Back into the swing…

Well it seems a break from making with clay has done me good. I’ve got lots of new stuff made in the last couple of weeks and I’m liking some of what’s coming out of the kiln!  It would seem that my lovely customers do too as lots of it was snapped up as soon as it was listed 🙂 Thank you x

Here are a few of the new bits I’ve been creating…

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Artisan Whimsy- making stamps & moulds

You may or may not have seen from my earlier post that I’m a member of the Creative bead chat group… they have recently formed a new social network called Artisan Whimsy. It’s a great place where like minded people gather to share their knowledge, help each other out, show off and generally have a good time.

As a member of the ceramics team, I was asked to write a blog post about something to do with clay. For those of you who missed it, or aren’t a member, here’s what I wrote about…

Making stamps & moulds

Despite being a complete sceptic, I’m a typical Aries, which means although I’m creative, I’m also lazy and will find the easiest way to do something. I think that’s why I love clay so much, you can be as impatient as you like with it and still create something great!

So in my quest for less effort and to produce consistent results, I’ve been trying out different ways to make stamps for impressing textures and designs in to clay and generally speeding up the process of filling my big kiln. There are loads more ways of creating stamps and texture sheets, but here’s a few I’ve tried for my designs…

 

 

My first try was with plaster of Paris, making a master form in polymer clay, then creating a two sided mould for pressing beads. To make them, I used the small, deep really useful plastic boxes. Fill up to an inch with plaster and as it starts to harden pop the master in so it’s sitting half way in. Once this side has dried, top up the box with plaster so the master is completely covered. While the plaster is still wet, use a paintbrush to rub over the design inside the plaster. This will remove any air bubbles and give you a nice sharp design. Once the top’s dry, pop the whole lot out and the two sides will separate. Pop out the master and leave to completely dry for a couple of days.

These worked great and transferred detail really well, but broke easily and took a few hours to make. They last a long time if you’re gentle with them though.

 

 

Then I tried polymer clay. Making a form, then a mould from the form, baking to harden and then using with clay. My first attempt with using the mould failed miserably, I didn’t dust the mould with anything to release it, so ended up picking all the wet clay out and washing and drying it again before I could use it. Once I’d sorted out how to use it properly, it worked really well. I have a few that I made over a year ago that are still going strong. They transfer detail perfectly and are rigid while you’re using them so you can wedge your clay in easily to make sure you fill it up properly, but as I mentioned earlier… make sure you dust them well to get your design out in one piece!

 

 

Next I tried a new product ‘Oyumaro’ It’s a mould making compound that works by dropping one or more of the plastic sticks in to boiling water. After a minute it becomes squidgy and can be pressed onto anything you wish to make your mould from. It sets as it cools and holds detail fairly well, but can be a bit fiddly to use. It’s better for making texture plates than a full shaped mould, and great for making a quick reverse image of a stamp. It will stay in the shape you have made it until you drop it in hot water again. Great because it’s re-usable, can be cut and can produce huge sheets by melting lots of sticks together!

 

 

 

And finally, I tried styrofoam. I got this in sheets from a craft supplier. This makes more of a stamp than a mould. To use, I printed my design on to a sheet of paper, then cut a piece of styrofoam to fit. Put the paper with design facing up onto the foam and draw around the lines with a ball point pen. This will transfer a light design on to the foam which you can then deepen using your pen or a stylus tool (don’t press too hard and rip the foam). To transfer, put it on your clay and give it a quick roll over.

The finished design is fairly detailed, but not fantastically neat. For a rustic style, I’d say it’s ideal. A quick whizz over with a wet paintbrush will neaten everything up.

I don’t know how long these will last, the styrofoam is quite brittle, but it holds the shape you have carved in it really well. I think thicker blocks, carved with a sharp knife would create some great, more solid designs.

 

So there you have it… some quick, and not so quick ways of getting your unique and original designs on to clay.

I hope this has been useful and maybe saved you a bit of time and effort!

 

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Something different…

I’ve lost my mojo for clay bead making 🙁 Not surprising really, the weather is horrible and I’d clear off if I had the chance! So I decided to leave the clay for a bit and have a go at something completely different. I’ve got a garage full of different things to entertain myself when I’m not feeling very inspired, so I dug out my etching stuff and made these copper cuffs. I’ve been reading all over the place about colouring copper and have never tried it, I think it really makes these designs pop! These and a couple of others will be available in my Etsy shop later 🙂

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Building a Raku Kiln

 

Hello again… it’s been a while!

