Mannequin upgrade


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I’ve always struggled to photograph my necklaces showing their scale on a human. I’ve had a mannequin for a while, but I’ve never really known what to dress her in, and it didn’t seem right leaving her naked. Therefore I decided to give her the same treatment as my necklace display and cover her with paper patchwork.

mannequin comparison

As you can see I built in some paper mache clothing. I wasn’t worried that she’d look naked once covered in paper, but I thought it would be useful to have a neckline for judging a necklace’s length.

Indigo bead necklace

I monoprinted the paper using my gelli plate before tearing it into pieces which I glued on. I wanted to make something that was interesting but subtle enough to act as a background.

Green shard necklace

I haven’t quite decided if the patchwork is too distracting. Here is another necklace made with my polymer clay beads for you to consider. What do you think?

Pink triangle necklace

Halloween Pumpkins


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I’m not a massive fan of Halloween (I don’t like the idea of teaching kids to ask for sweeties), but my children are. Last year my daughter insisted on keeping a small squash on her windowsill until it decayed. This year, after months of nagging, I decided to make something more permanent from polymer clay.

polymer clay pumpkin lanterns

They are hollow led tea light holders with jack-o-lantern faces. I used sketches by the children as inspiration. I tried to keep the lively wobbles from the drawings but I did need to make the edges a bit more simple.

jack-o-lantern sketches

These are mixed media. I started with a layer of gum tape paper mache, foil armatures to build up the bulges on the pumpkin, plaster bandages to give a rigid surface and finally an outer layer of polymer clay.

paper mache interior

These took about three days to make, with drying times, and figuring out how to make the lids. Maybe by next Halloween I’ll have made a tutorial to share with you.

glow in the dark face

Just to make them extra cheesy, I used glow-in-the-dark polymer clay to outline the features.

Mokume gane video


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Here’s a video showing the technique I use to create a sheet of polymer clay mokume gane using a variety of stamps. I’m working on another video showing some things you can make with your finished sheet. I’m due to get a new phone tomorrow so the quality of the video footage should improve soon (although I still have a few demos that I have already filmed which are waiting for editing).

Here are some earrings I made using the sheet so you can see it all nicely sanded and finished. I have another video with a tip for sanding when there is wire embedded in your polymer clay.

Polymer clay earrings

Polymer clay earrings by Cate van Alphen

New Necklaces


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I have just listed a couple of new necklaces in my online shop. The first is one of my favourites. I made the beads back in 2016 (I made the necklace too, but I realise I didn’t post it online).

glaucous bead necklace

Glaucous bead necklace by Cate van Alphen

The other is a restringing of a bead I made ages ago. I think the simpler setting on a cable choker helps focus on the vibrant colours.

Fuchsia and Lime


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I’ve been working on some fuchsia and lime polymer clay earrings. Here’s a selection of them (they do have partners, but I couldn’t fit them all in the photo):

pink and green earrings

My favourite pair is these green ones with a new shape bead that I like to think of as snails. I’m tempted to keep them, but I don’t wear much green. Maybe I’ll make another pair in a different colour.

Green polymer clay beads

I’ve also made a couple of bracelets.two bracelets

Right beads, wrong place


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I made a necklace. I like the beads, and I like the necklace but sadly I have a horrible suspicion that I’m going to dismantle it.

Pink beads

asymmetric pink necklace

It’s an asymmetric necklace with a mix of different shaped beads in different sizes. It works well on the beading board, the problem is when it’s on a body…

Pink necklace

… the square shaped beads lie horizontally instead of face on. See that pesky bead at the bottom? What do you think, is this a feature or a fail?

I like the big square beads, but I now realise the hole needs to be offset if they are to hang correctly at the bottom of a necklace. I should have remembered this from my big lentil necklace. The weight of the necklace is all wrong if I rotate it so that the square beads are on the side instead.

pink bead bracelet

It works quite well as a multi-strand bracelet provided that you don’t move your hand at all. I’m trying to decide if I should take the necklace apart and use the beads to make four stacking bracelets instead.

Virtually Amsterdam


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I decided to make time to take part in the Virtual Paintout again. This is a fun project by Bill Guffey where he chooses a destination and then we use google maps to find views to paint. This month it’s Amsterdam.


“It’s Amsterdam, only bonkers” by Cate van Alphen

It was quite near the end of the month when I started, so I decided to focus on something fun rather than strictly accurate. I’ve done some messy gesso in the background on a piece of blue paper. I used paint pens and only slightly exaggerated the tilt of the buildings.

I wanted something a little bonkers to reflect the feeling of Amsterdam which is full of fun surprises. For example a museum of Fluorescent Art or tiny houses in a crack between two buildings.

Tiny houses

Evolution of a wishpot


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I’ve just finished a commission for a wishpot which has helped me work out some of the technical issues I’ve had with stringing them. I began making these several years ago so I’ll show you some highlights in their evolution. Apologies for the quality on the older photos, I’ve tried to fix the colour balance.

Pearl wishpot necklace

This mother of pearl effect wishpot was one of the first I made. It is strung directly on the necklace. The bead stopper can be lifted to open the wishpot. The necklace string keeps it in place when it’s being worn.

Pearl wishpot open

There were a few things I didn’t like about this design. Firstly the necklace needs to be thin in order for the bead lid to be opened (the stopper bead plus cord on either side needs to fit through the mouth of the pot). Also unless it is a specific commission I get stressed about choosing the length for a necklace.

purple wishpot

For my next version, I wanted the pendant to go on a thicker kumihimo cord. Since there was no hope of this going through the opening of the wishpot, I put it on a ribbon that created a bail to hang on the necklace. I included lengths of ribbon in the necklace to link the design together. This version was better, but still not massively versatile – I couldn’t picture the ribbon working on something like a chain.

wishpot mala

My latest necklace was for a wishpot on a mala necklace. I used beads made from imfibinga seeds. The necklace needed a specific number of beads which made it pretty long. I wanted a way to allow the necklace to be shortened without adding a clasp. My solution was to add a button toggle to the wishpot attachment.

wishpot mala necklace

This means the necklace can be doubled over and the wishpot used to attach the two sides together. The wishpot can now also exist independently, so for example you could pop it in your pocket or wear it on a belt loop.


The thin nylon cords still allow the pot to be opened. and the bead and macrame knotted button hole on either side keep the pieces together. Hooray! It finally feels like all the pieces of this design make sense!

mala wishpot open