Last vessel of 2016, probably finished

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I decided to spend the time between Christmas and New Year tidying up my studio in preparation for new projects. After a couple of days I couldn’t stand the accusing stare from the glass cabochons of my unfinished vessel, so I decided that finishing off a project counted as tidying. I was determined to finish it before the new year.

Vase by Cate van Alphen

Frogs and Flowers Vase by Cate van Alphen

I started this vessel back in June where it stalled until October. After several days’ work and a few days into 2017 I think I’m finally finished, or maybe I’ve just had enough. Because I spent a long time on this project, here is a proportional number of photographs.

Vase by Cate van Alphen

Frogs and Flowers Vase by Cate van Alphen

Vase by Cate van Alphen

Frogs and Flowers Vase by Cate van Alphen

Vase by Cate van Alphen

Frogs and Flowers Vase by Cate van Alphen

Here is a photograph of the effect I was aiming for.

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I wanted to suggest a rich ecosystem of plants and creatures, although not literally current earth species. I’m not looking at it too closely in case I find more bald spots that need filling. I haven’t decided yet if I should antique it or not (currently I quite like the bright colours of the polymer clay).

Vase detail by Cate van Alphen

As you can see from the detail shot above, I included a leftover white poppy (and made a few more), and some little frogs like the ones I made for the Art Charm Swap.

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Looking back at 2016

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For 2016 I challenged myself to make a vessel each week. This did not go according to plan, as you can see by the 19 (not 52) thumbnails below.

2016 Art Vessel

The first problem was that it often took more than one week to complete a project and it began to feel like a failure if I didn’t manage to finish in time for my blog post. The longer a project took to finish, the harder it was to continue working on it. I still have an incomplete vase/sculpture looming at me from the shelf.

Bottle WIP by Cate van Alphen

Grotto Bottle WIP by Cate van Alphen

Another problem I had was that my definition was quite broad so it took me some time each week to decide what to work on. (As opposed to my successful 2015 challenge where each week was more defined e.g. week 10 – yellow beads).

My definition of a vessel includes anything rigid you can put something into; so in addition to the obvious bowls, bottles and vases I hope to include decorative boxes, miniature teapots, inros, lockets or even poison rings.

Finally, I chose the challenge because it was difficult. I have a collection of glass jars that I hoard because it seems a shame to throw them away, but I never seem to get round to decorating them. I had hoped that after forcing myself to make a few it would become easier and enjoyable. After all, back in 2012 making earrings was pretty terrifying but I joined in with the 52 Earrings challenge and I have since made hundreds of earrings. Unfortunately for the amount of time I have to clay at the moment this was just too far out of my comfort zone, and I ended up not making anything at all.

One thing I was really pleased about making this year was another polymer clay painting.

Polymer clay painting by Cate van Alphen

“The Road Home” by Cate van Alphen

Fimo 50 globe It is a 10cm x 10cm tile that I  made for the FIMO 50 World Project which brought together work by hundreds of artists from around the world. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the real thing, but I think I can spot my painting there on the globe.

Christmas ornament 2016

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I’ve had disappointingly little time for polymer clay recently, but I have managed to make an ornament for Christmas. I started off with a ready-made paper mache egg that I painted with gold acrylic paint and decorated with polymer clay and crystals.

Yule ornament by Cate van Alphen

You may be wondering why I have made a tree in a bushfire, but that’s not entirely what I was thinking. I wanted to make something that was specific to Christmas without the common images that you buy in the shops, so I tried to think on a more elemental level.

Firstly I think all the sparkles and lights at Christmas are to remind us that even though it’s mid-winter the summer sun will come back again. So I made my egg gold because the solstice is about the sun.

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On the base of the egg I have made the sun from polymer clay. It’s on the base of the egg to show that the sun is on the other side of the world bringing summer to the Southern Hemisphere. I grew up in South Africa, and I still have family there so I think about this every year.

tree ornament

The tree has no leaves to show it’s winter.

egg ornament

The crystals represent snow (because it’s winter), and the stars in the sky on the longest night. They are also there because I believe that at Christmas you can never have enough bling.

Unfortunately the crystals I used are not very good quality. I do have better ones, but I couldn’t find them. I think I imagined the egg made from real gold and diamonds, but I haven’t got the skills or budget to make it that way (this year  😉 ).

Polymer clay challenge – week 45

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I have been a little waylaid from my polymer clay so I’ve pretty much lost track of the 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge. Since it has been a while since I last blogged, here is some of the jewellery I recently made inspired by the broken teacup I previously wrote about.

Shard earrings by Cate van Alphen

Long shard earrings by Cate van Alphen

Teacup shard pendant by Cate van Alphen

Teacup shard pendant by Cate van Alphen

I finished some earrings and a pendant using the shards I wrote about in week 36.

Flower earrings by Cate van Alphen

Flower earrings by Cate van Alphen

I also made some earrings to go with the necklace that I made in week 38 using canes inspired by the flower power pattern on the vintage teacup.

Earrings by Cate van Alphen

Earrings by Cate van Alphen

Earrings by Cate van Alphen

And since I had some canes already made, I made more earrings.

Necklace restring

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A few years ago I gave my sister a necklace. At the time I was experimenting with silk ribbon. Unfortunately, although the colour matched fantastically well there were some structural issues. Firstly the beads were able to slip over the knots intended to separate them, secondly the larks head knot securing the pendant kept sliding to the back and flipping the pendant, and finally three years later the silk was not aging well.

Ribbon necklace by Cate van Alphen

Before – beads strung on silk ribbon.

