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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A New Product & a New Tool - Cosmic Clouds

We, as artists, go through phases where we are driven to take our craft to the next level. Maybe you are working towards more complex canes, improving color mixing OR maybe driven to solve a stumbling block to benefit clayers everywhere? My current challenge is in creating THE Ultimate Faux Batik... I just adore everything Batiks have to offer artistically. And, I keep an eye on a lot of various art forms, because most have at least 1 thing we can bring to our clay studio. 

The above photo is of a piece called Cosmic Clouds, created by woodworker Tim Yoder. Woodworker, who knew, right? The video is a bit long & doesn't pertain to our clay until the 22 minute mark, but watching the 1st 22 minutes is an incredible treat IF you have the time. Tim's lathe work in downright mesmerizing! Check out the video then I'll share a fun trick.


Doesn't creating that platter look like so much fun? Made me want to go buy woodworking tools  :D
I fell in love with the Jo Sonja's Iridescent that he used, they are fabulous, aren't they? I raced to  to pick some up... so in demand that Amazon can't keep them in stock! But, hoorah for my beloved Dick Blick's - they carry the Complete Chroma Jo Sonja's line & for an even lower price than the company that makes it. I picked up the Iridescent set of 6, as well as the Metallics set & the Basics colour collection. Also noteworthy... they make their own brand of  mediums for much less than the more 'well known' thinning mediums out there and they work beautifully!  Here is a link to the page for ordering from Dick Blick's. By the by, I Don't get a commission of any type for sharing the link, it was just the best deal out there. Mediums are at the top of the page - a complete list of available colors are at the bottom of the page.

I used a 50/50 thin (using Jo Sonja's medium) just as the artist above did & Really liked the effect! But, getting the effect created a 'need' for a New tool. As you saw in the video, this product HAS to be moved by air to achieve that 'cloud' look. Now, I'm falling apart like a cheap suit, & my Biggest health issue is that I have breathing problems. I initially thought I could blow through a straw... boy was that a major fail! So, I beckoned my beloved & was able to get him to blow, though he doesn't breathe much better than me. Well, he sweetly 'blew' for me for about 10 seconds... and then informed me - my art by proxy Isn't MY art. Gave me a nice hug & was off. I really do believe even for a person that breathes very well... you couldn't get the cloud effects we want. 

 Yep, time for Liz to start thinking outside the box

As we saw, Tim spent about $50- for the airbrush pot & a few quick snap connectors. But even before that $50- can be spent, we would need the air compressor. I looked into air compressors many moons ago... not only are they very pricey... but they are big clunky tools that need a Lot of space I don't have. I'm chomping at the bit to resolve this stupid dilemma, & grabbed my nebulizer to do a breathing treatment. Then, the light bulb flickers on... a nebulizer IS an air compressor. I'm tearing off the mask so I have just a small tube  - point it at the color & viola... a New tool is born - WooHoo! 
And, nebulizers are a fraction of the price of air compressors. PLUS a nebulizer kicks out the precise amount of air flow needed, so you also eliminate the need for the Extra's to make it fit our need! The cherry on top? You can (or at least I can) go to  pretty much any day of the week & find a Cadillac of nebulizers for $15 - $25- bucks. I keep 1 for me on each floor & needed a designated 1 just for art, so I went online to Craig's & picked up this one, a real beauty (though they are all pretty much the same) for $19-... how sweet is that, right?

 Another big benefit over traditional air compressors is that nebulizers are very compact.
I have to say, I love ALL the Jo Sonja's products I got. The basic colors are much sharper than many other brands I've used. And, I found that in thinning All the colors instead of just the Iridescent, they layer magnificently 1 atop another to create some really nice Faux Batik patterns. Of course, the Iridescent standing alone really rocks also! Every bit as beautiful as NASA's CGI galaxy photos! Another nice side note, all of the colors are high PVA content, so they can add addition strength to our 'more fragile' pieces. And, you've Got to play in crackle with them IF you do pick some up!
I find myself wondering, what are You struggling to overcome today? Do you have an 'Artistic Kryptonite' that wants to steal your fun during studio time? Hahaa, spell check just told me Kryptonite isn't a word... just ask Superman, he'll set you straight on that! I find myself wishing life's troubles & dilemmas could be solved as easily as many of our studio nemesis' can. We are still up to our elbows in alligators under our roof, as I know many of you are fighting your own battles also. So, for anyone struggling with 'whatever'', say a prayer and know there is No truer statement than this...

