Art Vessel week 5

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This week I decided to have another go at making a yarn bowl to learn from some of the problems I had last week. Last time I made a green bowl to co-ordinate with my yarn so this time I made a monochrome one using black, white and grey polymer clay so it will go with any colour yarn.

Yarn bowl by Cate van AlphenYarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

No cracks this week, but I forgot to take a photograph of the inside. It’s pretty much the same as last week.

Yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

This time I cut the holes opposite the curl for structural strength.

Yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I got a little bit carried away decorating the underside of the bowl since most of the time it’s not visible.

underside of yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

underside of yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I think this coming week I need to think of a less time-consuming project for my 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge since this one is pretty late. I’ll be posting this to my Flickr group.

Art Bead Scene January Challenge

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As my girls would sing “For the first time in forever…” I have made an entry for the Art Bead Scene monthly challenge. I do follow along every month and usually plan something, but I don’t often get to sit down and make it.

Landscape with Stars by Henri-Edmond Cross

Landscape with Stars by Henri-Edmond Cross
Watercolor over graphite on paper, ca. 1905–1908

I had been thinking about making polymer clay star beads over Christmas, so I thought it would be easy peasy to make a couple for a pair of earrings. But, then I had enough clay for three stars so I thought the third would make a nice charm for a bracelet. So I made a few more beads in different shapes to make a bracelet. And a few more stars in different sizes…

Polymer clay jewellery by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay jewellery by Cate van Alphen

In the end I didn’t use the third star charm and I now have a bowl of beads waiting to become something when they grow up. The bracelet ended up daintier than I planned. The chunkier beads in the bracelet irritated me – I think because I use my hands a lot.

Star bracelet by Cate van Alphen

Star bracelet by Cate van Alphen

Initially the earrings were just supposed to be the large star charm on the bottom hung from an ear-wire, but they grew.

Star earrings by Cate van Alphen

Star earrings by Cate van Alphen

The back shows a little cross-pollination with Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”.

Back of earrings by Cate van Alphen

Back of earrings by Cate van Alphen

Some of the stars twist around the wrong way but they look quite cute – like little starfish. Sometimes I feel like my sparkle is hiding on the inside too so that’s ok. :)

Art Vessel week 4

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This week I continued to work on my yarn bowl from last week. Because it was already cracked, I made a support to use for further bakes using tin foil rolled into a ball and squished into the bowl. Unfortunately making this actually broke the bowl into several pieces. I was able to glue it together with liquid clay for long enough to add a layer of plaster bandages.

WIP bandages

The next problem was getting the outer “pretty” clay to stick to the plaster. It wouldn’t. The more I rolled and pressed, the baggier the clay got. Eventually I gave up and decided to start again – it came off in one piece like a big floppy hat. The dust of the dry plaster was acting as a release agent. Next I tried adding a layer of PVA glue over the bandages to give the polymer something to hold on to. At last it worked!

Polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I had always intended to do a an embroidery style decoration as a link to the bowl’s function, but I think I was so excited to *finally* have something that would sit still long enough to decorate I got slightly carried away. :D

Polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

After spending so much time decorating, I did have a little panic when I put it into the oven to cure that there would be air bubbles between the plaster and the outer decorative layer, but it went well. The edges of the cut out shape could be better. I had added plaster all the way to the edge so there was nothing for the outer layer to stick to. The space was a bit too narrow to fold the outer clay into like I did for the top of the bowl so the layers separated in places.

Polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

Underneath polymer clay yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I also made a little sample piece to test the look of antiquing the piece with silver acrylic paint. However I then remembered that my taxes were due so I didn’t have time to decide.
Polymer clay by Cate van Alphen

The inside of the bowl is still a mess but I’ll chalk it down to experience. I am considering making another yarn bowl while the mistakes are still fresh in my mind. Perhaps the next version will be better.

Polymer clay bowl by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay bowl by Cate van Alphen

Art Vessel week 3

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My project for this week’s challenge is unfortunately still a work in progress. The yarn I used to make my first vessel was hand dyed and came in a shank. I made a terrible mess getting enough to decorate the jar, so I wound it all into a ball and decided I wanted to make a yarn bowl to go with it.

yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I made it inside another bowl because that was the closest I had to the shape I wanted. The curve cut-out ended up a little lower than I had intended since I was working inside out, but I plan to put some feet on the bowl when I get to decorate the outside.

Yarn bowl by Cate van Alphen

I used Kato clay because it’s supposed to be stronger, but with the cut-out there was a bit of flex to the bowl and it ended up cracking. I think Kato is more brittle than Fimo. I am considering adding a layer of plaster bandages to strengthen the bowl before I work on the outside so I don’t need to make it too thick.

cracked bowl by Cate van Alphen

Have a look at my flickr group to see a couple of finished yarn bowls.

Art Vessel week 2

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This week, for my 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge, I went back to a comfort zone I didn’t know I had and made mini pendant sized vessels. I was intending to make a yarn bowl, but there is an upcoming celebration for the new baby in the family so I was asked to make a wishpot for her.

