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!

Eye-Yi-Yi!

eyesWe’re almost done with Spring Semester and in between studying for finals and doing my homework, I’m working on projects for upcoming books through PolyMarket Press, my burgeoning publishing empire.

I went back to college to learn the programs needed for publishing, and I’m now one Business Math class away from an Associate of Applied Science degree in Media Graphic Design (Print and Publication). I’ve taken a lot of art classes along the way too, which, though they don’t count towards the degree, have been wonderful learning experiences in ceramics, metal work, and watercolor as well as web design and graphic arts.

I’m signed up to finish this degree during summer semester–along with finishing several new printed books and E-books. Some are mine, and some are with other artists and authors. I’m excited to see the growth of skill and projects and the forming connections that strengthen both the work and the workers.

doll-sketchesI’m also getting back to working with polymer clay now that the weather is turning warm again. I’m documenting the progress of dolls for Making Faces, Molds & Forms.

That includes new forays into ball jointed figures and making set-in eyes as well as painting eyes on clay and on fabric.

Here’s a look at a sketch for ball jointed dolls in several scales and a pair of eyes that are part of the 15 inch doll I’ve started. I’ve got the foil armature covered with a layer of paper mache, all ready to cover with polymer as soon as school is out and we are on break. It was easy to work to the right size with a sketch. Thats not something I usually do, but I wanted to give it a try along with with making the ball joints instead of a single pose sculpt.

The eyes are shown  on the back of a business card, to give you the scale. They are around 1/2 inch in diameter. I’ll be making lots more too, as I’ve got dolls to make and tutorials to write and shoot.

They just HAPPEN to be sizes that go with the projects I’m putting together for Think Inside The Box-which will feature many projects that transform boxes into beautiful miniatures in several scales and styles!

Here’s the armoire that is part of that doll’s suite. She gets an armoire, a bed, a bedside table, a rug and other decorative details, and a wall. 

There will be variations on that in other sizes and styles; but this is a start!

How DO They Do It?

polymer clay miniature mask by Shane SmithI’ve switched from the active production of masks, faces, and beads to taking pictures and editing, racing towards my deadline  to put together “A Collection Of Polymer Clay Masks” and have it in print by Halloween. It can be done!!–but only if I put in some serious Photoshop hours. So that’s what I’m doing; going through miniature polymer clay masks I’ve made and collected since 1997.

In the process of participating in and hosting “swaps” for these among polymer clay artists around the world, I’ve amassed an amazing grouping of these little beauties–each measured to fit inside a 3 inch square.

After I photograph them, my husband will mount them all in framed pieces for display. We have one such piece with over 50 masks–now we’ll have several, and we’ll be doing a gallery showing along with the book when its all said and done.  The book will also include photographs of full sized masks contributed by artists for this publication.

polymer clay cane made by Donna Kato and Shane SmithAs I was going through my carefully wrapped boxes and bags of masks, and going through my file folders on the computer, I found images I took during a tutorial by Donna Kato and Shane Smith. They had been making mini-masks using scraps of canes, and didn’t have enough leftover bits at this point  at our retreat, so they made a cane up special for it, and then Shane made some masks to show us how they were done. We each got a few inches of the cane to play with, and I got their permission to do a tutorial with the photos. I’ve got a “Making Faces and Figures” book planned out and in the works, but its not the  one I’m working on now–it’ll be a companion to this one that will show how-to, and I that is NEXT years’ project. For now, here’s a look at the cane that started these masks, and the finished pieces by Shane. Thanks so much to Donna and Shane!

masks made with polymer clay by Shane Smith

Flowers In Her Hair

ceramic flower girl maskThat’s a line from an old Cowsill’s song, an early Family Band that doesn’t get as much nostalagia air time as say, the Osmond or Jackson Family does now that everybody is all grown up. “She was the flower girl–well, I don’t know just why, she simply caught my eye….”

