Masks and More

mask and moonlight

I just returned from the Tougaloo College Summer Art Colony in Jackson Mississippi. This year was #12 for this week long celebration of art. Its also the second time that I’ve been there as an instructor. Our class made masks, spirit dolls, icons and boxes, beads and more…all with polymer clay.  Click here to read more about it and follow the links to see what we made!

The mask shown above is a full sized domino style mask. We also made a lot of miniature masks, making the original sculpt and then creating silicone molds using Amazing Mold Putty  by Alumilite. The bacground in the banner is a digital picture of the night sky with full moon as sseen from campus. The picture didnt come out all that well–but parts of it are beautiful, and as instructor Carmen Hathaway (Digital Dreams) tells her students, the original photograph is just the starting point. I would have eagerly taken her class–or any of the other classes given by VERY talented instructors. Seeing what other artists do, and speaking openly with them about making and marketing art is tremendously inspiring and helpful. I had a wonderful time at the Artists Colony, and I encourage everyone to spend some time this summer viewing the work of other artists and making more of your own!

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A Smashing Time, Dahling!

I went to Jackson Mississippi and conducted a week long seminar at Tougaloo College Summer Art Colony where we explored the uses of polymer clay. We had a wonderful time!
Click here to read more about this fabulous event and follow the links to see what we made…lots of masks, and some spirit dolls too!
The only “downside” to the week were travel oriented, and even that wasnt too unexpected or awful. My luggage is ALWAYS gone through, so I’m careful to put all my blades in metal tool boxes (lunchboxes from American Science and Surplus ) that have a flat magnet on the lid. Meant to hold a business card, I put these magnets on the inside of the lid, and they do a great job of holding all the extremely sharp blades flat to the surface so that nobody gets hurt. The pointed sticks, though, people will just have to watch for themselves when rummaging through my things. And the multiple X-Acto knives, and the cookie cutters…. Ok, so I have potentially dangerous  luggage. I find it to be MOST dangerous when I’m hauling both 49 pound check-in bags and my 30 pound carry-on and the ten pound purse by myself across the concourse, trying to make it to the next stop. A pasta machine can leave a pretty good bruise, if you arent carefull! But the BIGGEST danger was to my luggage itself this time. After 5 years of vigorous travel experiences, my favorite toolbox got a little smashed. Its fixable—just a few pieces broke, includint the nose of the face. I was wondering when it WOULD break, actually! We tell students about “The ToyBox Test” in which I rated the strenghths of various brands of clay by making miniature teapots and putting them in my son’s toybox with the tonka trucks, etc. and then checking on them several weeks later. The FIMO and CFC (this became Premo) teapots were OK, the Cernit teapot had a ding in its spout, and the Sculpy teapot was some colorful chunky dust on the bottom of the box.  This test can also be done as The Bottom Of The Purse Test for those without a toybox and helpful assistants. Or, The Airport Test! This Premo clay made it through quite a few trips before coming to its smashing conclusion. And since I felt a little bashed myself (can they MAKE those airplane aisles and seats any narrower??) I do understand!

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We’re Dyeing For More Color!

dye swatches

 

We’ve had rain all the first part of this week, and we needed the moisture. It is beautiful in a sunny way today, and we’re starting into the annual dyeing days! Today is prep day–I’ll be mixing dyes, and getting them into the bottles.  I just ran off the sheets of labels for the plastic bottles. This year we have:
#03  Golden Yellow 
#05  Soft Orange
#8A Pagoda Red
#09  Scarlet
#13  Fuchsia Red
#14A  Hot Pink
#15  Amethyst
#18A  UltraViolet
#19  Plum
#19A  Lilac 
#21  Teal Blue
#23  Cerulean Blue
#25  Turquoise
#27 Midnight Blue
#28A  AquaMarine
#37  Bronze
#44 BetterBlack
#45 Jungle Red
#47 Chartreuse
#50 JadeGreen
#60  Lavender
#62 PeacockBlue
#64  Orchid
#96  Lapis
#97  Citrus Yellow
#105  Pewter
#111 Black Cherry
#112  Periwinkle
#113 GoldenBrown
#115 Eggplant
#118  Yucca
#312 Strongest Red
#510 Basic Brown

silk spirit doll detail kitWe use Procion MX series coldwater fiber reactive dyes. We’ve found that labeling the bottles after mixing them up makes it easier to tell what’s what, when you have lots of colors. We also have bagged swatches (that’s the picture at top) so that we know how the color is going to come out, mostly.

