Transformed!

The process of transformation can be fascinating–I love starting with a flat, shiny sheet of copper, brass, bronze or nickle silver and then using electricity, fire, hammers, rollers, and chemicals to change it completely. Each step along the way–patterns, textures, shapes and colors is part of a trail of discoveries. After etching, hammering, cutting, creating a patina, waxing or spraying,  grinding, filing and sanding–I have developed a relationship with the metal!

Some pieces I make into earrings, pendants, and bracelets. Cuffs are great because they offer a larger “canvas” to show off the gorgeous colors that are possible with patinas. The processes involved are a mixture of precision and serendipity, and seeing what occurs is a gift that I get to unwrap each time. Sometimes surprising, always fun to explore; each piece is individual.

In addition to metal, wood, ceramics, polymer clay and textiles, I’m changing things around here at Creative Connections as well. I’ve been building up inventory all winter long, and now that the snows have melted and Spring is here, its time to get things out to market.

I am now selling finished jewelry and components for designers who want to use them in their own art. The Store section here at Creative Connections is just getting started, and will continue to grow, so do please check back again soon to see what is new!

A Beautiful Challenge

There were are many challenges to be met in 2016, and the results of some remain to be seen. The challenge that my beady friends and I undertook turned out really wonderfully. Our group has been beading together for a while, and we share our discoveries of new stitches, new suppliers, and the occasional project.

The parameters of this one when it started last year were that we use the two pieces of fabric and the packet of beads we were given. Anything else could be added..and it needed to end up as a piece of wearable art.

Last week we got together and three of us showed what we had made. We’ve still got several members’ work to be unveiled, and I am looking forward to seeing what they did!

 

Abounding Beads

The Longmont Bead Group meets on Thursdays…and sometimes on weekends…because we all love beads. Its also more fun to work on time-consuming projects with friends so that the hours fly by and the beads get strung, woven, embroidered, braided, knit and crochet, and more. One member gave another a cloth owl that was totally bare of embellishment, and what was to be a few hours of beading stretched WAY beyond–but looks fabulous.

We help each other learn new techniques and share our sources, sometimes buying in bulk together (sometimes just buying in bulk, period, because one just NEEDS that many!) I recently was guided through the intricacies of spiral and straight herringbone stitch, have learned right angle weave and peyote stitch, and how to knit and crochet with beads. Connecting with friends and learning new things is great for the mind, body and spirit; and it is easy to become isolated if you don’t make that effort. Hang out and be creative with a friend soon!

 

Growing Pains

bjd-2015-cover-webSome months there is just too much to do–too many projects and not enough time or energy to do them all. Still, that’s a far better problem than being bored, and I can thankfully say that I am never bored. During May of 2015, lots of projects moved along tremendously.

I worked on websites for clients using new templates and sliders, and branched out with a new website of my own that features my dolls and miniatures titled “Its the Little Things.”

I put a new cover on the Ball Joint Doll  print tutorial .pdf showing all three sizes of the bjd’s made so far. I am also editing the 11 part video tutorial of the same and will be finished with that next week.  I am promoting the Polymer Clay Adventure wherein these two tutorials are exclusively available, along with how-to projects from more than 20 other polymer clay artist instructors.

I’m also continuing to find the occasional odd hour or two (often on the bus) to do some knitting. I’ve learned to add beads to the yarn and to reduce and increase stitches. I’ve tried knitting with 4 needles, and made a scarf and hat for my doll Aurora Rose, along with a little beaded purse.. I’m working on a tunic for myself, with beads on the sleeves and front section, and it is about half done, and will likely be just in time for fall, if I keep at it!

beaded-bagsAlso coming along is the work to make Creative Connections a Non Profit Organization that will allow me to expand the reach of what I do, bringing classes and mentoring to emerging artists in schools, community groups, and organizations. Stay tuned for more about that this summer!

AR-hat-scarf-purse

Fall Fortune and Luck

I didn’t realize that its been so long since I last posted. It must be because I’ve been so busy this year with the FRCC Art Club, with finishing my Media Graphic Design degree (one business math class to finish and I’m there!) and all the stuff that has happened this year with family, floods, and other such Stuff That Happens.