And here’s my own flower girl, a life-size ceramic mask glazed with cone-06 low fire glazes.  I might have to do some more of these big masks as they are indeed fun, though pretty heavy compared to the miniature ceramic masks I make more often. And speaking of those, I am now arranging my summer schedule, and THIS year I’m taking the summer off from school to finish photos and editing for my new book  “A Collection Of Polymer Clay Masks”.  It is on-track for release this Fall. That’ll keep me busy, and I’ve also scheduled a trunk show and classes at Nomad Beads in Boulder where I’ll be selling miniature ceramic and polymer faces, beads, and more! Come see all the goodies on display Mother’s Day weekend, May 8-9 at Nomad Beads, 1909 9th in Boulder Colorado, and say hi; I’ll be there creating beaded Spirit Dolls and jewelry.

Skinner Blends and More!

polymarket logo1

On our PolyMarket Press side of things, work is progressing on new books. In 2010 we will see the debut of two new books from me–
Making Faces, Molds & Forms and The Art of Polymer Clay Masks. Learning a lot more about using programs like  Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign has been keeping me very busy this year, and now I’m focusing on using them to produce new books. I’ve assembled a fabulous array of hundreds of images from polymer clay artists who create masks, and I am looking forward to sharing them all in print.

skinner blend rainbowrainbow skinner blend-completeJudith Skinner is also beginning work on her new book about the Skinner Blend, the variations of it and the many uses it has for polymer clay. There is a tentative publication date set for Fall 2010.   If you are a polymer clay artist who uses this technique and you’d like to submit images for consideration, contact me at sarajane@polyclay.com Judith is seeking the best that’s out there with high resolution images (300ppi) in a size format to fit within a 9″x7″ pages. Submission deadline is March 2010, which gives you all some time to get pics of your best pieces that make use of the Skinner Blend technique. Contact the email above and I’ll respond with the full information letter.

Images will be edited as needed to fit. Each artist will be credited by name so include that along with information as to the size and listing of all media used.  Since it was first developed and shared with the polymer clay community, artists around the world have been using this color gradation  technique in amazing ways.  Just wait till you see the variety gathered into one great book!

Houston’s International Quilt Festival 2008

houston08bLast week Judith Skinner and I were vendors for our third year at The International Quilt Festival in Houston Texas. The show is the absolute best in the world, and there are more beautiful quilts and amazing wearable art pieces than I could possibly imagine–and I have a VERY good imagination!! We go every year to promote our books, including Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay and The Business Of Professional Art as well as to sell our polymer clay jewelry, beads, faces, and Spirit Doll kits. Next year we’ll be bringing new titles as well–I think its time to ship all the books ahead, though. We take all of our booth setup and displays and all merchandise with us, and things are getting heavier the more titles we add! This year we shipped some of the books, and that worked out very well. The Houston Polymer Clay Guild helped out with Receiving and made us welcome at a lovely evening reception too! It is always great to see our friends there again.

houston08kIn addition to seeing polymer clay vendors like Jennifer Patterson and Karyn Kozak, we get to explore as much of the show as we can. There are 20 rows of booths, and thats not counting the Quilt Display areas!!

There’s an area in the farthest back block for Embellishments, where you can find us in our PolyMarket Press Booth and many other suppliers of textiles, trims, buttons and beads, and other great stuff.

houston08iLike Glitter! Barbara Trombley was there with her Art Institute Glitter. Not only do she and her sparkly assistant Nancy show off the uses of an incredible line of glitters that are compatible with polymer clay use, Barbara’s line of “Elements” make great inclusions in translucent polymer clay and all the supplies in their booth have possibilities when it comes to mixed media art that is so dear to many, including me!

As a certifiable color addict, I warn you to be careful when looking at her color samples. Many, many colors, in very many sizes–like seed beads and paint chips it can be an occasion for gazing a long time.

Where Women Create

I also had the opportunity to meet Jenny Doh, editor at Belle Armoire magazine. It was lovely to see in person someone with whom I’ve worked well and happily as a writer of the Business Of Professional Arts column there. I rthoroughly enjoy working with talented, creative people, who are very good at what they do.

