uses for what I have.

I have always had a love affair with paper and it has never been easy for me to throw it away. But things can’t stay as “supplies” forever! Yesterday, I fished out some color photocopies of some watercolor backgrounds I did maybe two years ago and pasted and cut them as postcard backgrounds. The originals had gone into my first art journal. I have also printed off some choice photos from my portfolio and I do a mod podge process which turns them into a canvas-like texture print. (To do or not do a tutorial on that…. It’s not really rocket science!)

So there.. I hope to post more but let me hit publish on this one so I can get the blog rolling…

 

 

GothamChick is now on WordPress

Moving my domain to a wordpress blog has taken me forever and a day to decide because I’ve had one on another blog server.

From the very start, I had hoped to devote this blog to the “crafty” side of me, showing the crafts I have been working on and hoping to make personal notes about my crafty exploits.  I also wanted to be able to provide tutorials, mainly to demonstrate that there is much one can do “the ordinary way”, even if you consider yourself artistically challenge.  As a crafter, I take pride in being able to produce work using the simplest materials.

I haven’t had much luck maintaining consistency in posting in my original Gotham Chick blog mostly because I try to do my posts with accompanying photographs.  I am even thinking of doing video eventually as well, but I’m trying to start fresh here.

So instead of migrating the old blog, I’m starting fresh.

This is a crafter’s blog. While there are times when I get lucky and what I eventually produce can be likened to art, I am by no means pretending to be an artist.  I have an array of artists that I am a fan of, and I take much inspiration from their works, even if I can only hope to do anything close to what they create.

Creating is a good means of expression and something I encourage in my friends.  I hope this blog helps other fellow crafters as similar blogs have helped me in my own craft journey.  Many of the things I have created are the result of hours and hours of internet research and countless experiments.  One of my personal mantras is “I learn something new everyday.”  Opening ourselves to “new things” helps us grow, no matter how young or old we may be.  I’d like to think that it helps us go through the challenges of daily life and become better persons.

I blog here, and I sell on Etsy.  My etsy shop, Gotham Chick — what else? — has been in existence for three years now.  A lot had happened in 2012 that had forced me to put the shop in the backburner or in semi-hibernation, but I’ve put the shop back online and I’m repopulating the shop with existing stock.  I am also starting to experiment and create again, and hopefully, these new ventures will find their way into the shop soon.  The first three years have seen some sales, but they can be better.  And I know I can do better if only I can focus more on the “creating” part.  This is my challenge for 2013.

So welcome to the new home of GothamChick on the web.  Join me on this never-ending crafter’s journey.