I’ve finished my 24 samples

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About 2 weeks ago I finished all 24oz of my polymer clay sample challenge. I unpacked all the beads I had made on a Twitch live stream if you are interested in all the details. Here’s a photograph to summarise.

Mixed polymer clay beads.
Variety of handmade polymer clay beads.

Now there are so many beads to choose from I’m struggling to know where to start, but I have made a few of these beads into earrings. (If you are subscribed to my newsletter you may have already seen these.)

What was good about this challenge?

It was really helpful for me to have preselected colours to work with. Often I find myself overwhelmed with the unlimited potential of polymer clay that I end up dithering when trying to decide where to start so I don’t actually do anything. I tried to experiment when making some of the beads by thinking that I have already allocated the clay to be used so I may as well use it (actually this is true for any polymer clay since things that are not working out can be squished into scrap). I had to be creative and find different ways to finish some beads as I couldn’t add more clay to do my first idea.

What was not so good?

When making canes I had to keep things smaller than usual as I had an imposed limit to the amount of clay I could use. It would have been better to start with larger canes so I could keep different sizes aside as I reduced. I struggled to find enough scrap clay for the inners of my beads so I didn’t get as many beads as I could have from a finished cane (i.e. by putting a thin decorative slice onto a thicker layer of scrap). There were some beads where I thought it would be nice add contrasting caps or edge the outside of a cane but I had already used up the colours I wanted to use so I couldn’t do that.

What will I do next?

I found it really useful to have a specific goal in mind to keep me motivated so I’m intending to define what I’m going to work on next. Unfortunately this week gone I was completely disabled watching the news of violence and looting in South Africa so I haven’t been able to make any decisions. I’m planning to continue with my colour palette reruns, so there’s still time for you to choose a colour in my survey.

Till next time, stay safe!

Sample Challenge – beads in progress

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I am continuing to work through my 24oz sample colours and I’ve nearly finished so I decided it was time to use up the scrap cane ends that I had created previously. I used a cane design by Fiona Abel-Smith which creates a colourful pattern that reminds me of crochet Granny Squares.

Multicoloured polymer clay cane

I made this cane and a few headpins and beads on a live stream earlier this week. If you are interested in how I made them there is a video still available. I haven’t even baked these yet (I like to fill the oven before I do so), so photographing them was a little tricky and is the reason there is glass in the background rather than my usual photo setup.

Polymer clay and wire decorative headpins/earring components

Of course I didn’t take into account that making a new cane from my scrap ends would result in new scrap cane ends! I think the last beads I make will end up mud tone that I need to texture for interest and add some colour with mica powders or paints.

Anyhow, I think I will soon be finished and able to show you the collection of beads I have made. Let me know if you are doing your own sample challenge as it would be great to share. Stay well, bye for now.

Is my polymer clay colourfast?

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The short answer is “Probably not and I’m definitely not a scientist!”.

Years ago I did a polymer clay painting that I was really pleased with. I even had it framed and it was on display in an art gallery for several months (possibly over a year). However when I got it back the colours looked strange to me. Sure enough when I took it out of the frame there was a definite colour shift visible where it had been under the mount card. I don’t know if it had been in a window or if it was due to the bright shop lighting, but I was really distressed. I was so distressed that I didn’t take a photograph before trying some remedial actions.

Polymer clay painting by Cate van Alphen

To try and save the picture, I carefully scratched off the surface to blend the hard line where the colour changed. You can still see that the foreground is much more yellow at the bottom. I couldn’t do too much of this as I would have lost all the shadows and details added to the surface. You can see more clearly in the next image where I have layered the front and the back of the picture together (both photos taken in the same lighting right after each other).

Comparing the front and the back of the picture to show colour change.

Because it takes me days to make these paintings, I decided I didn’t want to do any more of them until I could check that the colours would remain as I intended. I couldn’t find any information about the colour fastness of polymer clay, but I did find an article for checking if water colour paints are colourfast. The suggestion was to paint a swatch and then leave it in a sunny place for a year to see if the colours change.

So I made a sheet with a spectrum of colours and cut it into three strips. I made the line wavy so I could fit the pieces together later. I kept one strip in a drawer, one strip on the wall of a room with north facing window and one strip on a south facing windowsill. I don’t know what brands of clay I used for the painting (especially the browns because I blended several scraps to make the colour), but for the test I used Fimo Professional (which at the time was a new product).