It was exciting to see the “Where Women Create” booth and to meet her and the other ladies there. WWC is all about the “inspiring work spaces of extraordinary women” to quote their website. Keep an eye out for this newly debuting magazine!

Click here to see more about this exciting show.

NEW book!! Making Faces Molds & Forms

Book Cover–Making Faces Molds & Forms, originally uploaded by sarajane helm.

This is the front cover of my newest book–“Making Faces Molds & Forms”

It is a how-to guide to sculpting faces from polymer clay and using 2part RTV silicones to make molds; and thats just a start! Then I show how to use the molds to make many different faces, and use them in doll making, altered art, collage, jewelry, and more.

This book will debut in late October 2008, in time for the International Quilt Festival in Houston Texas.
(Its ALMOST finished!!)

AuntieEstablishmentarianism

Aunt Acid's tie dyed banner
I’ve been “phased out” at my day job in town and though it may sound strange to some, I see it as a kind  of liberation and a sharp nudge in the direction of spending more efforts on my own business. In addition to returning to my websites and putting items up for sale again, I’m busily working on projects that have been languishing due to my spending my time elsewhere. Back to books! Back to magazine articles and web content and photographs and more.

Aunt Acid--Ask Questions!Particularly dear to my heart is a long-term project that has been years in the making and will definitely take many more months of effort—but I think she’s worth it! I’m referring to “Aunt Acid” who is the star of her own reality,  an upcoming Internet variety show, and more.  When I got the word that my services were no longer required elsewhere, I came home, got my head together and stuck it in the oven……and felt great about it! Of course it was really Aunt Acid’s head, and she’s made using polymer clay.

Take a look at her blog to find out more on her origins and beginnings. 

In addition to creating the puppets, props, costumes, and stage sets (and stage!) we’re writing, direction, filming, and making the music. We have loads of talent and ideas tons of work to do, and no funding as yet–so we are also creating merchandise that will help support the cause. But Aunt Acid has a soft heart to go with her sharp tongue, and 20% of all profits from any merchandise marketed with the Aunt Acid “brand” will be donated to her favorite charity, “Feed The Children”.

Who is she? Aunt Acid is a tie-dyed tempest with a teapot and a wicked sense of observational humor whose satirically sharp wit goes along with a soft heart and a hard head.  She’s a puppet with purpose and a comic sensibility, and she speaks her mind on every subject. And although she’s not finished, Aunt Acid is the sort that gets going anyway. Her website is started but is also a work in progress. The Aunt Acid Show will be airing later this summer, and I’ll be sure to tell you more as it happens.

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!

What Mask Today?

mask by Val Aharoni“What Mask Today?”
Thats the question that is posed in Valerie Aharoni’s beautifully articulated miniature polymer clay mask. Shown here in closed and open versions, Valerie’s mask has a variety of different looks, depending upon how it is arranged.
Submitted to the Internet Miniature Mask Swap 2006, hers is a colorful take on an age-old issue. It’ll be included in the upcoming book “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks”, due out later this year from PolyMarket Press. There are hundreds of masks included in the collection, and most, like this one, measure less than 3″x3″ and are made of polymer clay. I’ll be featuring them here in this blog as I continue to work on the book, and you can also see more at the other side of this Creative Connections blog and at the Polyclay Gallery website. I’d say I’m about one third of the way done with photographs. If only seeing them all like this didn’t give me such an urge to go hide in my studio and make more!

mask by Valerie Aharoni

Masks!

Mask--Sherry BaileyWork is well started on photographs for this years new book “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks”. There are somewhere around 350 miniature masks in my collection from a decade of Miniature Mask Swaps with my claying friends on the Internet. I’ve had them all tucked away awaiting the time for photos–and thats now! I’ll be posting more as I go with peeks at masks from the upcoming book. Most of the masks fit inside a square 3inches by 3inches. There will also be photos of some full sized masks in the book.