Duty beckons, but I'll return with one of my all time favorite techniques for combing the beautiful cane we built with 'quilting in clay' for a stunning new look.

Until we meet again,
Happy Claying from ClayPlay Liz & Mickey Kitty

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Quilting 101: 9+2 is a 10... Really

I thought it might be fun to teach you a snappy little 'basic' trick. Think polymer clay checkerboard cane... on serious steroids! We all know checkerboards, right? Extrude some solid colored clay, stack, reduce & have a good time, right? And don't get me wrong, I adore checkerboards, maybe more than many, because I only work in large pieces. Checkerboards are great eye candy between primary cane designs & final borders. But, checkerboards do have several 'down sides'. Let's take a peek.

1st, we are somewhat locked in on color - use solids OR for a smidge of creativity... we can 'marble' our color to a degree - but solids are the Only way we have any design control. 2nd, when you are only covering a teansie area, our cane doesn't need to be 'perfectly precise', but on a slightly larger piece like a bracelet, imperfections are obvious. And the the larger our pieces, whether a box, canister or even a larger jar or vase...  the more glaring those slight imperfections. The cane above looks fine, but would be a travesty on a larger piece. Another consideration, although some are blessed with that awesome $250- slicer, most of us are slicing the good old fashioned way. The larger our piece, the more essential it is that we have slices that are of the exact (or at least extremely close) same thickness, otherwise simply smoothing our piece will 'warp' our design.  Quilting is all about absolute precision & control in every aspect of our design - with the added joy of simplicity.

The formal name of this little ditty is a 9 Patch, what the quilting world calls a simple basic checkerboard. We simply roll our sheet through the pasta machine, so ALL of our work is the exact same thickness. Instead of being limited to just solid colors, we do surface work to assure every single centimeter has lovely design, when we choose. I LOVE working in faux Batiks, & have some great ways to reproduce them to share with you... tomorrow. So, 2 big obstacles are overcome, easy cheesy & fun playtime. Now, how does this compare to conditioning, extruding, reducing & imperfect slicing?

1: Set out selected decorated sheets.
2: Cut horizontal strips in desired thickness. ( Often times, I will use 1/8" to 1/4", 
    depending on size of piece being covered.
3: Lay your strips 1 next to another, following the color charts. I will use 4 strips 
    instead of 3 ONLY for 2 colored 9's. 
4: Make vertical cuts equal in distance to horizontal cuts. IF strips are 1/8" tall, then 
    they should also be 1/8" wide.
5: Lift sections of 3 pieces together at once & set these together in groups of 3 per 
    line for 9 pieces total. 
6: That's it, a few slices, set slices in a line, a few slices & set together in groups of 9.
    These entire process takes 2 minutes IF you needed to mist your workspace 1st.

 2 Color checkerboard like you see in this photo.

Checkerboard with 3 or more colors

Ok, we've got a lot of checkerboards, what shall we do with them, beyond 'usual' border type work? Well, you can build 'squares with a few more simple slices that match the height & width of the 9 patch. For example, IF your 9's strips are 1/8" high, then your height & width for 'squares' are 3/8"h x 3/8"w. The REAL fun is selecting the color combo's you will use. Here's a few ideas for some interesting ways to mix em' up a bit. As with ALL clay, it's just a justartig point, our creativity decides our path, right?

   Play with your colors, adds to the fun as well as your layout.

 To shake it up a bit more, add a few extra strips & rotate the 2 blocks. Easy cheesy - looking even better!

Here we can alternate 9's with faux ceramic tiles. Photo is from Connie Kresin's website...
Freemotion by the River . You should follow her, you will learn so much about color & shape from her, she's fabulous!  This design is on my 'To Do list' to play with.

Or we can use a few to build 1 new 'block' as a focal point OR simplify to add borders to a completely different design.

So, when is 9 + 2  a Total 10?

Sorry for taking the long scenic route here. I wanted you to have a bit of 'foundation' before the Really REAL fun begins. Now, you are sitting at your table with a plain old sorry to say 'somewhat common' 9's checkerboard & you want an easy way to amp that beauty up? Simply cut it 2 times, 2 simple sweeps of your blade, like so...