Wishpot by Cate van Alphen

Wishpot by Cate van Alphen

What’s a wishpot? I came up with the idea when my girls were babies and we had a welcome party for them. Family and friends spoke their good wishes for the new baby (like fairy godmothers) and blew into the pot. Afterwards I glued the lid on to keep the wishes inside. I’m keeping them safe for when my girls are old enough to wear jewellery.

Wishpots by Cate van Alphen

Wishpots by Cate van Alphen

I made one of them quite minimalist with a faux cork stopper, but I couldn’t resist making another one that was more florid. I’ll let baby’s mum choose :).

Wishpots by Cate van Alphen

Wishpots by Cate van Alphen

They are quite dinky as befitting a baby. I have tied a cord around the lip of my girls’ vessels to make them into pendants.

Art Vessel week 1

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For my 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge I have decided to make a vessel each week. I’m planning a wide range of objects from inros to bowls to covered jars so my first dilemma was deciding where to start!

Since I had a sheet of mokume gane lying around (as one does), I decided to start by covering a jar you either love or hate ;). It was already dark glass so I didn’t feel too guilty covering it with an opaque sheet of polymer clay.

Green jar by Cate van Alphen

Green jar by Cate van Alphen

My idea was for it to look like a chunk of lava rock that had been shaped into a vase with a the sides polished off to reveal the bright mokume gane inside. Something almost completely, but not quite, unlike a bolder opal.

I started off by baking pieces of mokume gane onto the flattened sides of the jar so that it would remain smooth while I textured the black polymer clay around it. Unfortunately my simple idea soon turned into a rescue mission as one side cracked. I tried filling it with liquid clay for the next bake and I ended up with a bigger crack and another on the other side. (It’s only just occurred to me that I should have popped off the mokume gane and started again). The more I tried to fill the cracks, the bigger they got. :'(

cracked mokume gane by Cate van Alphen

Since this is my first jar, I’m not sure if this is just something that happens when you cover a glass jar with solid polymer clay or if it was because when I baked the patterned sheets I did a part bake as I knew I would be adding more clay and doing further curing. I do have (up to) 50 more* times to practice, but any suggestions to prevent cracks would be appreciated.

I have started a group on Flickr for Art Vessels if you’d like to join in with your own creations. It’s not limited to polymer clay either, just in case you make chocolate tea pots.


* I am determined to also have a go at making an inro before the end of the year!

Happy New Year

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I’m starting the New Year with a look back at the old year. I took part in Katie Oskin’s 2015 Polymer Clay Challenge which I combined with my idea of dividing the year into blocks focussing on each colour of the spectrum. Each week I made bead components*. Look at the pretty gradient that they make!

2015 Spectrum Year

Some of the components need reworking, but I’m pleased to say that I managed to make something every week (despite moving house in the middle). I think perhaps this exercise needs another iteration since one of my objectives was to develop a more homogenous body of work. Maybe I should choose my favourite component from each block and make a version in each colour palette? But that’s not my challenge for 2016…

For 2016 I plan to make a vessel each week. I’ll probably start with covering my collection of glass jars, but I’m also hoping to make items of jewellery like inros.  I’ve made a group on Flickr if you’d like to join in (it’s not limited to polymer clay since although that’s what I work with, I love to be inspired by other media too).

I hope my year, and yours, will be filled with beautiful things!


* I have a page dedicated to the Spectrum Year project where you can click on the thumbnails and find my colour recipes. I am working on adding some of these beads, and jewellery made using the colour palettes, to my Folksy shop.

Polymer clay challenge week 52 – toggle

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For the last week of my 2015 Polymer Clay Challenge, I have made an old school bar and loop toggle clasp.

Polymer clay toggle by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay toggle by Cate van Alphen

It’s pretty chunky and mostly red.

Polymer clay toggle by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay toggle by Cate van Alphen

I wanted a contrast between the pattern on the side and the front as the bar will be seen side on when in use. I’m mostly happy but I think it could do with another iteration – the stripes in the bar are a bit thinner than I’d imagined.

Polymer clay toggle clasp by Cate van Alphen

Polymer clay toggle clasp by Cate van Alphen

The hard part was carving the polymer clay to look interestingly irregular without ending up a wobbly mess. Maybe it could do with a touch more wobble? ;)

This is officially the last week of my Spectrum Year, but I’m sure I will be making more as I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. For 2016 I plan to make a vessel every week. Have a look at the Flickr group I’ve made if you’d like to join in.

Until then,

BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR!

Post Christmas Blues

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Post Christmas Blues, but in a good way ;). Here is some finished jewellery I made using my blue polymer clay components. You can find the necklace in my Folksy shop, and the earrings in my Etsy shop (or click on the images below).

Blue choker by Cate van Alphen

Blue rustic stack bead choker by Cate van Alphen

Blue kaleidoscope earrings by Cate van Alphen

Blue kaleidoscope earrings by Cate van Alphen

I’m trying to think of a grand finale to my Spectrum Year. I’ll certainly make SOMETHING, not sure how grand it will be though :).

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