Its exciting, unwrapping all the little goodies from years past and taking the pics–but its daunting too. There sure are a LOT to go!! I’m lucky that each is different and its a fun, visually interesting and mentally challenging project, because it’ll be consuming most of my time for the next several months.

mask by Jeanne RheaThe mask seen above is only a few inches tall and made of polymer clay by Sherry Bailey, who started the first Internet Miniature Mask swap in which I participated back in 1997. The mask seen below is also very reminiscent of a treasure from the past–but made last year by Jeanne Rhea.

Masks and more masks!

Blue Ice Mask-Linda WeeksThe Christmas and Solstice Holiday decorations are all put away into the closet for another year, and I’ve even straightened up and vacuumed my workspaces. (Seeing the floor is a rare event).

That includes both the polymer clay and sewing room and the computer and photo space. Both are set for some serious production pushes.

I’ve got the new database for this book all set up and the digital photo work station is up and running. (More about that in a later post).

I’m going through all the submitted images of polymer clay masks that have been sent to me so far, and photographing the masks from many years of Internet Miniature Mask Swaps.

In the next few months I’ll be archiving the work of many artists and more than 300 masks. I wont’ know the exact count till its all done! And when all the pictures are taken and all the information documented, I’ll be more than half way to the next book “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks“. Due out in June of 2008, I’ll be putting up images of some of the little lovelies (and full sized ones too!) that will be featured in the book.

Shown here is “Blue Ice Mask” by Linda Weeks, featuring polymer clay, feathers, and rhinestones. This is just one of the lovely mask images she’s submitted for the book, and its very appropriate for the weather today!

Books and more books

Ukiyo-EI love books. And while I am a big fan of stories and words, I admit that I also get them just for the pictures. I adore going to the public library and I believe that thats where the “free” part of free speech finds its most equally available home in America. Anybody–absolutely anybody–can go there and look at books and magazines, as long as they are behaving themselves in a non-violent way.  But though I keep many of “my” well-loved books on the shelves of the library when I’m not reading them, there are some that I just have to own outright and keep at my house for whenever I want them, no sharing neccessary. Two of my favorite places to buy books are at Amazon and through Bud Plant’s catalogues. Mr. Plant specializes in very reasonably priced art and comic art books. Great illustrators, wonderful compilations—it is a treasure trove. I’ve recently updated my Books section on my web site with two pages of  recommendations from the newest selctions there. And, there are also 4 updated pages of books available from Amazon having to do with dolls and miniatures, textiles, and more. 
large Japanese Girl Beads
The book shown above is Ukiyo-E, Japanese prints from the “Floating World”, which has been a HUGE influence on my own artwork. Japanese prints also influenced the work of artists like Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, and other greats.  I like to use the pictures as reference when making my Japanese girl beads and pins with polymer clay. The colors in these meticulous block prints really speak to me–even though they were created as much as 150 years ago!

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!

Spirit Doll Kits

spirit doll kitJudith Skinner and I are VERY busy getting things prepared because we will be doing the Houston International Quilt Festival November 1-4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas. All sorts of new faces, jewelry, kits and beads are being created and packaged for sale. I’m having a particularly good time putting together Spirit Doll Kits, and utilizing my stockpiles of hand dyed silks, cottons and rayon in ribbons, lace, and cloth, and building up each set around a miniature polymer clay face mask.

So far I’ve got 75 kits in 3 different sizes and styles! (And I have one week to finish all the packaging and packing…eek!) Some have cotton jersey cloth thats been tie-dyed, or cotton or silk handkerchiefs or cotton plush velour; with three different sizes and pricepoints there’s lots from which to choose! Visit the polyclay.com website to see some of the others.

If you are in Houston at the start of November do come and see us at the Quilt Festival, where we will be in our PolyMarket Press booth, #1951. In addition to all sorts of polymer clay beads and embellishments, we’ll have our book “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” and also the new book, “The Business Of Professional Art”.