 

I don’t think I’m very good at this blogging lark! Any spare time I get, you’ll usually find me up to my elbows in clay. But every so often when I do remember I have a blog, there’s always lots to say, so here’s a peek at what I’ve been doing…

I decided to make my own Raku kiln… I’ve no idea if it will work, and typically when I’d finished it started raining, so I’ve only had a quick go ( just to test that it didn’t explode or anything), but I’ve taken pictures as I’ve gone along coz I thought it might be interesting! 🙂

 

So here’s the ingredients…

  • A metal bin with lid from Ikea (I use an identical one for the reduction part of the firing)
  • Ceramic fibre blanket
  • A long arm propane burner
  • Ceramic buttons and Nichrome wire for securing the blanket to the bin
  • Tools
  • Gloves & facemask for cutting the blanket.

A note about the fibre blanket… it’s nasty stuff, I’m still itching from handling it, and that was yesterday morning! You should never breathe in the dust that comes off it and a mask and gloves are essential.

So to start, I cut a circular hole 2 inches wider than the burner on the side of the bin and a slightly smaller one in the lid.

Then I marked even spaces around the sides and drilled holes for the buttons and wire to be fastened in.

It’s a bit mucky in this picture because I had to empty the reduction bin into it the other day when I forgot how many hare beads I’d put in! Note for future, always count what you’ve got! I did give it a clean up after the cutting. I used my Dremel drill with metal cutting discs to cut the holes, I also wore a full face visor mask type thing and welders gloves for this bit… there were a lot of sparks!

I made these buttons from stoneware clay. The nichrome wire goes through them and the blanket, through the holes in the bin, and are bent out to secure it all together.

 

This is what the bin looks like now all the buttons have been fastened through it. The bricks at the bottom are to hold the kiln shelf which will lift everything I’m firing above the flame.

 

I filled the lid with a circle of the blanket too, so that when it’s on, it will create a good seal and get the heat going nice and quickly. Once they were all fastened in, I cut the blanket out of the burner and vent holes.

The last job was to make the kiln shelf. As I’m too tight to buy a round one, I cut it from a square one I had, again using my dremel drill (that thing’s worth it’s weight in gold!) and about 15 cutting discs… they’re pretty tough to get through!

 

The shelf went in on the bricks, I put the lid on and lit the burner! It was a bit scary, but sure I’ll get used to it after a few goes. The heat that comes from it is amazing, definitely not something I’ll be doing with the kids around!

 

So the only job left to do is a proper firing. Hopefully, I’ll get a couple of hours to play over the weekend… but for now, I have tons to do for my next fair. I’ll be at Haydock racecourse for the Beads up North Fair on Sunday 29th July… Hope to see you there!

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What’s your favourite colour?

If you were to ask me that question on any day of the week, the answer would be a very definite purple… but not today!

Today my favourite colour is brown, not very exciting, a colour associated with some of the less attractive things in life, but today it’s most definitely brown!

Why? Well scroll down for the answer!

 

 

 

 

 

On the second attempt, I’ve managed to grow some crystals in my kiln. They’re not the prettiest, but they’re there!

The first attempt, failed miserably, I think I spotted one or two on the very edge of the test pieces, but you had to look very very closely! This time, I altered the recipe, added a couple of extra bits to see what happened and got the results above.

The designs need refining and the application of the glaze is a little heavy handed, but with some tweaking, I think I can get these looking really good… and with some added ingredients, I’ll hopefully come up with some more desirable colours!

 

 

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This Year I will mostly be

Mixing my own glazes!

Isn’t it always the way that all the lovely colours you see on ceramics are secret recipes, mixed by skilled craftsmen & women with years of testing & experience? Well I’ve decided that this year, I fancy a bit of that, so I’ve just taken my first steps in mixing my own colours.

I’ve been really taken by a particular type of glaze, crystalline. The effects achieved from carefully controlling the heating and cooling process are incredible! Just take a look at some of the beautiful wares I’ve found while researching…

 

 

You have to agree, they’re incredible!

Eventually, my hope is that the pottery wheel that has been gathering dust in the garage will be put to good use in creating items as gorgeous as those above, but for now, I’m going to attempt to put this effect on to some of my beads.

So today, I have started developing my own recipes. I have a huge box full of different raw materials of which I’ve chosen a few to start me off. As I write the kiln is clicking away with my first pieces. Fingers crossed, when they come out, they’ll be cabochons with some of these beautiful crystals grown on them. But that’s the worst thing about ceramics, until you open the kiln on the following day, you never know if something has worked. It’s a long process to get from raw clay to finished item, and although the actual time spent making a bead, button or cabochon may only be a few minutes of shaping, painting and loading into the kiln, the whole process takes at least 4 days… not good for someone with a severe attention problem!

So I’ll go now and check my kiln, for the 15th time in the last hour, just to make sure it hasn’t reached top temperature of 1100 degrees while I wasn’t looking!

Keep everything crossed for me that tomorrow I get at least one crystal and that this is the start of something great!

 

 

 

 

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