Friday, May 27, 2011

Making Polymer Clay Earrings

A great rainy day activity...

I thought it would be fun to make an instrucional video on how to make a simply pair of polymer clay earrings using common household items. All you should need to buy is the polymer (or baking) clay. Here are a list of items you will need for this project.

Polymer Clay--"Baking Clay:: Red, Yellow, Blue, White, Black
Findings: Earring hoops or clips, wire pins (or 20 guage wire)
Razor blades
Rolling pin
Paper towels
Aluminum foil
Vinyl Floor Finish
Color wheel
Deck of Cards

PART ONE: Supplies needed

PART TWO: Making a pair of polymer clay earrings

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Little Practice...

     Both my eye surgeries went well, though my vision isn’t back to normal yet. It certainly has slowed me down in the jewelry making department and eroded my confidence somewhat. That and the difficulty I’m having with polymer clay. What a great medium; and so versatile when trying to combine it with other art forms. The problems I’m having is getting a nice glossy finish. Having purchased some rather expensive spray shellacs I found that some products interact and make the clay sticky. So I’ve been working to solve that problem. The other is getting as smooth as surface as possible to minimalize the sanding and buffing needed. I’ve decided I simply need more practice and experience working with this product before selling some of my pieces on my Etsy site. So here are a few of my practice pieces that I have been experimenting with. This asymmetrical flower piece I actually made for myself. I’ll have to rework it to get it to balance on the neck better. I hate necklaces that slide around the neck so will have to tweak it, but I do love the design.

     The “mommy necklaces” are a great gift for mothers; something stylish and durable for the tug of little hands. A teacher friend loves bells so I made her a bell lanyard.

     I've enjoyed working with this new medium and exploring the use of more complicated patterns. Though I've created serveral new pieces, I've not put very many for sell in my shop. I want to get a little better at working with clay before selling them on the market. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life's a little blurry right now...

Several weeks ago I printed off a shipping label and noticed the UPC bar code had wavy lines. At first I thought my printer was misaligned, but looking at the lines again they were straight, then wavy. Finally, I had to take it in to my husband and ask him if the bar code had wavy or straight lines. He said they were straight. After a trip to my optometrist and then onto a specialist it was determined I had a macular hole, something I’d never even heard of before. Evidently it is not uncommon in “women my age,” who are nearsighted. I was told it would require two surgeries to fix…hopefully.

I’ve had the first surgery to fix cataracts I don’t have, but will develop with the second surgery. Surprisingly it wasn’t that unpleasant. In fact, after the anesthesiologist served me my “two martinis” I was in pretty good shape for the rest of the operation. A round of antibiotics and in a couple of weeks I should be ready for the next surgery which is for the purpose of actually fixing the hole in my eye. After the surgery I will be required to keep my face down for several days if not weeks. I can honestly say I’m not much looking forward to this task even with the consolation prize of getting off work for a couple of weeks. I’d rather work! But the universe didn’t ask my opinion as to whether or not I wanted this inconvenience and I feel I have very little room to complain. I am glad that there is a fix, even though there are risks and nothing is guaranteed.
Through the years I have been in good health, so facing this mini crisis seems inconsequential to the real hardships faced by so many. As for my jewelry making it has slowed me down a little. Everything takes a little more time and effort. Having lost "only" a quarter of my vision it stills leaves me with 3/4ths and that would seem sufficient until I try to replace the needle size pin on the glue bottle and I can’t seem to quite measure the depth or the distance. Sometimes I want to cry and feel sorry for myself, but then I think of others in my family who face real hardships. I have a cousin in a wheelchair, a brother learning to drive with one hand, a sister-in-law who recently lost her nephew in a motorcycle accident, students whose parents have cancer, families members without jobs, and the tears stop. I can’t seem to feel sorry for myself because I have to endure some pain and uncertainty. Like Scarlet O’hara, if at all possible, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Today I’ll just busy myself with making a necklace.
Link for more information about what is a Macular Hole:

Friday, January 14, 2011


It’s always a little embarrassing to admit one’s shortcoming and as a teacher you’re honed not to show too much vulnerability; on the other hand, sometimes a thorough evaluation of one’s weaknesses brings epiphanies, or at the least, insight. For me I have spent many hours making jewelry, and in the process spent many hours reflecting on the passion--bordering obsession--I’ve had with this craft. I’m a project person. I like to set out a challenge and then tackle it for all I’m worth. Making jewelry is a satisfying activity for a project oriented person like me, but at some point things went awry; I’d think about design as I drifted off to sleep. I’d wake up in the middle of the night tackling structure problems and how to fit pieces together. At times I’d wake up early to work on jewelry before going to work, and anyone who knows me, knows I am not a morning person. I set a pattern of leaving work at the soonest opportunity and skipped any activities that might divert me from getting home to my craft. I stopped going to the gym, and I resented any time I’d have to stop to pick up groceries. I take my jewelry kit with me everywhere I went. I had to ask myself, “why?” The hours I’ve spent hunched over my work bench were hours I’ve spent asking myself, “Why do I have to do this?” I think I’ve known all along. It’s only now, with a week of snow days to satiate my passion that I’m finally able and willing to reflect. Hopefully, I’ve turned the corner on the obsession and can level it back to being a passion.

In June I lost my younger brother, George. I took my jewelry kit back to the Northwest knowing it would help me pass the hours as I had planned an extended stay with family. Here is where my passion turned to an obsession. The jewelry kit became my place of comfort. It was my home, a place I could surround myself with my belongings, where I could create a familiar setting. When I unfurled my black leather faux work cloth, I had a sense of control and destiny, and a diversion. I created pieces in frenzy resenting anything that got in my way, not that anyone would know, but I knew. Sometimes a design needs to sit, as one ponders the pattern and makes adjustments until it seems right and the piece comes together. I couldn’t wait. I had to see it all come together--NOW!--despite my sense of dissatisfaction. And I couldn’t go back to make adjustments…I had to move forward, on to the next design. I seemed to be in a race, but no one else was running with me or against me. It was me against myself.

When I returned home in August after being gone for several weeks it took me awhile to unpack. I had a small kit with jewelry fixtures and a few left over chain links from George’s biker chain wrapped in a plastic bag left on the floor…next to the a pile of miscellaneous items set out to go to the Goodwill. I knew within hours that my husband had mistakenly grab my kit and packed it off to the Goodwill, but by the time I called in to the Goodwill it had already been sold. I sobbed uncontrollably. I can’t remember the last time I cried that hard. I’m not sure I even wept like that at George’s passing, but I knew the two were connected. Irretrievably lost. Gone. Out of my control and beyond my grasp. I think I knew that as I made each piece of jewelry I was trying to capture something, control the universe in some small way, to bring something into existence that was always just out of my grasp. And no matter whether or not I liked what I had made there was something incomplete about each piece.

I’ve had five days off work because of a snow storm. Snow where I live in NC turns quickly to ice and basically shuts everything down, and I was perfectly content to wait it out at my crafts table. For the first time I could revisit a piece. I could set aside a design and come back to it at a later time. I could start a project and tell myself, “I’ll get to that tomorrow,” or I planned it in stages not knowing if I’d have another day to work on it or not. It made me wonder what was different about this week compared to my week of winter break.

My winter break was bleak and depressing. I didn’t go anywhere or have anyone come visit. I didn’t put up a tree or send out cards. Each day was filled with anxiety as I ticked off the days knowing there would not be enough time to get my projects done. And the holidays passed and I was relieved. The new year came and I breathed a sigh of relief. My older brothers posted on Facebook how glad they were to be out of 2010 and into 2011 and I realized we had all passed a marker. We are only half-way through our first year of mourning, but we are past the first Thanksgiving and the first Christmas without our beloved brother. As hard as it was we could finally say good-bye to the old year and its grief and its sadness. I also said good-bye to the illusion that I was ever in control or that I could force each day into existence because of the projects I had to complete. I said good-bye to the overpowering sense of my mortality that hurried me on each day to accomplish something, to finish each project as if there was no tomorrow.

And so I start the new year with new jewelry. Pieces I like, because I have taken the time to work and rework them to my satisfaction. My obsession has calmed itself to a comfortable level of passion. My grieving is not complete, but using my craft to supplant the grieving process, I hope, is over. I will grieve and I will make jewelry, it’s just now they won’t be one and the same.