I like to set my 9's on glass over a graph that has all cuts marked so I don't even have to measure. It takes an extra 30 seconds & is instant stunning. And, when you are arranging several together, as with our Kaleidoscopes, wonderful complex designs appear. And. playing with color placement changes the finished look in the same way.

Duty beckons for now. But when I return, I'll bring a cool way to combine our canes with strips in 1 of my all time favorite ways... & I'll leave you with a taste of our next 9's lesson... by adding a few more cuts. 

Have a wonderful day!
ClayPlay Liz

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Quilting in Clay - Part 2

   I have been up to my elbows in alligators here  in my personal life. I'm not sure even 36 hours in a day would be quite enough. I've had to 'steal' studio time the last few weeks, treasuring my quiet creative moments. Isn't it just the sweetest comfort, to step away from the chaos & hustle-bustle of life & just get lost in our 'playtime'? To be honest, returning to the blog has been a worrisome burden, a 2 edged sword of sorts. My pc is cluttered with over 700 gigs of goodies to post, so there is certainly a lot to share with you & an urgency to get it off my hard drive.  But... (don't we just hate the ''but'?) I feel anxious - like I should be 'teaching you' as I am posting.  I realized this is actually pretty silly. First & foremost, ANY 7 year old can 'quilt in clay' with the same precision as any adult. I promise you, it's so easy it defies reason!  In a nutshell...

1: Select your object you will be 'covering'. This technique ISN't recommended for small
    1" pendants, although I'm certain some of you may try. I pick up assorted items, from
    small tins & medium sized glass & ceramic canisters to medium sized cool wood
    boxes. And my all-time Favorites, large to mammoth sized clay pots & uniquely
    shaped yard jars.  Cover your item in a BASE of medium thickness Sculpey Original.
    It is a fraction of the price of the other clays out there & you will need the softness of
    Sculpey to keep adding to your piece Without conditioning.
    NOTE: IF your piece is porous, seal with a base coat of PVA white glue.

2: Decide on the design (pattern) you will be using. I will, most often - either Combine 2
    different patterns to create an entirely New pattern that looks incredibly complex, but
    of course; isn't - OR will mix my pattern with solids for the easiest designs yet. Isn't it
    odd, many times the easiest is the most stunning!
3: Create your sheets. This can be done by either covering your sheet with canes you've
    built OR utilizing attractive surface techniques. The magic IS in your sheet-work,
    making certain your sheets are the same thickness. A uniform thickness in your piece
    will be important, & there's nothing to it with your pasta machine. 

4: Decide on the SCALE you will be working on. I work in anything from 1/8" to 1/2",
    but most often find that 1/4" is perfect.

5: Using 1/4" as a sample... cut your sheet into 1/4" HIGH strips horizontally. IF you are
    using squares - next cut VERTICAL lines every 1/4". For 1/2 square triangles... simply
    cut some DIAGONAL lines & now you have perfect triangles. We'll look at diamonds,
    60* & even 10* in another post.

    NOTE: I keep 'cheat sheet' grids for virtually ALL the different patterns I work in that
    I will be posting to share with you. Don't fret thinking you are going to have to 'reLearn'
    that basically useless geometry & algebra to enjoy your clay playtime! Simply mark
    your 'grids' onto a piece of poster-board, cover with glass & after you are done with it,
    drop it back in the stack of handy grids that store easily.

    NOTE 2 - ANY time we are doing a 'landscape' OR a pattern that requires a template
    to keep it simple & easy (& Fun), I will post that also. You can print it 'to scale' on your
    regular printer & I purchased 1 package of 'Quilters Template Plastic', a literal lifetime
    supply from Amazon for $10- bucks. You only need 1 (yes One) for any given unique
    shape & size & reuse it... forever.

6: You can EITHER apply your individual cut pieces to the item you are covering OR (as
    I often do) lay out an EXTRA piece of paper thin Sculpey to build your block (or several
    blocks) on & apply the 1 piece of designed clay to your focal piece.

  Bottom line is, ALL I have to show you is 1 single block & you will get it. EVERY pattern that I post  initially will have Complete diagrams for both cutting & assembling. I do have designs that instantly stole my heart that I will be posting also, but not until you've been walked through some complete 'how-to' designs 1st. You will find, once you get the gist of quilting, you'll be able to look at even the most seemingly complex designs & will instantly 'get' how to recreate it.