Therefore I have just restrung it on some fine nylon cords. The colour is not as pretty as the jade ribbon, but I have included some macrame knots at the pendant which will hopefully ensure that it sits better.

Necklace by Cate van Alphen

After – beads on nylon cord with macrame bail.

Necklace by Cate van Alphen

Necklace by Cate van Alphen

If you are interested, there is a free tutorial here on my blog where I make this polymer clay pendant.

Art Vessel – week 39

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It seems my grotto bottle (which you may remember from week 23 and 24) has been waiting for the Art Charm Swap reveal*. Perhaps there is some quantum resonance as I planned to add some similar tiny frogs around the outside?

* Unfortunately the Art Charm Auction has been slightly delayed while Jen Cameron arranges a venue that will ensure all the proceeds go to Beads of Courage. I will share the link as soon as it starts… after I’ve made my bids 😉

Bottle WIP by Cate van Alphen

Grotto Bottle WIP by Cate van Alphen

The decoration is STILL not finished, but it is starting to look more interesting. I’ve added some glass gems, which I originally prepared for my Art Charms before deciding they were too big and starting again. I’ve linked them together with swirls of “silver” coloured polymer clay. I was thinking of them as metallic bones in the landscape, except they now look more like liquid mercury. Perhaps the rocks are bones, and these are more like veins.

Bottle WIP by Cate van Alphen

I’m planning to add some moss and plants for the little quantum frogs now on my work board. There may be bugs and a fungal infection or two before I’m finished. I’ll see how it grows.

Art Charm Exchange

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I am excited to finally reveal the charms I made for Jen Cameron’s Art Charm Exchange. The theme this year was Fairytales. My charms were inspired by the story of the Frog Prince.

Frog charm by Cate van Alphen

On one side there is a simple little frog on a lily pad, but on the other side…

Charms by Cate van Alphen

…there are hidden gems. The shining nuggets represent the princess’s bauble and also the more valuable prince concealed within the frog.

Charms by Cate van Alphen

In the story, the princess was only interested in getting her bauble back and made promises that she had no intention of keeping. But by completing her obligation, however reluctantly, she was rewarded (if we assume that marrying a prince is a reward). Perhaps if she had been less focussed on her bauble it would have occurred to her that there is more to a talking frog than meets the eye. If so she may have acted in a more princessly way.

Remember that you shouldn’t let the pursuit of baubles blind you to the wondrous things that you already have (like perhaps a talking frog).

Charms by Cate van Alphen

I made the charms from polymer clay and small glass nuggets. I sculpted every frog (and leaf) by hand so they are each unique.

Frog charm by Cate van Alphen

And teeny tiny!

I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone else has made.

Alenka Obid
Andrea Glick
Angelique Gentry
Brooke Bock
Caroline Dewison
Cassi Paslick
Catherine van Alphen
Charlene Jacka
Helena Hatten
Jen Cameron
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Kathy Lindemer
Leona Smith
Lesley Watt
Lori Anderson
Marianne Baxter
Melissa Trudinger
Michelle McCarthy
Patty Miller
Shai Williams
Sheila Prosterman
Susan Kennedy
Terri Del Signore
Vanessa Gilkes

If you would like to have a charm for yourself, check out the auction (which will be starting soon) where your bids will help raise money for Beads of Courage.

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Polymer clay challenge week 38

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This week I have made some beads using the canes inspired by the vintage teacup I’ve been working with. So far I’ve made one necklace.

Necklace by Cate van Alphen

The beads have different patterns on either side so the look changes depending on how the beads are flipped.

Necklace by Cate van Alphen

I plan to make some more beads using the canes, and I have made some accent beads to go with them when I do.

Beads by Cate van Alphen

Remember it’s nearly time for the Art Charm reveal :). I’ll be showing the fairy tale inspired charms I made along with links to see what the other participants have made. This will also be the start of the auction to benefit Beads of Courage, so be sure to come back on 30th September.

Week 37 – still a vessel?

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I’m not entirely sure what I’ve made this week for my 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge. I decided to do something with the base of the broken cup from last week. I started by covering the sharp edges with polymer clay. Then there was a scar left from where the handle broke off, so I made some retro flower canes inspired by the cup pattern to cover that and make it into a feature.

by Cate van Alphen

I decided to make a little garden inside the teacup. And because I had massively oversized unrealistic flowers, I decided to make it an unreal fairy garden. I made the ground white to match the china cup. And there’s a silver bridge over a golden river.

Fairy Garden by Cate van Alphen

I used gold ink in liquid polymer clay for the river, but it didn’t end up as sparkly as I’d hoped. I did consider adding some residents, but my miniature work is still a bit ham-fisted.

Fairy Garden by Cate van Alphen

I’m not sure that it still counts as a vessel since it’s now full, so you wouldn’t really want to put other things in. My daughter says it’s a wishing garden. I suppose wishes don’t take up much room.

You may have noticed that I have not yet revealed what I made for the Art Charm Swap. That’s because the date is now 30th September 2016. The theme is Fairytales so there will be lots of enchanting things to see then. 😉

Week 36 – Anti-vessel

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This week for my Polymer Clay Challenge, I have unmade a vessel. I wrote previously about how I am fascinated with pottery shards, and this week I finally got around to combining them with polymer clay.

I have made a few headpins. These were from a vintage teacup that died of natural causes.

Shard headpins by Cate van Alphen

I textured the backs with a stamp and antiqued them with acrylic paint.

Polymer clay shard pins by Cate van Alphen

I think they are quite successful. The polymer clay seals the razor-sharp edges nicely.

I think I can hear the earring muse calling. 🙂

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