Even in the midst of turmoil, I manage to get a few things done. Look for the release of two new books from PolyMarket Press this month, and two more of mine in the works for next year’s releases.  I’ve also ALMOST finished my Fortune and Luck necklace that is a fabulous cascade of pieces that I’ve made or collected over the years. The from the 16 strand kumihimo braid that is the basis for all the hanging bits and pieces, to the mahjong tiles, religious medals and mementos of my travels, this necklace was many years in the accumulating. I have to add the endcaps and clasp, and it’ll be done!

More Kumihimo and Metal Fun

closeup-pendantI’ve been having a lot of fun going through my beads and ribbons and fibers to make lots of kumihimo braids and turn them into necklaces.

I’m using bronze and copper metal that I’ve etched to make the end caps, and I’ve etched lots of pendants in bronze, brass, copper and even a bit of silver here and there,  including mehndi style hands.

There’s been lots of cutting and soldering,  filing and sanding going on in the daytime and braiding on the kumihimo wheel at night.You can see some of the endcaps and hand pendants here.

I am making the jump rings from bronze wire, and they will connect pendant pieces to the necklaces once I solder them closed. And file them, and sand them, and patina them and buff them up  on the raised spots to a nice shine!

I have another dozen or so of the starfish and shells to cut out, but at least the metal has all been etched, so that necklace is well on the way–a mermaid’s delight with lots of coral and pearls, alabaster and knotted rope.

mermaids-delight-1

My goal is 20 necklaces by the 1st week of May, as well as finishing up a collection of anodized titanium earrings and pendants, some of which will be on the kumihimo necklaces.

 

So much to do–but it comes along if I work on it every day.

Today, I took a few pics of what I did earlier this week and I’m going to do my math homework and then string up another set of bobbins for the next necklace, which will be purples and silver.

I’ve already shopped in my bead drawers and picked out what I need, just need to string up all 8 bobbins and I’ll be ready to go!

Beads and Braids

kumihimo 2
2012 was filled with lots of learning curves; the final arc of some and the beginnings of others, plus lots that are ongoing.

I’m blessed with creative family and friends, and together we got a lot accomplished and have all sorts of plans for things to do in 2013, including school, art, writing and publishing. Last year a group of us took a local class and learned bead crochet. Some good friends in Houston gifted me with a kumihimo disc and bobbins when I was there and assured me it was fast and easy, and they were right!

kumihimo1I’d say that kumihimo with beads is at least four times faster than bead crochet, but both have different good points that mean I’ll be doing some of each in the future. I look forward to trying crochet lace using wire and beads.I like the look of my hand-dyed silk ribbons and beads in braids also. They look great with my little faces and hands, especially when combined with a bit of seed bead embroidery, a little beaded fringe…

I’m having a lot of fun trying different variations of fibers, ribbons, chain and cord and using some of the wonderful beads I’ve collected over the years with the idea of making some beautiful necklaces to display my work. You have to have samples if you want to sell components!

Crochet and kumihimo braids both make great beaded ropes for using with large focal beads and pendants—like the ones I make using polymer, ceramics, metal and my friend Mad Margie’s fused glass. The two blue and black cords shown here will go with one of her dichroic glass pendants. The black and cream spiral will probably go with a face pendant…or perhaps an etched metal hand. I have etched metal ends and clasps made from bronze and silver to use with them too. I love how things all come together, eventually.

I’ll be putting finished jewelry with dyed textiles made into wraps, and  I’ll take more pics when it is done. I’ve even got plans for  professional art photographer Ricardo Acevedo to do a shoot this year–but first, I have a lot of finishing up to do. I get to bring together so many different creative techniques and processes, with lots of color, pattern, and texture. What a great recipe for a happy new year!

New and Old Years, New and Old Projects

spiritdoll pinkpurple session1Not only have I made a start on the pink and purple spirit doll, I’ve also had some great ideas recently about how to combine textiles, metal and clays to do bead enhanced spirit dolls with ceramic and metal bodies. I’m looking forward to getting back to school in the new year to make up examples of what I’ve been seeing in my imagination. A few things finally fell into place with the “how will I do that?” aspects and I look forward to realizing these very soon.