I couldn’t see any change for the strip that was on the wall, but for the strip that was on the windowsill there was some slight fading of the yellow where it mixed with the red (it’s now less orange) and the green seems to have faded overall. The colour change is a lot less that that which was suffered by the painting but it occurs to me that the double glazing of my window may have had some UV protection that the shop window didn’t. I think I need to put the “wall” strip in the garden for a year and see how that goes.

Unfortunately my process was a bit too chaotic to make this a nice (and accurate) scientific test. For a start I didn’t write down the dates for when I started and finished and I think there are several other variations that are worth testing. For example:

  • Different brands of polymer clay
  • Colours mixed with white
  • Black polymer clay
  • Clay exposed directly to sunlight (outside)

So in conclusion there was definitely some colour fading of the yellow and green. Was it significant enough that I don’t want to make any more paintings? Is it unreasonable to expect no change? Was it less faded than before because it’s a new formula or a different environment or because it’s fully saturated colours?

I don’t know!

I told you I wasn’t a good scientist, but I thought I’d share with you what I have found out so far anyway. Maybe in another year I’ll have some results for how the colour strip fares directly outside. In the meantime please let me know if you’ve done similar tests or if you have better information.

Sample Challenge update

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I am still working through my 24 one ounce blocks of polymer clay. Here’s the next stage of my progress.

My primary reason for doing the challenge was to give myself a starting place to get making beads again. Unfortunately I was finding that trying to record the steps as tutorial videos was hindering my progress, particularly when the children were home due to lockdown (again). They are very noisy during the day so I’d have to wait till the evening to begin and by that point I wasn’t feeling very sparkly for chatting while I make. Also it was discouraging me from just experimenting as it’s hard to explain what you are doing when you don’t know yet!

Instead I have decided to crack on with the making and show you my progress as I go. If you are really interested in any of the beads I make, let me know in the comments and I may try to do a dedicated tutorial for that. I have at least one video still to edit, so that will turn up eventually.

I’ve got more beads to show you but I’ll save those for another day. I hope you are well and making progress with your projects.

P.S. If you’d like to set yourself a sample challenge, here’s my earlier post with the guidelines I’m using.

Kaleidoscope Cane Video Tutorial

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I have finally finished editing and uploading a tutorial for making a kaleidoscope cane. I have the footage where I used this cane to make beads, but as you can tell I’m pretty slow at the editing phase so I’m not sure when that will be complete.

This is part of the sample challenge that I set for myself. If you’d like to join in too, get yourself 24 different colours of polymer clay that are 1oz each and use them all up. You can use an actual sample pack or use what you’ve got and mix up your own colours (that’s what I did). Tag what you make with #24ozPolymerClay so that we can find each other on the socials.

Enjoy!

Dusting off my online shop

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Recently I have been dusting off my online shop. Since creating the initial listings I have changed to a different computer monitor with more vivid colours and it became obvious that the colour balance of the photos was off, they were far too yellow. Therefore for the past few days I have been readjusting all the photos. It has taken ages but I think they look better now. You can see the colour difference down the centre of the photo below.

Zigzag earrings showing difference in colour balance.

So far I have only relisted earrings and I haven’t been able to add new items for sale just yet but I thought it was important to have photos that better portrayed the colours. Since some of these earrings are now a few years old, I have put in increasing discounts based on the year that the earrings were made. The older the item, the bigger the discount. Have a look, perhaps you will find a pair of new earrings to pep up your day. I know the earrings would rather be worn than be stuck in a drawer!

My “Sample Pack” Challenge

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I have set myself a challenge, and I have finally finished editing a video for you to watch with the details.

In summary, the challenge is to get yourself a “sample pack” of polymer clay: 24 blocks of different colours that are only 1oz in size. Then use up all the clay, and only this clay (don’t supplement with favourite colours from your stash).

I’m going to stick to simple additions like glitter or metal leaf, and possibly add touches of acrylic paint to highlight texture. The idea is to work with the different colours, even ones that I don’t really like. I’ve also got different effect clays like “marble” with inclusions that I have never used before.

If you’d like to join in, and I hope you do, please let me know in the comments, or tag your posts with #24ozPolymerClay.

Have fun!

Happy Groundhog Day, pick your colour

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It’s my Birthday today, so I always notice Groundhog Day. Last year my birthday was a fantastic date 02/02/2020 – a palindrome for US and UK alike.

