Saturday, December 10, 2011

Presenting - Polymer Pomander Pods

In 1997 my husband and I were fortunate to be able to visit Egypt through our zoo travel program. One item on our itinerary was the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo. A bewildering maze of narrow streets, filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, the spice vendors remained one of my most vivid memories. One item that I bought my mom was a small lidded container made entirely of woven whole cloves.
A year or so ago, I brought this souvenir home with me and put it on a side table in our living room. Even with the spices almost 15 years old, I still get whiffs of clove from this box. I thought about pomander balls, the ones made by sticking whole cloves in oranges, then letting it dry out. Then, I considered the version that is a perforated (usually) ceramic ball, with whole spices inside.

It struck me that if I could construct an appropriate container, I could enclose whole spices in polymer. So, I built some 3" dia. lentil halves, with holes that were large enough for air to flow through, but not large enough that a typical whole clove could fall out. Before sealing, I added in addition to cloves, some whole allspice and a couple of whole cardamom.

I also made a base for what I'm calling "pods" to rest in. (Pomander "pods" sounds better than pomander "lentils", don't you agree? Alliteration and all that...) They will just naturally emit a subtle fragrance, or you can pick them up and shake gently a few times for a more intense jolt. Also, they look nice just sitting there.

So, without further ado, let me present 11 BOLD street's newest brain bomb - Pomander Pods, in polymer, of course!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Copper Washers Aren't Just For Plumbing Anymore...

Remember the copper washers from a few weeks ago? The ones that I had fun hammering and making into toggle closures? Well, I used the first of these in a bracelet, featuring polymer lentils and more hammered washers.

Gunmetal black and copper beads and wires complemented the copper polymer lentil beads. I gave them black, "hammered" texture backs, just because we all know that the backs of items should be as nice as the front!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fun with Faux Jasper

Jasper isn't an expensive stone, but many inexpensive natural stones don't come in the shapes or SIZE that I want. Good thing that Tory Hughes showed me how to mimic lapis lazuli (which isn't inexpensive) and turquoise in her book Polymer: The Chameleon Clay.

I've used combinations of those techniques again and again as a springboard for faking real and fantasy materials. Witness my latest adventure with "red jasper":

Can you believe that this mess

got molded into this

and ended up looking like this?

Then it was transformed into this?

BELIEVE. With polymer, almost anything is possible....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding Time for Findings

Getting my hands on a new book always seems to bump up my creative urges.

The most recent acquisition is "Handcrafted Wire Findings" by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson. I've been making my own sterling and copper necklace closures for a while, and have some other publications which demonstrate this technique, but I always love to see other versions. This post isn't intended as a book review, but I'm glad that I picked this one up, as it has some subtle twists (so to speak) on earring, hook, toggles and connections.

Thinking about toggle style findings, I decided to spend a day or so creating a few to have on hand. IMO, toggles are good bracelet closures, and more in scale with a typical 11BOLDstreet design than the average (and now barely affordable) sterling lobster claw clasp.

A hammered finish is one of my favorites, and very practical, as a mirror finish is both difficult in execution and for the wearer to maintain. But, shortly after I began hammering some of my favorite blank stock material - copper washers - I noticed that my favorite ball-peen hammer surface was leaving tiny lines in the hammered texture. So, I got out the 400-grit sandpaper and went to work smoothing out the ball surface.

Then, I stripped some 14 ga copper electrical wire and fashioned various bar shapes, trimming to make sure that each fit into it's intended ring. It's a fine line size-wise for a bar that will fit the ring, but not slip through on it's own. The completed pieces all assume a tiny bit of flexible leader on the bar to get them through the ring. The big decision is how to finish copper.

If they were earwires, I'd definitely opt for a clear varnish/sealant. For the moment, I'm settling for a thorough polishing with Wegol's. Working sort of "backwards" this time, I have a couple of ideas about some polymer components to both complement and show-off these babies :D

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Adventures with Liquid Polymer and Gauze

I finally got a few days in a row to work in my studio and couldn't wait to try out an idea that had been knocking around in my head. You know that I like to experiment with liquid polymer and gauze - first coloring the fabric with alcohol ink, then soaking in LP and curing, usually as a cuff bracelet.