Another good tip I’ll share with you is to mix your dyes with water and then pour through a coffee filter into the bottle, that way those pesky little red or turquoise spots are not a problem.

Spirit Doll KitThis year I’m dyeing lots more pieces of turned wood, because I LOVE how last years batch turned out. No ribbons this year–I did a lot of them last year.

They went into the current crop of Spirit Doll Kits along with the cotton and silk fabrics, and polymer clay faces. I’m selling them on Etsy.comwhich is an on-line site presenting handmade and vintage items. I’ll be adding lots more items in the upcoming weeks as I clean out the studio and help fund upcoming shows and projects.

 

dyed textiles and ribbons

I’ll also be dyeing some t shirt dresses and shorts for my own summertime wardrobe, and backdrop and curtain fabric that will be used in the Aunt Acid Show. They WERE beige muslin–how drab!! They were great when I did out door shows and needed backdrops that did not compete with the displays. But for this particular show, we can take LOTS of color. I’ve been gluing mosaic set pices, and things are coming along splendidly in a visual sense. Now for another big dose of color, and we’ll be onward into the Summer of More Love…and we happen to love art and music and humor, so I’d say these good times to “Be Happening”.

Speaking of summer time fun, I’ll be teaching a week long seminar on using dyed fabrics and polymer clays to make spirit dolls, icons, and masks this summer at Tougaloo College Summer Art Colony. July in Mississippi is time for some HOT ART!!

colorful doll bodies

 

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Guitar Art

Tumbling Blocks GuitarBryan Helm makes audible and visual mosaic art.  Some of his instuments can be used for music. The ones that can not keep a tone are recycled into beautifully encrusted works of art that Senor Gaudy might well have liked.

He uses polymer clay, glass, wire and found objects and each finished instrument is different. Here’s a photo of the back of it that I’ve taken into Photoshop and played with a bit, taking the creative connections even a little bit further.

Many of the impressions that were stamped into the polymer clay tiles that cover this piece were made using custom stamps anda molds we had made at Ready Stamps in San Diego, using dingbat fonts to create our own designs, then to rubber–then to polymer clay and now here.

We’ve recently opened an online shop at Etsy.com, where handmade items are featured for sale. Please do come and take a look at our items up for sale there, which include the Tumbling Blocks Guitar shown here and in the book “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay”.

He’s recently finished the Little BlueGlass Guitar, and has just begun the Big Green Twelve String. We’ll be sure to show it off when it is finished!

He is also tiling a table for a commisioned piece locally, and it features gorgeous ceramic tiles that have crystals grown into the glazes, made by Fa Shimbo.

 I’m gluing too–working on the tiled backdrops and set pieces for the Aunt Acid Show. That’s sure to show up here in the blog soon too!

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Backstage Life

Aunt Acid on her soapboxFor every scintillating moment of a fabulous show, there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours of creative work that go into making it happen. “My Dad has a barn–my Mom has some costumes in the attic…lets put on a show!”. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland knew how much went into each shining moment, no matter how easy they made it look  in the final cut. Lighting, sets, costumes, hair and makeup, choreography and music, and many more special skill sets and jobs come into play. Things progress from the design phase, where many choices are tried out and refined until the designer has a pretty good idea of what to do to make it all real. Then the production phase takes over, and things have to be flexible in the process of making the designs come to life. Intricate work takes a great deal of time and effort. But oh, my…it really is worth it. At first glance, you’d never know what all goes into making up the event you see on stage.  Things start out as ideas, progress to sketches and more specific designs, and with a great deal of attention to detail on the parts of many people , things get done.

Lately we’ve been working on lots of things that tie up together in creative connections. We’re making mosaic tiled tables, set pieces for our upcoming Internet puppet show extravaganza, “The Aunt Acid Show“, encrusted instruments, even a sequined soap box or two. Costumes and props, stage and set construction are all progressing, and Aunt Acid herself is all pulled together and ready for her fittings and her closeups!

setsketch.jpg

This is the design sketch for the show’s set pieces.
Just wait till you see how THAT turns out!

With a show debut date of July 4th, we’ve got a
tremendous amount to do…
Check in again soon and see how its all coming along!