Seeking Images of Polymer Clay Masks

The Art Of Polymer Clay MasksI am currently seeking high resolution, professional quality digital images of polymer clay masks  for review and possible inclusion in The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks
This new book is scheduled for release in June 2008 through PolyMarket Press.
Images need to at 300dpi resolution. Masks can be miniature or full sized, wearable or wallhanging, but must feature polymer clay as a primary material.
I will be showcasing my accumulated collection of miniature masks from previous Internet Mask Swaps as well as showing larger pieces by myself and by other artists. I have more than 350 already, but more is better. This book will be pictures and some information, with another book taking care of how-to aspects of making masks. This book is meant to spotlight the art itself–so send in pictures of your very best masks.

The deadline for sending images to me on a cd for review is January 15th. Email me for the mailing address at   sjpolyclay@comcast.net  if you are interested in participating. CDs WILL NOT BE RETURNED. All accepted artwork will be credited to the artist by name in the printed book.

Thank you in advance for your potential interest in this project!

This Little Poly Went To Market…

PolyMarket Press
PolyMarket Press
is the name of my own little publishing empire. I’ve authored books with Krause Publications as well, and last year saw the debut of “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” as the very first book through PolyMarket Press.  This incredibly colorful , informative and highly detailed book was co-authored by Judith Skinner and myself, and it is self-published, and printed through lulu.com .

calendar by Sarajane HelmI’ve also got a new version of a favorite set of illustrations done into a calendar for 2008–
“The Pig Family Has A Party”.

Ever wonder why those little piggies were so busy? When “This Little Piggy Goes To Market” it’s in order to prepare for the Pig Family Party! 12 brilliantly colorful, delightfully detailed pen and ink drawings by Sarajane Helm along with silk painted borders by Chris Murphy illustrate a fresh look at this familiar piggy tale.

Business Of Professional ArtAnd there’s lots more to come! We are celebrating the purchase of our first block of ten ISBN numbers and preparing for the upcoming release of this year’s new book, “The Business Of Professional Art” in November of this year.  A compilation of columns first published in Belle Armoire magazine between 2003 and 2007, this pocket-sized book is designed for artists who yearn to earn and to be successful entrepreneurs. Each column addresses a different aspect of sales and is packed with information and tips on how to present your art to the buying public.

Publication dates for the third and fourth books from PolyMarket Press are targeted for July 2008,  with “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks” and “Making Masks With Polymer Clay”. The first will feature photos of miniature masks from my growing collection, and the second will concentrate on how-to projects creating miniature and full sized masks.

Face to Face

Amazing Mold Putty circular
There I was, standing in the aisle at Hobby Lobby looking for the mold making product I needed to locate for my students in the Making Faces And Molds class that I’m presenting today at our local bead store. And when I found it, I saw a familiar face–several of them in fact!

I recently did a photo tutorial/project and some promotional samples for the company that makes Amazing Mold Putty. I have the full tutorial on my website for those that want to see how its done.

I had not yet seen the store promotional piece in its final print form until I saw it in the aisle, and I have to say, they did a wonderful job! I’m very pleased with how good it looks. And, its always great to see your work in print out in public! Take a look for yourself at Hobby Lobby in the aisle with the polymer clays and tools. Take a little look here; I’ve reduced the scans to fit this blog.

Amazing Mold Putty adI’ll be showing all sorts of pictures and faces in the books on miniature masks and faces that will be coming out NEXT year on PolyMarket Press. What was planned as one book grew into two.

One is a photo-book of hundreds of miniature polymer clay masks and also larger scale masks.

The second is be a how-to book. Look for “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks” and “Making Faces” in 2008.

PolyMarket Press is my small but growing publishing empire. Judith Skinner and I created our debut book last year, “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay”. We each have plans for more books to come, so you can tell that we enjoyed the experience enough to do it again!

Tools and More!

Wusthoff knife, blade and cutters
I’ve just started an *aStore* over at Amazon, where I list great books and tools, including the ever popular Atlas Marcato Pasta Machine and Motor and the FABULOUS Wusthof Cheese knife. This one’s a favorite with Judith Skinner and I love it too. Most clayers we’ve shown it too have wondered where to get it–its on sale now! I’ve also listed Varathane in the quart size, spray Varathane and more hard-to-locate items.