In the meantime, there’s lots to do with making up Spirit Doll Kit Samples and getting the bits and pieces all pulled together for making the new ladies and producing new finished work to get out to stores and galleries.

So much to do–and I do love doing it! Over the semester break I’ve  had a chance to rest, see family and friends, read, and to delve into my art supplies to work on old and new projects both.

What a wonderful year of artistic and personal opportunities its been in so many ways…and I’m looking forward to more in 2012!

May we all appreciate and cherish  the marvelous parts of  our lives, past present and future…with lots more to come!

day1-pinkpurple-spiritdoll

A Little Handiwork

I’ve been busy with all of my classes at Front Range Community College this Spring. That’s true of the classes that I’m taking now, the ones I’m preparing to take in the Fall, and the ones I’m listing to teach this summer through the Continuing Education department. We are still working out final dates as the Boulder County Campus in Longmont CO is closed on Sundays, so the classes listed as being on Sunday now will be moving to a different day, probably Friday. But that’s ok–online registration isn’t open yet anyway. I’ll update the dates and the links to register very soon, but for now you can take a look at what classes are coming up!  You can also see polymer clay beads on wire pendants I made in our metal jewelry classroom and how I strung the hand bead that I made of ceramics and PMC (Precious Metal Clay) that was featured in the previous post–here it is now.

Events & Classes In 2011

polymer clay facesHappy New Year to all!

Last year was certainly busy–so chock full of Things To Do that I see I haven’t had time to blog since August.

I continued taking classes at Front Range Community College, and as part of that I learned more about ceramics, metal work and jewelry, WordPress and Drupal and other Open Source Code solutions, and finished the layout of my new book in Adobe InDesign. (The new title from Polymarket Press is “A Collection Of Polymer Clay Masks” and it is available now! Click here to order an autographed copy)

There are some GREAT classes to be had at community colleges, and I’m getting  a lot of value out of the ones I take as a student.

Beginning in 2011, I’ll also be teaching 4 classes in polymer clay there through the FRCC Continuing Education program. Click here to see the listings.

I’m also excited to be an instructor at the fourth annual Cabin Fever Clay Festival in Laurel, MD. This year’s line up includes many wonderful instructors, and they are also honoring Judith Skinner for her contribution of the Skinner Blend and her work throughout the years. Having written “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay with her, I know first hand what a very talented and lovely person she is, and I’m very happy to see her recognized in this way. She’ll be teaching a class about ways to use the Skinner Blend, and I’ll be Making Faces! Teaching a class in sculpting faces, that is, and in making molds. We’ll even be shrinking our faces from the molds to make smaller versions–learn how at the CFCF this February 18-23.  Click here for the Registration Form.

Fringed floral fantasy!

beaded face pendant by Laura Humenik A summer time face pendant with a flowered babushka head wrap and beaded embroidery shows off  luscious fringe in beautiful  shades of berries and teal with long crystal twist  is a great example of the fun can that come from collaborations. I made the face from polymer clay, and Laura Humenik of LandS Glory Artisan Jewelry did the yummy bead work. She has amazing patience, a wonderful sense of color, and has collected an amazing variety of beads. Her beautiful pieces are wonderful–do take a look at the the LandS Glory gallery page. Laura creates all sorts of things that are better with beads–pendants, necklaces, Spirit Dolls and more plus dyed textiles that showcase more of her love of color!

I’m making lots more polymer faces in the same “babushka” style with lots of different millefiore cane patterns for the headwraps right now, and I will show them off in the next few weeks. Between the silver and bronze metal clays, ceramic clay, and polymer clay, (even painted textile faces!) I’m making hundreds of faces, and each one a bit different. Be sure to check back in the next few weeks to see more!

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Millefiore Canes

millefiore canes in polymer clayI’ve been working with ceramic clays lately in addition to all that I do using polymer clays, and there are also precious metal clays in bronze and silver, and now there is even glass clay, made using frit. I enjoy working with them all, and will continue to show off what can be done with them at my website Sarajane’s Polyclay Gallery.

I’ve been re-doing the pages there and just finished the brand new page on making millefiore canes using polymer clay.