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Give The Little Lady A Hand

Aunt Acid's handsI’ve been working for months now on getting ready for “The Aunt Acid Show” and it’ll be a lot more work to come before we air the first episode. We’re writing the segments, the music, creating the sets, the costumes and props…even the star and supporting cast.

Aunt Acid is a puppet, a performing artiste, a political humorist and a spokesmodel. She’s taken a while to come together , but the progress has been fun, and documented along the way. Her head is polymer clay over papier mache, and now I’ve added the sections pertaining to her body and her hands. These are NOT pc, but rather fabric over wire armature.

Does using two colors of polar fleece for the skin mean she’s bipolar? hmmm….. maybe!

The final stitches are in place, and as soon as she’s had time for her manicure (gotta make the nails!) makeup, and hair she’ll be ready for the photographers.

head  http://auntacid.com/originalsyn.html

body http://auntacid.com/auntiebody.html

hands  http://auntacid.com/handsoff.html

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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Wolf! Wolf!

Wolf Mask by Patricia EdmondsIt is Winter time, windy and cold, and the wolf is at the door….

Well, not precisely at the door. This big bad winter wolf is a picture of a miniature mask made by Patricia Edmonds using polymer clay, measuring less than 3″x3″.  And instead of at the door, it is in the folder with the pictures that have been photoshopped and are ready for inclusion in the new book “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks”. But before I can get onto the job of laying out all the cool pics onto the pages, I have about another 200 to photograph. So I’ll be busy for quite a while, Red Cap mask by Bernadette Mangiestaying warm in the studio with the help of the lights!

Shown next is a miniature polymer clay mask created for the swap by Bernadette Mangie. This Little Red Cap has no fear of the Wolf; she’s used to them! 

These masks are both from the Internet miniature mask swap 2006. Do remember that you are seeing them at close to actual size!

There were over 90 in that swap alone, and I have a lovely collection now that reaches back to 1997. Before I can host another one of these swaps, I am pledged to catalogue the collection. Then Bryan will mount them all into framed groupings.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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”.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Cutting Edge

Wusthof knife
This month has moved along at a frenetic pace, even though I’ve been moving a bit slow due to the heat. Hopefully we will soon be done with the days that range past 95degrees F, because I’m yearning to get back to my claying and step away from the computer a little more often. Thats difficult to do when its my “day job” but the bigger sticking point Varathane Sprayis just that–the stickiness. Clay is simply too soft to work with well when its too hot or too cold, prefereing the Goldilocks “just right” temperate state somewhere between 50-85 degrees. Thats why they call it “thermally reactive”, in that clay gets soft when its warm and hard when its cold. But those days are JUST around the corner, and I have many hours of both production and playtime ahead of me in my studio. I’ve been stocking up on peripherals like transfer images, foils, glitters and inclusions, and more for quite some time–and now I get to use them all!
Rust-Oleum Varathane
One of the things that people have a hard time finding is Varathane Indoor Waterbased finish in  the quart size, and the Varathane spray as well. Both are compatable long term with polymer clay. And both are available through Amazon.com at a very good price! I have just set up an *aStore* there that lists these products and also the Wusthof cheese knife, (shown above) used by Judith Skinner in our recent book “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay”. This knife is incredible! we love it for slicing through bricks of clay and for cutting 4 1/2″ strips and sheets for precise caning (thats how long the blade is) and for cutting wedges and stacks. Its simply the best we’ve seen, and both of us are constantly on the look-out! I’ve also picked out a great selection of cutters–you can never have too many cool cutters. The sets are reasonably priced, and I’ve included my favorites. I hope you like them too!

Wusthoff knife and assorted cutters

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Summer-izing it up so far…

miniature PC masks by Karen Cowles

oi! What a summer full of work its been so far. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a minute to stop and post here in a while. The garden is going full tilt–all the lettuce is gone and the raspberries are done for the season. (But we froze 16 lovely bags full which will be great in muffins later this year and next winter too.) Now my daily garden time is spent watering and pulling the weeds which tend to thrive wherever you water here in Colorado. We don’t have a big farm or even a little one, just a backyard in a small town with a few small plots and a few big black pots that trees once arrived in from a nursery. We recycle and reuse as creatively as we can…with the addition of some good dirt and even better compost from a local dairy, we have thriving tomatos, peppers, cucumbers, herbs and 5 kinds of squash plants!