   My emphasis will be on what I see as an experienced 'quilter in clay' the most critical areas of this art form. Not only the design (pattern we will be using)... but even more so... the color schemes we will be using to design with. Color WILL make or break our artwork. I will walk you through some Really Awesome (those 2 words should be in caps, I believe) new products - & some old products that aren't really being used by clayers - as well as some COOL new techniques. With these, you can create even what appears to be the most expensive  Batiks on the market today. And believe me... you are in for a grand 'creative' time.

   And, the reason I'm NOT going to feel like I 'need' to teach you... we are joined on this little playground by some of THE top recognized teachers in the PC community. I have every confidence others will be jumping at the fun of quilting in clay... & look forward to seeing what everyone will be adding to make this a wonderful growing area of play... just like caning. And, before I forget... for those that will jump in right away...

~~   DON'T mix those left-over sheets into mud piles... I have a technique to teach you (I'll call Scrappies) that will be to clay quilters what Stroppel Canes are to caners...  just as beautiful & easy cheesy!

So, there is NO 'don't use my concepts'. I invite you to play till you drop, bring in your own artistic vision & SHARE your socks off. Whether you are sharing your own tuts that you sell, creating pieces to sell that use my ideas OR you are the 1st to publish a book to introduce this technique to a hungry growing market... good for you! I hope you make a bucket of money. I'm about the art, about creating & about FUN! The more people that can walk away from life's burdens, if only for a few minutes here or there to really relax & enjoy Creating... the more happy people there will be in the world.

Happy Claying,
ClayPlay Liz

Disclaimer: I KNOW I don't have to say this... but IF you want to allow your 7 yr old (or 'youth' in general) to play in clay... be certain they aren't allowed to use ANY tools or instruments that are beyond their ability to use Safely. ... as if that needed to be said. Hahaa... now my legal counsel is a happy camper  :D


Friday, January 20, 2017

Quilting in Clay: Part 1 - Precision Personified

We all enjoy creating canes and slabs, but what do we do with them once they are created? Or an even more trying question, some of my favorite techniques are creating sheets of crackled clay or inked sheets that mimic batiks - what pray tell do we do with these? My solution was 'quilting' in clay. NOT as is currently recognized - ie: create a cane from extruded clays... but instead using my sheets to create quilt designs.

The process is so easy it's insane. After deciding on a pattern, use a ruler (or pattern grid - more on that later) & slice your sheet, applying pieces in proper order on top of a soft layer of Sculpey Original. As I look at the photo above, initially the pattern looks very complex and I honestly wouldn't know where to begin to build canes to duplicate this pattern. And, quite honestly, IF I could sort out what canes to build, I doubt I have the skill to build them in a way that absolute precision could be maintained. But, for the above pattern, a simple long slice creates strips. a few more long slices creates squares and triangles - easy cheesy done. And IF you find you enjoy this technique, you will master looking at quilts with an understanding of how they are assembled.

Are you ready to create artwork like this?

I will be adding NEW Categories, the 1st will be Quilting: Flat. Quilting: Flat will refer to a solid non broken finish (as opposed to dimensional work) & will be geometric in nature, differentiating from the landscape category. There will also be sub-categories that will be added. 1st is Basic... this will include the easy cheesy patterns of basic geometric shapes as above. It will include simple strips, squares & triangles. Here are a few more of the types of designs you will find patterns for in the Basic sub-category.


The next sub-category will be 'Complex'. This will include patterns that have parallelograms, isosceles triangles and (more important) curves or circles. I have pattern grids for the 1st 2 but usually cut a card stock pattern for the curves. These are still relatively easy, but do require a bit more thought. Here are a few samples of the types of patterns that would be considered 'Complex'...