While drifting off to sleep a couple of weeks ago, I thought, "what if I intentionally ruched the gauze, then cut shapes from the cured piece for focal elements?" "Ruching" is that marvelous gathering of fabric that is usually held together with rows and rows of stitches running perpendicular to the gather.

I've seen thin sheets of solid polymer manipulated in this fashion, to create faux fabric. I wanted to take advantage of the already built-in texture of the gauze fabric. I do this gathering to some extent when twisting gauze on my cuff bracelets, but I wanted to be more deliberate and try the technique over a larger area.

So, I tried two versions in two color schemes: one scheme in autumn-y coppers, browns and greens, with just the gauze; one in cool blues, jades, purples and silver, with a very thin translucent polymer backing. Here are the results:
Translucent solid polymer backing

Unfortunately, I cut up the unbacked sheet before photographing - as you can see, I had a specific purpose and plan for finishing in mind, and was a bit impatient :)

 The results for the unbacked version, at the moment are more satisfying, but I'm sure that I'll think of a use for the other piece, too.

Actually, I'm sort of anxious to see the edge profile when I start cutting into it ....more to come...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Be Mislead By My (Lack of) Blogging Posts....

...I'm still here.

I meant well, but the summer has been busier than I anticipated ...mostly in a good way :) We're getting to spend more time at our modest family trailer on a beautiful lake in Indiana, making sure that my 94-year-young Dad gets plenty of fishing done!

In July, we took a family mini-vacation while I attended the IPCA Retreat outside of Chicago - it was amazing!!! It was my first chance at such an event and the new friends and inspiration that I gained was priceless.

There are some new items at 11BOLDstreet in the Etsy shop, and a new shop at HandmadeArtist's Shop. This latter site is relatively new, and features only handmade items and supplies - no vintage! I actually won a "Shop for Life" at HAS through a blog contest, and look forward to placing some niche items there.

Thanks to the retreat and my busy little brain which never seems to stop seeing polymer-possibilities, look for even more unique items in the upcoming months!

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and maybe I'll even get back to you before it's over!

2011-IPCA Retreat-090E

2011-IPCA Retreat-090E by 11BOLDstreet
2011-IPCA Retreat-090E, a photo by 11BOLDstreet on Flickr.

Hard at work....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Search of Sea Glass

As some of you know, this week I'm visiting a good friend who lives 750 miles away on the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. One of the many perks of this trip, besides visiting with my friend (shown below, patiently braving the chill with a land-lubbing visitor) and her family, eating wonderful, fresh New England seafood and just seeing another part of the U.S. is a relatively new obsession - hunting for sea glass.

Sea glass (or beach glass) is unfortunately, mainly the result of litter - glass bottles, etc., which have made their way into the sea, getting broken into progressively smaller pieces, sanded and "frosted" by rocks and stone. With each new tide, a possible bounty of new treasures is washed onto rocky beaches, just waiting to be discovered. Brown and medium green colors are the most common - think about all of those beer bottles going over the side of partying boaters :-( Blue and red, especially, are conversely, quite rare.

Milk of Magnesia bottles contribute to the blue shards (but those getting into the water system is more perplexing...surely not a party beverage of choice...) Red glass is also rare because there just isn't much red glass around, that color being one of the harder glass colors to produce. Red sea glass could be parts of some antique "junk", or old ship wrecks or maybe pirate booty dredged up from the depths :-)

Along with choice pieces of nicely frosted glass (including some blue!) I discovered a lovely shell in shades of purple and three nested shells from which I intend to make a mold. I'll be incorporating some of this booty into polymer objects over the next few months.

Also, we came upon a horseshoe crab, legs waving in the air, stranded from the last high tide. I turned him over and put him on the edge of the rising waters...hope that he made it....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PCAGOE Mother's Day - Spring Promotion!

Spoil your mom (or yourself for that matter)! Win a Beautiful Basket Full of gorgeous Polymer Clay items.  If you witnessed our Holiday Promo last fall, you know what gorgeous stuff could be coming your way!

So what's in the basket? 2 clocks, 2 pocket mirrors, 1 large barrette, 2 hair clips, 8 necklaces, 5 pairs of earrings, 1 votive, 1 cookie turner, buttons, note cards, sculpture of a cat in a frame, wine glass charms, lighted keyring, a ring, 2 bracelets - Quite a nice selection!

No Purchase Necessary. To be entered into the drawing, either purchase an item from the stores below from April 11th to the 25th or send an email to with your name and email address.