In addition to an hour or so a day in the garden, I’ve been growing lots of website pages and blogs, both for myself and for other clients. That includes helping my husband with his musical podcasts and blogs, though he’s becoming very self sufficient at it these days. He’s got quite a bit of original music up for listening, and more to come. I’ve been hearing and enjoying it for years; now its YOUR turn!

I’ve been busy sorting and gathering and bagging beads too, preparing for show and for upcoming classes, kits, and bigger projects like the next books. Polymer clay masks are all ready to be photographed and mounted this week, with the frames prepared and databases for the artist information all prepared–its a serious lot of work just to get ready for some projects. The amount of effort that went into making all the masks is enormous, but its also been spaced out over five or six years and done by many different artists who participated. That sure helps!!I’m really looking forward to putting this one together, and its happening now, this very week. And for the next several months as well! Bryan will be mounting and framing the masks as I finish their photos.  As I sort through them now, I’m really struck again by how wonderful they all are–so many extremely cool little pices of art! Shown at top are two from the 2006 mask swap made by Karen Cowles. Check out her website at www.choosetothrive.com

Right alongside of that giant miniature undertaking is production of new beads and new polymer clay faces and more masks! Before we show off the masks on the walls and in a new book,  I’ll be traveling back to the ol’ stomping grounds in Ohio in September, where I am very pleased to be offering classes in Bead Making and Millefiore Caning through the local polymer clay guilds. More about that in my next post.

I’m also very excited to say that work is well underway on the many aspects of preparing for our “Really Big Show”, as Ed Sullivan used to say. Scripts, songs, websites and blogs, puppets and even the theatre itself all have to in place and running before we bring up the curtain. As every one who has ever participated in theatre of any kind knows, there are years of work that go into a single hour’s performance, and its done by many hands and with the use of all sorts of skills. We’re close to being able to share the progress, and thats what’s keeping me pretty busy at the moment. Visit again soon and find out more!

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Hot Daze

Miniature Vanity Set

I’m going to play with dolls today, and let my project dreams roll around in my head while I do the day’s tasks early so that I can get to the parts that are more fun. There’s something about the heat on long summer days that really encourages day dreaming, memory drift, vintage perfume labeland imaginative play. Perhaps its because its just too darn oppressively hot when its in the 90’s by midmorning to be comfortable in the physical world. Maybe brains let the thoughts sputter around more freely when warm, like kids playing in sprinklers. I don’t know and its really too warm to worry about it…maybe thats why its so much fun to hole up with a good book or a project in the shade! Especially if you get the heavier work done early–then its perfectly alright to spend a few hours on pursuits a but more whimsical!Not that I’m going to be entirely frivolous–the play is also work, but “funner”, as any kid would know. There are two big little projects to do this summer, and I’m making my way slowly with both. There are hundreds of miniature masks to be photographed for the upcoming “The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks” book, and its a perfect season for doing that–lots of light!

2'x4' miniature quilt store

The other miniature project is another store. Last year saw the production of “Pieces” a miniature fabric store made and stocked with polymer clay. In it, I had the fun of combining my love of textile designs, miniatures and set design, quilts, and polymer clay. I had lots of help, too, as other polymer clay artists helped stock the shelves with miniature “bolts of fabric”–which were all polymer clay. Even the plants are polymer clay. It was originally intended as a display for use in the book “Adapting Quilt Patterns To Polymer Clay” by Judith Skinner and me. That was the official excuse—but it was also SO MUCH FUN!!! I still enjoy shuffling the hundreds of bolts into different piles, and someday they will all become parts of a wall hanging…but not today!

vintage soap lableToday, I’m thinking about the NEW store, which is in the same scale (1/6, which is also called fashion doll scale and also 1’=2″. click here for a page with more information about miniatures and a scale conversion chart). If Barbie were a quilt maker, she’d shop at “Pieces” for her fabrics. And, if she were shopping for things like cosmetics, perfume luggage, and fashionable accessories, they’d all be in some fabulous storefront.

vintage hair lableminiature version of hair lableSo here I am, dreaming of little perfume displays with framed antique labels for boudoir decorating pleasure, tiny luggage with labels from far away places and more. I’m also being practical about it–the luggage is to be made with polymer clay and formed around cookie cutters and petit-four cutters, and the perfume bottles made with beads and a bit more clay..I’ve been sorting the actual beads and will do more later! (There are kits and a how-to in the making)

The perfume labels for both bottles and art come from the same source as the luggage labels. I am thrilled to have at hand cd’s of vintage art from Stan and Russell at Twisted Papers. They have antique travel ephemera, vintage labels, and textile designs all on cds at very high resolution for artists to print and use. Because I can size them to different scales, they have all SORTS of uses!!