Now, it's time to introduce you to Judy Niemeyer. Judy is to the quilting community what Carol Simmons of   is to polymer clay. Let me preface with IF you aren't familiar with the pure genius of Carol Simmons, you need to follow her blog. IF I had to pick just 1 teacher & that would be the only voice I could hear, Carol would be my mentor. Fortunately, there are more generous teachers within the polymer community than there are minutes in a day... do be certain to grab a front row seat IF she teaches in your area. Judy Neimeyer, like Carol & Captain Kirk take their artistic genres to levels others never imagined. With Judy, she was the 1st to combine the brilliance of color use with an awesome blend of landscapes meets traditional quilting. My next sub-category will simply be 'Niemeyer'. Although not every work pattern will be her... she is the heart of this art form & it will be easy for me to remember. Fortunately for us... we work in clay & can reproduce one of her designs on a large piece in a matter of days... whereas her designs in a full quilt can take well over a year. For som intense eye candy, be sure to stroll around her site   Note that I will be sharing a really cool trick for quickly & easily creating 'spears' - her trademark use of triangles... that makes recreating her type of designs a breeze. 

Now, for the 4th sub-category - I will call this 'Backgrounds'. True quilting combines connecting pieces to create the over-all pattern, but then sews a background pattern into the pieces. These are easy to integrate into our designs which take our art pieces to a whole new level. I am also guilty of turning background pattern designs into the focal point artwork. Take a peak at a few, they are just beautiful... and easy cheesy!

And now for the 5th & final sub-category... I will call it 'Links'. ANY patterns that make me think of inter-locking chain links, whether they be borders, large patterns or Celtic knot-work.Here are a few samples, although I'm sure you get it.

So, there is the gist of Quilting: Flat & the associated categories. When ever I post to Any quilting category, I'll be placing everything I need to do it in clay, including patterns - often including variations in pattern & photos, so we can just hit the table & do it. I've begun restructuring menus to include quilting sites & artists that will be added to the left hand menus. You should blow around online a bit, the inspiration within the quilting community is incredible & quilters are great about sharing patterns & ideas.

This is specially pertinent for me, because I often integrate fabric into my clay work. Just remember, until I do full tutorials on integrating fabric, a few points to remember:
1 - Working over Sculpey Original or a similar Soft clay is where the magic begins
2 - Glue coat between fabric & clay. Elmer's All-Purpose is ok
     Gorilla IF water resist is needed
3 - IF using over vase that will have water OR doing full window art tapestry
     where condensation or moisture is an issue (tut forth coming)...
     be certain to waterproof fabric. (tut forth coming for that too)

So much to post, so little time.
Hope you get to play in your clay today!
ClayPlay Liz

P/s: Here's a pdf link to the photos in the slideshow - enjoy. 
Slideshow Quilt Photos

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fly Eyes & Staggered Kaleidoscopes - Ancient New Art Forms

Decades back, I played with making kaleidoscopes... really real kaleidoscopes. I felt they were magical, every instant they create a completely new image. They are literally reinvented moment by moment. Imagine how clever I thought I was when I created my 1st new polymer clay technique which I called 'Staggered Kaleidoscopes'. I began initially working with canes I built & later began integrating fabric with my clay.

Fly Eye inspiration - because inspiration determines uniqueness... or so I thought.
I played a bit with Fly Eye lens when I was making kaleidoscopes. It was a fun way to turn a 16-24 section kaleidoscope to well over 40. Do you know what fly eye lens are?

Here is a view of the lens & below are views of the world through these unique lens.

When I created in clay or combo clay / cloth, I staggered my design - sometimes design was butted flush against each other, sometimes I separated sections with a coordinating color, hence the name I gave them, 'Staggered Kaleidoscopes'  Imagine my surprise to find I'm Not as unique as I believed. Although my personal inspirations may have been somewhat off the beaten path, this an an artistic expression that has been around for 1000's of years. With the internet, I was able to follow quite a historical trail of my 'New' technique. 

I found polymer artists using this technique under many different names dating back to the late 90's & being coined 'Convergence Technique' within the polymer community as the 1st featured project in 2013 Polymer Cafe, although I can only find 3 clay artists that use this term for this technique today. There are multitudes of quilting techniques that utilize this technique by this name as far back as the 60's, but also found it used frequently within the Art Nouveau Movement although never by this name. I found it frequently beginning in the mid 1700's within the quilting community, although usually classified under the Crazy Quilt category... organized crazy if you will. I then found it within historical glass artwork dating back as far as 300 bc, although again never by this same 'referenced name'.

Ecclesiastes 1: 9 - That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

Isn't it wonderful that the Bible addresses EVERY single question we may ever comprehend? I have come to the realization that Nothing we can create in our clay is totally unique as far as the finished product or 'look' of our finished piece. Let's face it... polymer clay is the ultimate mimic - it is used to create even the oldest techniques in a new & often more flexible medium. So, technique can be new - for about an hour since word travels quickly on the internet... but the finished look is going to be a revamp of what is OR what has been.