I LOVE making canes, and this is a technique where polymer clay has all sorts of advantages over other kinds of clays.  Not all polymer clay artists use caning as a technique–some sculpt, paint, texturize and do all sorts of things without ever create these little packets of pattern.

Other artists do nothing BUT make canes and sell them to others to use. Many artists use their own canes to create fabulous jewelry, sculpture, objets d’art, and even illustrations for books and magazines.

Here’s a horse covered with millefiore canes made by Judy Summers. Jewelry artist Klew made the gorgeous necklace  and pendants using her cane slices applied to other shaped pieces of polymer clay. Carolyn Potter’s curvaceous goddess is also covered with quilt block style canes.

These are only a few of the incredible artists using canes in their work.

New Necklaces

newnecklace2, originally uploaded by sarajane helm.

I’m still busy getting ready for the International Quilt Festival in Houston at the end of October, and I’ve been making lots of new beads, and stringing beads into necklaces too! Here’s one of my favorites with a handbead pendant, and coin shaped beads of fossilized coral as well as other kinds of beads. It features a sterling silver toggle clasp.

You can also click on the gallery pics here to see more new wearable art pieces!

My Favorite Time Of Year!

Day of the Dead with Aunt Acidoh, I do love the time of year when summer is over, winter isnt here yet—and the fall weather starts to make  inroads into the garden. There are wonderful holidays at this time, including Halloween, when I’ll be in Houston Texas at the International Quilt Festival again with Judith Skinner, taking lots of new beads, jewelry, faces, and other items made from polymer clay, plus spirit doll kits and more. 

The Day Of The Dead gets celebrated around here for more than just one day, as do many holidays. This year my polymer-clay-headed spokesmodel Aunt Acid is taking a turn displaying her flowers and skulls decked out in DOTD finery and seated with her dogs in the front window of Nomad Designs, a fabulous bead bazaar in Boulder Colorado where you can find all sorts of exotic things.

When the Spirit Doll Moves!

flowerdoll.jpgI’ve been having fun playing with face masks, dolls, and beads. All the cotton jersey that I’ve previously dyed has been cut into fat quarters for making into doll bodies and spirit doll kits. I’ve got some premade bodies that were dyed as well, and I’ve put together dozens of kits. Now I’m ready to make more sample versions so people can see what can be done with the kits. Here’s the start of one floral doll. She still needs lots of beads though! It is important to remember that spirit dolls take several sessions to really come together.

Spirit DollIt all takes a long time….but eventually it’ll all be organized together into a how-to book and a lovely display of dolls, kits, and polymer clay faces. This book comes AFTER the new “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks” in its release date.

March Window at Bead LoungeI’m working on the text and pictures at the same time. It’s making for a very busy winter, when you also factor in my “Day Job” building web pages for other artists, musicians, and local businesses.

From here to there

masks by Melanie West
I just put up a tutorial page about using my digital camera, a portable studio box from Digital Concepts, and Adobe Photoshop. I use one of Melanie West’s miniature masks from the swap last year to illustrate the setup and the process of fixing images for better use.

portable photo studioThis is the setup that I used to do photos throughout the book “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” and also for photos on my webpages and in upcoming books.

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately taking photos for my own business endeavors including The Polyclay Gallery, and for other clientele locally. Practice and camera familiarity really do help to improve the skills involved and to get me more usable images. And having good lighting sure counts for a lot!

But truth be told, for me it is the Adobe Photoshop program that lets me really make the pictures look much better. No matter what I’m shooting–beads, dolls, jewelry or step-outs to show the process in a tutorial, it is all made better looking with Photoshop. Cropping, resizing, and image editing are only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to this powerful set of tools.

learn to photograph your beadsThe Adobe Photoshop Elements version contains everything most artist would need for use. Versions like CS2 or CS3 are more powerful by far, but contain much that may not be needed by the individual who just wants to document their work beautifully. Professional graphic artists of all sorts can enjoy a lot of potential in presenting their work if they have good digital images.

I really enjoy my digital camera, whether using it outdoors for the big wide world or indoors for beads, jewelry, masks, and how-to tutorials.

There’s a lot more to come; I’m working on several projects at once. Do take a peek at some of the photos on the links here!

