Friday, February 04, 2011

Playing with Polymer

People often ask me how long I've been making jewelry, which usually requires a follow-up question like, "How long have I been making jewelry like I make now?" 

You see, when I was a kid my parents wouldn't let me get my ears pierced, so naturally I was fixated on what I couldn't have. Using my dad's tools I would bend telephone wire, gleaned from a construction site, into little clip-on earrings.  I had turquoise ones and yellow ones and I didn't care how ugly or dirty they were.  Later I found some kidney-wire earrings at a craft store and clipped them upside-down to my lobes because it looked like the end of the wire was going into my ear like a real earring.  Hot stuff!  Add to the mix my great aunt, who mined and polished her own stones and got me interested in rock tumbling, and I was a full-on jewelry nerd.  I got really good at wire-wrapping those slippery tumbled stones to make pendants, though, so now wrapping sea glass is second nature. My friend Jenny, whom I've known since 6th grade, recently asked me to wire-wrap this piece of larimar, and (kindly) noted that I've come a long way since my rock tumbling days. 

What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, polymer clay.  Also during my middle school years I got a sampler pack of Cernit clay at a train show (my Dad is into model trains).  Soon I got into polymer clay (sounds like I'm dabbling in drugs) and would read Nan Roche's The New Clay like it was my job.  I worked with polymer clay on into high school and thought it was really cool to make earrings as miniature versions of the designs in special outfits.  That's when I got started with beads, too, back before internet shopping.  So when I say I've been making jewelry since I was a kid, my products back then are not what I consider lovely today.  I haven't any examples to show you, although my mother still wears her vintage AnneMade Jewelry to my chagrin.

These days (meaning now that I have a jewelry business) after I have a chance to recover from the holiday season of making and selling jewelry and all our Christmas festivities, it's usually the dead of winter and I get a yearning for spring.  I do have to work ahead of the season, so it's not unusual for me to use delicate pastels and beachy brights at this time of year.  I've been itching to play with polymer clay again and make some pendants for spring.  And I love that my original sampler pack of Sculpey is still as good as it was 20 years ago.  Polymer clay has come a long way since then, including the development  stronger formulas, liquid clay, and surface techniques like mica shift.  I have always been too cheap to invest in a pasta machine, but today I realized that hand-kneading clay takes forever. 
(I think it's funny that my clay turned out the same color as the shopping list I created while kneading it. Love this color!)  So yesterday I printed out a Michael's coupon and headed there as soon as Olivia woke up from her nap. I also found treasures in the stamping aisle (alcohol inks to color liquid Sculpey, dye ink pads for rubber stamping, clear stamps so you can see what you're doing).  And what a difference the pasta machine makes!  It's like a mini rolling mill, in fact I could run texture through with the clay.  Once I knead the clay to get it soft, mixing colors on the machine is so easy.  And after working with PMC so much, it's so great not to have to worry about a piece drying out on me.  If I don't like it I just ball it up and try again.  I do have to worry about foreign particles, though, because I'm not firing this clay in a kiln like PMC.  (Side note: PMC people, if you're looking for Teflon paper to use as a work surface, Michaels has it in the stamp/ink aisle.)

Another creative chapter in my past is painting.  If you come to my house I may not point them out, but several of the pictures on our walls are watercolors and drawings I did in high school.  And if you've ever worked with oil paint (or acrylic) you'll know the concept of color saturation.  A tiny dab of alizarin crimson or titanium white is all it takes to affect the whole glob of paint because those colors are so saturated.  Same goes with certain colors of polymer clay, so if you're just starting out remember to mix in only a little bit of a new color at a time.

I view the Pantone season forecast a little like I view the Farmer's Almanac.  Does anyone ever look back and grade them on how accurate they were, or do we just trust them?  I live in a small town out in the country, so we're a little behind the style trends anyway, so I tend to just use what I like.  Right now it's orchid.

Did it again! This ballet pink pendant matched another Post-It. Maybe I need to get my fashion forecast from 3M.

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