“Vintage Label Collection Vol 1: Perfume Health and Beauty Products” is a personal fave, as is the vintage travel series. I’m showing you just a couple of the fabulous pics that I’ll be using in making displays and products for my new little store–there are 306 images available on this cd alone!!! I have plans for transfers, charms, collages—lots of ideas for a hot summer day. See some of the travel labels and a bit more info about this treasure trove here at a previous blog post.

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Twist and Shout

travel label from Twisted PapersI just love old ephemera. Even the word “ephemera” is wonderful–it has a faded paper sound to it when you say it out loud. Old ticket stubs and programs, maps, vintage valentines, designer’s sketches, antique advertising, sheet music… lovely old paper products. I’ve always enjoyed using things like that in collages, and we have boxes of carefully collected magazines that go beyond the usual National Geographics. (though we have some of those too!! One of the interesting things to remember about copyright law is that it pertains to making copies. So I can legally take these magazine photos, or catalog advertisements, or any paper ehemera and use them–without making any copies–in my artwork. If I want to make copies, I use artwork that is in the public domain, that I create myself, or that has permission granted for artists to use. This last catagory includes clip art that is installed in computer programs that come with your computer and all the Dover Pictorial Archive images. They have thousands of books with images in many catagories, and they are also now making them available on cds that come with the book. When purchased, the owner of the book has permission to use the images in their work, though not to just create a copy of the book or cd itself for sale. These images can be used in so many different ways! I have a Japanese Heraldic Crest symbol used on my business cards and printed materials. I’ve used them to make rubberstamps too, through Ready Stamps (for more about that, click here). Between Dover Pictorial Archive images and dingbat font images, I have had dozens of stamp sets made. They are my favorite tools!

travel art from Twisted PapersIn addition to using images to make molds and stamps, transfers can be created using liquid polymer clay and a print out from my deskjet printer onto Epson Glossy Photo Paper. This is particularly fun to do with colorful graphics that can be scaled down in size for miniature and doll use.  My newly found friends Stanley Pekarsky  and Russell White  of Twisted Papers have an absolute treasure-trove for all artists who share my love of ephemera. They have very high quality vintage images available on cds for artists to print and use. They feature collections of travel oriented and advertising art, postcards and valentines, ticket stubs and menus (like the two shown here). AND they have many cds of the fabric designs that belonged to the design firm for which one of them worked. They now have the rights to these lovely textile designs in several colorways, and those with the cds can use them to make cards, hangtags, all sorts of printed or web-based use! I have great plans for the weeks ahead…and I’ll show what I do with them later. I’m going to make miniature luggage and travel posters for my upcoming doll store as well as perfume ads and labels and all SORTS of things!! Thank you Stan and Russell, for collecting and sharing these fabulous images.  

Take a look at their other site, Midnight Rainbow to see even more vintage goodies.

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How About A Hand…

Sister CollywobbleI spent an hour or two yesterday looking at links on the ‘net, and adding several favorites here, plus a little re-organization–some links fit in many catagories; they could be Dolls/Miniatures or Puppet/Props or Costume/Textiles…so be sure not to overlook some great links due to the organizing, do poke around! I’ve added more than a dozen new links. Quite a few are in the new Puppet/Props catagory. We really like puppets and all sorts of animation here at our house. “Gumby” was one of the first popular claymation characters that helped introduce American audiences to the potentials of polymer clays. Although made with the non-hardening varieties, the clays offer ease of  movement that animators love. The “Wallace & Grommit” shorts and features made by Aardman Animations are another well known use of clays in animation. Cloth puppets often make use of some clay parts, notably eyes and teeth, and polymers also make for great costume details and props. My son Ian is in film school, and uses puppets in many of his movies. Here’s one created for his movie “Collywobbles”. Sister says “Do It Now” which is sort of a family saying here….