What better way to honor your mom than with a handcrafted, beautiful item from the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy members? Shop handmade on Etsy. Shop at the stores listed below to enter!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

PCAGOE Monthly Challenge: April - Afterward

The Monthly Challenge for the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy is just that for many of us - a challenge. We each have our specialties within our medium, and it's very likely that most of the themes lie outside of our normal comfort zones.

For instance, if the theme were to be "canes", "pastels" or "flowers", I would be in big trouble  - these are subjects that are definitely outside of my comfort zone. Oh, wait - next month is "flora and fauna" - GULP! But, that's the idea of a "challenge", right?

This month, I attempted my first wall hanging to comply with the stated theme. As an aside, unless we want to work on a larger substrate, polymer artists are somewhat limited in size of works by a sometimes pesky-but-logical limitation - the width of a pasta roller. Since so much of our work comes out of this piece of machinery, you'll rarely encounter pieces larger than the 4" wide rollers. (Think about it - have you ever seen lasagna noodles exceeding 4" in width?  ;-)

Already playing with the Lisa Pavelka rendition of the "Sutton" slice, I decided to turn this experiment into a wall hanging. The most important part of the technique, IMO is the mold - it needs to be deep, have generous positive areas to hold polymer and most of all, be flexible enough to roll back on itself for the final reveal.

I have some wonderful deep rubber molds, but the images are inverted and more suited to stamping rather than filling. So, I made molds of several of them with Sculpey Mold Maker, and thus had the perfect deep wells that I needed. I mixed six custom colors inspired by Asian-themed window coverings in my home and developed my own system for cutting, filling and packing the mold cavities. It was slow work, but fun - sort of like a coloring book.

Where I deviated the most from Lisa's methodology was in her brutal scraping of the mold surface - my molds were too soft to survive the knife, and anyway, I leveled the surfaces as I went, making that step unnecessary.

After applying the contrasting black background and burnishing it well, I held my breath and began the final step. While slowly rolling the mold back on itself, all of those little multi-colored shapes of polymer popped out, row by row! Too cool! With some final finishing, in 11BOLD street style, I was pretty pleased with both the process and the result.

(My Guild peeps must have liked it, too, since they voted it 2nd Place to tie with Alison Kurek's zany piece! Thanks!) And, you can see all of the winners here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Saving of a Cuff Bracelet

I wish that I'd have gotten an even earlier pic of this cuff in progress. These photos show the skeleton in fairly good shape. But, that was after about 30 minutes of sanding, basically sculpting three flat layers and a rough center "blob" into this final curvaceous-ness!

Adding the mokume gane slices finished it nicely, but then I noticed an embedded flaw in the edge of the copper layer that was more than skin deep! Resigned to keeping this piece for myself, I put it aside for a while, then thought about a wire accent. Yes!!! The hammered zig-zag was a perfect accent and echoed the stripes in the MG pattern. And, it gave me a great excuse to drill into that pesky little spot on the side :)

Sometimes, you can make great lemonade from lemons!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Under Construction, Coming Soon, and all that stuff...

I failed miserably at my first attempt at blogging for a number of reasons...

...mainly, because my very reliable but not feature-rich hosting site didn't lend itself to the "normal" type of blogging and I didn't feel like dealing with it.

Also, I think that the good blogs that I've seen always include pictures of some type, and I thought that I was not motivated enough to take/process/upload photos on a near daily basis.

That reason segues into my next excuse - I thought that I should blog every day. Says who? Are there "blog police"?

Last but certainly not least, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say, but felt that I should say something, because all the marketing articles maintain that to maximize an online shop you HAVE to blog. 

Well, I've solved most of these issues in my mind...I started a "Blogger" blog. Not exactly "easy" if you're picky about formatting like I am, but I'm learning. Also, I'm not going to require myself to post daily, which helps with the photos issue. 

I also now know what I want to say...I (mostly) want to record the evolution of pieces that I'm working on - the processes, discoveries and failures that I encounter in my current role as polymer (and burgeoning metal clay) artist. I see it as interesting initially to me - a journal, a (b)log, and maybe ultimately interesting to others, as well.

And, if I occasionally stray off-subject, waxing poetically about the birds at the water garden or comment on what the people in the parking lot outside my 2nd story studio window are doing when they think that no one can see them, please forgive me.