Hence, this writers dilemma. I have to keep a gazillion 'techniques' & patterns sorted in my head as well as in the menus. Many of you likely sort by technique name, but that is an issue... since 100 different artists may have 75 different names for the same technique OR finished look. Although some in the clay community may call the above technique 'convergence'... this is a name which actually comes from the quilting community. With fabric it is a fitting name, but strikes me that it doesn't fit a clay technique. Convergence defined - the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity. After all, isn't our skinner sheet a convergence, or jelly rolls - aren't Most of our techniques about convergence? So... I am going to explain the 'keep it simple' way I will categorize New clay categories & sub-category topics.  

I think of ALL of my artwork as a type of quilting, this is how I thought of my windows & this is the way I think of my finished clay pieces. Create pieces that interlock until you create a whole, kind of akin to assembling a puzzle. So much better than quilting, of course. No needles to thread, no bobbins to fill + you can do a fabulous complex Large piece in just 1 day. I don't know about you but I Love instant gratification! 

Quilting will have 3 primary categories... 
1 - Flat quilting piece-work. Far cleaner & more complex after assembling than typical 
     cane work. VERY Easy but the finished work is so complex that it will look like it 
     was hard.
2 - Dimensional quilting piece-work. I Love the flexibility of this category, it is a wonderful 
     unique look. As with flat quilting, there are many variations, most being very easy but 
     Look so complex. My very 1st piece was a dimensional  piece & I've been hooked 
     ever since.
3 - Landscape quilting. Exactly what the name implies. We'll look at everything from small 
     artwork to huge window inserts & everything in between. 

Ok, now I'm ready to make some sense of the new menu build categories & to introduce you to some new techniques you may not have considered yet. My 1st 3 posts will cover 'in general' how to do each of the 3 techniques above & then I'll provide a few tuts walking you through the technique at the top of the page for 'Fractured Kaleidoscopes' followed by 2 posts on Convergence work which I categorize as 'Strip Quilting'.
Then, if you are game I think I'll introduce you to a new really old PVA product you may not be playing with yet... it's my all time fave for doing Mandala art. 

Until we meet again, I hope you have a chance to create something beautiful!
Happy Claying

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

THE Most Complex Cane - a NEW Technique

Photo Courtesy of Paul J. Stankard

Isn't this paperweight stunning? Paul J. Stankard is to the blown paperweight community what Jon Stuart Anderson is to the polymer community - the epitome of perfection. IF we had to pick our 'preferred' area of artistic expression... mine would certainly be glass, all forms of artistic glass. Although many polymer artists may not know it... we are all glass enthusiasts. After all, Millefiori means 'thousand flowers' & refers to the glass blowing technique, which is what our caning is styled after. Blown glass millefiore is created when a large number of glass rods are stacked to form a cane & melted together. As with polymer clay caning, it can be very simple or quite complex. One wonderful and unique way millefiore has been used is to create unique and complex Signature Canes. 

There is a large number of independent glass artisans using this technique. Many pc artists such as Jon S. Anderson also create really complex & unique signature canes, embedding just 1 cane within each work so it can be authenticated. Although I did use signature canes, my work doesn't begin to reach the pinnacle of Jons', they were very simplistic. My problem was that I could create an awesome complex large cane, but by the time it was reduced to 1" (inch), all definition was lost & it was a hodge-podge of seriously unimpressive mess  :(   Have you been there? Then came a turning point... a request for a 'Castle' cane. I drew my castle & created a somewhat simple castle cane, but at least it reduced right. When presented, I was met with a poo face and a "I mean CASTLE... fortifications, architecture, surrounding landscape... you know - Castle".

Hmmm, yes, I know Castle, but I'm not Jon Anderson!
Hey wait, maybe I can Look like I am, maybe?