At the time, it seemed like such a lucky number… by the end of February it seemed like a harbinger of DOOM! It turns out that 2020 got worse from there. So I’m feeling cheated. It didn’t happen, I want to try again. Therefore in the name of the movie (Groundhog Day) I am awarding myself a do-over.

2015 Spectrum Year

So what exactly am I doing again? Back in 2015 I set myself a challenge to work with seven colour palettes throughout the year and make something every week. You can see details here (including links to the colour recipes). At the time I felt like I hadn’t properly explored each palette, so I have decided to have another go. I’m not going to specify timescales at this point because, by now, what’s a year here or there among friends?

I’ve made a little survey if you’d like to click through and choose which colour palette you think I should start with first. You’ve got some time to vote since, at the moment, I’m working on another challenge that I have set myself. I’m working on a video which I hope to share soon (maybe next week?) because I’m hoping others will join in. Here’s a sneak peak…

Polymer clay kaleidoscope pillow beads.

Icy beads fresh out the oven

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I have had my head down a bit what with second (and now third) lockdowns in England and preparing for Christmas. I don’t like to start my “resolutions” on the 1st of January as I find it’s still too dark and cold and depressing to try deprive myself of sweeties at that point. However I had reached the point of feeling the time had come to start improving my eating habits and sleep patterns when my sister sent me a link to this beautiful video.

The bit that struck me was when she talked about it being okay to have less energy in the winter and that you shouldn’t force yourself to try to feel the same way that you do in summer. Having grown up in a humid subtropical climate in South Africa, I don’t know that I would ever be able to embrace the cold the way she does, but it does look beautiful from the comfort of my duvet in a centrally heated house. I think in these times it’s okay to have a need to comfort eat and want to hide (for a while), so I forgave myself for being withdrawn and sat down to start making beads again.

“Arctic Noon” polymer clay beads

I was also inspired by the way she spoke about light. This is important to me since I derived the name Fulgorine from “fulgor” which means “dazzling brightness, the light of the sun” because I want my work to be bright and joyful. I try to look on the bright side of life and focus on the positives but sometimes it takes an effort to remember to do it!

I really enjoyed making things again and I also have an idea for a new challenge that I hope others will be inspired to join in with. I’m working on a video of my own to explain it, so hopefully I’ll be able to share that soon.

I hope you all had a happy Christmas and are looking forward to a bright New Year.

P.S. I have started a mailing list! I’m not ready to send out regular messages yet, but if you would like to sign up now for when I do, here’s the link.

Spatial Composition Earrings

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Here is another entry for the Art Bead Scene Studio’s “Art Journey #6“. This time the inspiration was modern constructivist sculpture by Katarzyna Kobro.

Spatial Composition No. 6 | 1931 | Katarzyna Kobro

I was lucky enough to win a package of beads by Erin Prais-Hintz (Tesori Trovati) so I had an easy place to start.

My first pair of earrings feature Erin’s polymer clay components which I paired with hammered wire directly on sterling silver creole hoops. To me the inspiration sculptures are about primary colours and primary shapes so I picked up the circle and the line motif from polymer component. I decided to hang them on the hoops so that the wire additions could be moved to the front or the back to change the composition of the earrings. This also gives them a three dimensional existence like the sculptures.

The next pair of earrings feature Erin’s box charms. I made my own polymer clay components to go inside, but they didn’t feel right when I came to assemble the earrings. Instead used some of the glass beads that she sent and added the white polymer clay circles as a reference to the white curves in the inspiration sculptures.

The last pair of earrings I made were slightly accidental and are not quite fully developed. Originally I made the red polymer clay curves to go inside the box charms, but then I decided I preferred them on their own. However I had only made two for my original idea so I had to make another pair and wait till my oven was full to do another bake so that took an extra week.

The curved components are free to move around the pins to create a variety of compositions. Originally these were just red, but last night (after I had finished making them into earrings), I decided they needed white for more visual contrast. Therefore I dismantled them to add a white outline and baked again. Looking at them now I think I should have made the little cubes different colours too, maybe blue or yellow. However that would mean starting from scratch so it’s not going to happen in time for this challenge!

It’s surprisingly difficult working with minimalist blocks of colour and shape. There’s no texture to hide imperfections or whimsical decorative distractions.