Where did 2019 go?


So, it has been over a year and a half since my last blog post! 😮 What happened? The short answer is that I have been tidying. If you want the long and gory answer keep reading, otherwise I hope you come back soon when I something pretty to look at again. The next photo is NOT PRETTY.

The mess on my desk at one point.

Shortly after my last post (December 2018) we got builders in to waterproof the basement floor. This meant shifting two rooms of storage into our dining room (which overflowed into other rooms of the house), while they lifted the flags and laid plastic underneath. They finished on the 21st December at which point we had to paint, move everything back, and clean up the dust in time for a big family Christmas. It was incredibly stressful and left a lot of displaced stuff behind in the rest of the house.

WIP – re-purposing my Fimo Classic colour swatches.

To cope with the stress, I began a project carving designs into my colour swatches from the now discontinued Fimo Classic (this project is not finished yet). While doing this I realised what a (positive) tranquillising effect this had on me. So I decided I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore until I had tidied up.

Armed with Marie Kondo’s books I began to unpick 40 years of bad habits and 20 years of stuff. This has been, and continues to be, extremely difficult. One problem was that I couldn’t pack stuff away because there were boxes of junk and piles of stuff in front of cupboards so I couldn’t even open the doors. I was also having issues with gallstones flaring and causing sickness and pain (especially when I was stressed) disabling me for days at a time. In addition I decided to leave my art room till last as a way to help keep me motivated. My thinking was that it would be a reward to be able to play again, and if I let myself relax I would loose motivation to tidy up because the mess would be less unbearable. And I was supposed to finish in a month (January).

…ok, maybe before my birthday in February. Definitely before the start of the kids’ summer holidays. At least before they went back to school in September. I mean before Christmas…

After more than a year I was stuck with a mess I couldn’t tidy up because there was too much mess. Stressed because of the mess, sick because of the stress, and hindered from tidying up because I was sick. Still waiting for a date for gallbladder surgery, I went to a herbalist and an energy therapist for assistance and by the end of February 2020 I had decided I owed it to myself to tidy up my art room regardless of whether I had finished the rest of the house or not. I was feeling optimistic. I even imagined writing a blog with a triumphant before and after picture. This is not that blog. Because… in March… Lockdown started.

I did not respond well…

And yet, I have been making things and planning things that I want to make. I haven’t needed the surgery which was supposed to have been in April but was cancelled.

Today the kids went back to school, so I decided to get back in the saddle and write this blog entry in all it’s embarrassing glory. I am still tidying the house and not entirely coping, but I am trying to be kind to myself. I remind myself that slow progress is still progress.

I have learned that giving myself time to create and play is not optional but a requirement for my mental and physical health.

Mannequin upgrade


, , ,

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


, , , , ,

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


, , , ,

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


, , , ,

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


, , ,

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


, , ,

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


, , , ,

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