I dug through my most messy memory bank past the gazillion file cabinets of crafts I dabbled in over a life time, and stopped before the cabinet labelled... boring Cross-Stitch. I played in cross-stitch just long enough as a kid to realize that medium Definitely wasn't calling my name, but can it be used for polymer clay and creating the ultimate cane? The cross-stitch idea is simple enough, turn ANY photo into a series of colored dots, where each dot represents a colored thread (OR extruded string). Stack your dots until they create a picture. So, I let the stacking begin & created a beautiful castle, complete in every detail including trees & flower beds on the grounds, excellent! But, how would it reduce? Yes, I introduced you to 'Plugs' a few posts ago for a good reason. My original cane was 9" x 9", but only 2" tall, the plugs were a life saver! Once reduced, it was as clear as any postage stamp or tiny photo. Success, & no more poo faces... yay!

photo courtesy of Kyle Hollingsworth

This is an Awesome cross-stitch pattern created by Kyle Hollingsworth. I saw this & although I didn't want the whole picture depicted in a cane, I did want to try a portion of it. Yes, another fun thing we can do with cross-stitch, just use what we want. I fell in love with the Jester Face, he's wonderful!

The steps of the process are quite simple. I conditioned & extruded all of my clay (using a total of 17 colors) into 6" long strings and then stacked the strings to create the original cane. I used the plugs to reduce the cane to prevent cane end loss or lost clarity through the finished length of the cane. This is even better than cross-stitch, because cross-stitch leaves a white thread between each dot of color... in polymer we can stack our 'dots'  (extruded strings) one on another so our finished cane is much cleaner and far more distinct than it would be on cloth.

 Makins Professional Extruder inc discs

I extruded my strings using the Makins Professional Extruder using the disc I labeled #1.
As a rule, I am most comfortable with disc 1 when the cane is very complex and disc #2 when the cane is less complex. Although you may be tempted to extrude 'squared' strings, I have found that rounded extruded 'strings' tend to work much better because they reduce more uniformly, leaving your finished cane much cleaner & the image much sharper. Of course, this technique applies to All canes, not just signature canes, it is but a small step to integrate initials, a year or whatever other customization you might desire. The background can be done in whatever color you may want, although a white, black OR transparent background can make them more easily integrated with pieces not yet started or planned. Because I do Large pieces, huge vases and animal sculptures, I can make 1 really big complex cane and after reducing the cane, it's a perfect fit.

Since discovering this fun technique, I have begun collecting cross-stitch patterns. Yard sales & thrift stores all but give them away, and some are soo cool!  So, I may not have the caning skill of Jon S. Anderson, but I Love that I can look like I do!.

So, you don't want to pay all the money to build a collection of cross-stitch patterns? How does FREE sound? I started out doing Free programs online, there are Boodles. You can take ANY image or photo, upload it to website & they give you the cross-stitch pattern for free.Here are a few current links you can play with. They seem to change addresses often, but you can google 'create cross stitch pattern online'  & they will give you a bunch that are current. For today, you can try creating a pattern at:

As soon as I complete this post, I will be building 2 new links in the left side menu column. The 1st will be building a link to 100's of cross-stitch patterns & books I have... it's time to get these babies off my computer. Nothing is more heart-breaking than having a computer crash & then losing Everything. Life is to short for starting over again! And I've been down that road way to many times. The 2nd link will be to programs I have invested a lot in & don't want risk losing.

I didn't want to be limited to purchasing cross-stitch patterns and wanted a better, cleaner conversion than I could get from free online programs. Free is a great price, but as is often the case, you get what you pay for

I did invest in 2 different pattern creating programs:
1 - Cross Stitch Pattern Maker
2 - P C Stitch Ten   (they were thinking Personal Computer, we are thinking Polymer Clay)

This isn't a pitch to get you to buy these (or any programs), but IF you got curious about these programs under my programs tab, that's why I have them. They customize Every facet of the conversion process - they Rule!  I wanted to convert a Michael Parkes painting to do a caned vase to match a painting I have. Of course, creating the cane pattern only took a few minutes... the vase is still calling  ;)
Now, all I need is a program that will add more hours to a day!

On a final note, as artists there is so much to be learned from other artistic mediums. I never cease to be amazed at how our clay mixes so magically with so many other art forms. I mean... cross stitch - whoda thunk, right? We'll be looking at some other New ways to integrate other mediums into our clay play, mixing old and new in more exciting ways... kind of fun, isn't it?

Happy Claying,
ClayPlay Liz

Ps: To Learn more about paperweights, you should explore Links within this page:

I also watch auctions within the International paperweight Society - exquisite eye candy!