He used polymer clay to make faux rocks in which the  Title was inscribed—much easier tha carving REAL rocks. The creative connections come home to roost  along with the chickens here at our house, and Ian gets a hand here with the costumes (from Mom) and music for soundtracks (from Dad) and a round of applause for the finished productions from the rest of the clan. In his spare time he writes reviews with his cronies–take a look at confusereviews.com if you’d like to skew your slant on the day with some darkly humorous pokes at movies, games, books and more.

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Font Fun

Hawaiian quilt pattern with polymer clayI’m a happy font-fiend right now, because I found a wonderful  (and FREE!) program called The Font Thing at Downloads.com to manage my fonts for me. This is not an insignifigant task–I recently removed close to 800 fonts because they were making my computer a wee bit slow to load on some programs…and yet, I still have 785 fonts left. Almost half of them are dingbats. That’s a “pictorial glyph” for those who arent already familiar with them. Dingbats are used to pretty up the page by printers, and web designers. But what I like to do best with dingbats is to take them into Photoshop and use them to create graphics in black and white which I then send off to Ready Stamps in California to have made into custom unmounted rubber stamps and also molds (the matrix tray) for use with polymer clay. For more information about that, click here.

dingbat characters
With The Font Thing, I can easily view each character in every font, scale it up or down in size to view, and group the fonts into catagories. It can call up all the available information about the font and its designer! I can put all my dingbat fonts into a folder and inactivate them until I need to use them. That means I can go back and get all the ones that I recently deleted, or shop around the various font sites for those that are freeware or shareware. The black and white graphics seen above are from a font called “Schluss-Vignetten” and it was designed by Dieter Steffmann. Those are the letters/dings for e, f and g. The Hawaiian Quilt graphic was created using a dingbat called “Hawaiian Quilts 1,2 and3” overlaid onto a graphic made with polymer clay tiles, using Photoshop again.

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Another Day, Another Dye

ribbons and bamboo beads dyed with ProcionWe made it through the Big Dyeing Event and it all worked out very well. My hands and back are really tired, but the backyard has certainly been well watered with all the rinsing.

The ribbons, lace, scarves, cording, fabric, hats, bamboo beads, wooden pieces and tshirts have all been dyed, rinsed, and washed, and now I’m rolling and tagging and getting things ready for sales.

icon doll kitNext up on the “to do” list is making more polymer clay faces to go with all the great new colors, and putting them together into Spirit Doll kits–I’m going to the Houston International Quilt Show again this year in the Fall, and so this Summer is going to involve a Big Production Push.  Lots of things to get done….Musician Bill Nelson says in song “People who do things, are people who get things done”.

I’ve been busy writing  articles for Belle Armoire and other magazines, and working on books to the point that I’ve been spending less time than I need to on the actual polymer clay work, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to that!

cotton dyed hatsThough I’ll be photographing as I go, because the dyeing process is part of one book, and the polymer clay masks are part of the next one up–“The Art Of Polymer Clay Masks”.

I have to work pretty steadily on that for the next two months in order to make it happen this year. It will be self-published through Lulu.com as is “Adapting Quilt Patterns To polymer Clay” with Judith Skinner.

I’m still working on migrating this site to the one that I maintain myself, but I havent figured out how to get tags to work there as they do here–in the meantime, I’ll make use of both lobes of my brain and both ftp sites and maintain both for a bit! Please do visit “the other side” to see the features available there that aren’t here.

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“We who are about to dye..”

dye bottlesIf I’m going to make colorful puns (and I am, just accept it) then the whole quote would have to be “We who are about to dye, solution you. ” Which is probably only funny to textile artists and those forced to take Latin in school…if that. But the colorful fun IS about to start here in my own backyard–after several days of unseasonable cold weather, we are ready to get saturated, with color and water both.

I spent yesterday mixing the dyes–42 bottles of saltwater and dye, ready to go. You see them here in a wading pool, and its just one of many. We have a soaking solution pool for the soda ash, a rinsing pool, and many many buckets. We have color swatches for reference, bagged items all tagged for premo beadsthe color pots, and my presence is shortly required out there, so I’ll finish up here with this picture of Premo clay beads in a colorstrand that helps me keep track of mixes and blends. The goal is to dye lots of things that will go with the polymer clay beads, faces, and more. I’ll be back with pictures later this weekend!

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