Front & Center

Pieces at ChristmasI had fun with my creative co-workers  decorating the Christmas window of the local bead store here in town. We just kept adding more and more…fused and slumped glass bowls, hand dyed silk scarves, dolls, the miniature quilt store, (which we decorated  for Christmas too),  a polymer clay covered wagon and even Golde in a box.  She’s my full sized cloth doll, who shows up in many different roles here. This time she’s wrapped up like a present right in the front window, along with lots of other hand made gifts and goodies. The pictures here are all of the little store “Pieces”. It measures 2’x4′ and is in “fashion doll scale”.

Pieces--a miniature quilt store

Handmade Holidays!

Handmade HolidaysThere’s a movement afoot this year to promote handmade items for decorations and gifts during the holidays. Now, this is something we’ve ALWAYS done here at my house, because I love the excuse to bring out the creative opportunities. Lots of homebaked cookies with colorful icings, an almost historical archive of all the years’ decorations on the tree, and lots of fun making items to give as gifts. We don’t spend a lot of money. We prefer to spend time and energy on making quality holidays that are memorable and shared.

This year I’m talking up that same idea at Bead Lounge, the local bead store here in town where I work as the class coordinator, web designer, and one of the  talented staff of bead artisans. I’m putting the store window together in stages this year, and here’s a little part of it so far. Still to come are more additions which will include putting the miniature quilt shop “Pieces” in the window all decorated up for the holidays too. We’re promoting making your own jewelry, gifts, decorations–and also buying from other artists who make things.

Belle paper doll setYou can see one of my dolls dressed up as an angel here. She’s got the same face that I drew for my paper doll series for the “Heirloom Lady” and “Belle”. Both those paper dolls have the very same outlines and face, but Belle is a dancehall girl with poofier hair, cleavage, and more frou-frous and furbeloughs on her outfits.  And a beauty mark!

Later this month I’ll add the full sized cloth doll Golde to the window, but her Santa Belle outfit isnt quite done yet. And, I prefer to do this window in stages rather than all at once so it doesnt get boring  for who are looking in at the store displays. Stay tuned for more!

Home again, home again

floral cane earringsMy, but what a lot of traveling I’ve done this Autumn! The Holiday Food and Gift show in Denver, The International Quilt Festival in Houston, and two days of classes in Columbus Ohio with the polymer clay guild there. I had a great time with them, and also got a chance to get together with family and friends.

I’ve got an upcoming Bead Buglearticle about the results from the millefiore caning, mimicking textiles, and beautiful beads classes. It should be on-line sometime this month.

Shown at left are a pair of earring dangles (no hooks on them yet!) made from canes made in those classes. I’ve been having fun making charms and dangles with baked cane slices using my leather mini-hole punch from Tool-Smith. It makes the cleanest easiest holes through baked polymer clay!

millefiore floral caneThe triangles at the bottom of the dangles show one way that color can be gradated in polymer clay canes. This kind of “3D” color gives the illusion of blend when it is taken very small. You can also see it in the petals of the rose shown here.  Polymer clay artists David Forlano and Stephen Ford of “City Zen Cane” made this color stacking  technique very popular at one time. Along with Judith Skinner’s “Skinner Blend”, these two techniques allow for the appearance of shaded parts in cane images. I love the way I can get a very graphic style in clay and then take it down in scale with reduction!

millefiore geometric caneThe wedge from which the dangle slice was cut was a leftover piece from the making of the cane shown at left. The similar uses of form, color and multiple repeats are very much present in textile designs too.  Sandra McCaw uses these kinds of color stacks in her caning process. Hers is far more precise than mine, and taken to much greater levels of reduction and recombining. Its always interesting to see how different artists can use similar materials and techniques in ways that suit their own styles.

Upcoming Classes In Columbus Ohio

Polymer Clay Millefiore Canes

The Columbus Ohio Polymer Clay Guild has invited me to return to my old hometown and offer three polymer clay classes!

I’ll be there at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center Saturday, Sept. 15 2007, 9-12:30 and 1-4:30 and Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, 1-4:30 to offer the following:

CANEWORK–MILLEFIORE TECHNIQUE
MAKING BEAUTIFUL BEADS
CANEWORK–MIMICKING TEXTILE DESIGNS

Click here for all the information!