Friday, 27 August 2010

Part 2 - what to do with the left overs and another interesting experiment

Here are some more ideas using virtually the same techniques with clay, stamps and mica powder to use up the offcuts and disasters.

First, whilst you have most clay left, roll it up into a ball and press it to flatten a little with the palm of your hand. Then take a texture plate, lie it on top and carefully roll over it ONCE to make a patterned surface and to press the clay thinner. I'm sure this is probably not the recommended approach but it is super quick and easy and provided you don't roll repeatedly backwards and forwards you get a clear pattern.

I used a Sculpey texture making plate, but stamps with a background or script pattern are good and with improvisation you could use a Cuttlebug embossing folder too.

I generally cut the patterned clay into random shapes like tags and rectangles before colouring so they don't all have to be the same colour. These make useful embellishments to have on hand for cards and projects. In the example below I have cut a square to fit a papier mache frame to make a Christmas decoration. These frames a cheap and great fun. They have an aperture on both sides so as well as using remnants you could really go to town with Christmas stamps to make the clay pieces. The result is not very heavy and so suitable to hang on the tree. (Yes I know - it is too early to be talking about Christmas.)

I used green mica powder on the clay as before and then after baking it I rubbed a bit of gold (Krylon pen) with my finger over the raised pattern to emphasise it.

If you don't already have alphabet stamps, cookie cutters and texture plates this starter kit from Walnut Hollow is a neat way to get started - and comes with a box to keep everything in its place.

The alphabet pieces are designed to slot into a small handle with even spacing between letters - and there is a blank if you need to leave a space. It is quick and not too fiddly to use. The main challenge is to remember to assemble the pieces with the word and letters backwards. Working with individual letter stamps is easier in some respects because you spell as you go, but putting the whole word together first helps with sizing and centreing.
Here is an example. You can make little personalised tags, embellishments and add wording to larger projects in this way.

And finally, when you are down to the smallest ball of left over clay, roll it in your palms into a sphere and then press it with your thumb onto a texture mat or background pattern stamp to make a little button shape.

You can either add mica as before or paint them after baking. The black one below is a scrap that had some metal leaf mixed in (recycled error). The blue one is painted with acrylic paint and rubbed over with some metallic paint to higlight the pattern.

And now for my first experiment with Sculpey Bake and Bond. This is a bakeable adhesive intended for bonding Sculpey pieces to each other or to porous surfaces. I'm not entirely sure my experiment was what they had in mind, but paper is a porous surface right?
I conditioned, rolled out and trimmed to size a piece of clay - buttercream colour. Then I applied the Bake & Bond to the clay. It is very gloopy and sticky and so tricky to spread neatly. I ended up using my fingers (happens often) to spread the liquid without wrecking the smooth rolled surface of the clay.
Then I positioned some images face down onto the Bake & Bond and smoothed them down - again using fingers. I start in the centre of each piece and rub gently outwards to try and ensure complete contact. I anticipated that this first attempt might not be very tidy which is why I chose seaside images so the end result could justifiably look "weathered".
A quick tidy up to straighten the edges where working on the clay had distorted it and I created faux tiles by indenting the clay in between the pictures before baking.

Now the exciting bit....
Once the piece has baked and cooled take a dripping wet dishwashing sponge and press to thoroughly soak the paper bonded onto the clay.

Then rub the wet paper to peel it back in layers from the clay leaving behind the pictures. you may need to keep re-soaking as you go but you can be fairly vigorous without damaging the image.

As I suspected my first go was not completely successful. I had not pressed one corner into contact properly and the edges of each image were as wiggly as the gloop spreading. You also need to remember (and I know this but got carried away with new toys and didn't think about it) the images with writing come out backwards. Fortunately here the boat is so small you can't really tell that the name is back to front.
Nevertheless, I was please enough to incorporate it into a little project. I painted and weathered a little box with seaside colours, netting pattern, and flicks of dark blue spray which also "altered" another of my tops!

The materials used in these projects are available from The Altered Element. Click on the links in the text to see them.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Really simple stamping and polymer clay - part 1

And yes I do mean really simple. Like many of the techniques I revert to, this is very forgiving and suitable for even the most inexperienced of stampers, nothing gets wasted and apart from the clay you only need a few materials that you probably already use for normal paper based stamping projects.

The basic ingredients are:

Polymer clay (Sculpey or Fimo work fine). I usually use black but colour doesn't matter for this technique because all the clay surface is eventually covered.

Mica powders. Again any sort will do. I use a mixture of Pearlex, Perfect Pearls and Moonglow in this project because that is what I happen to have collected over the years but if you don't already have any Cosmic Shimmer Powders come in sets of pretty colours to get started with.

Stamps - rubber or clear, mounted or not. The key here is not to choose too detailed an image. Photo type stamps do not work well. Something bold, outline or text which adds texture as well as an inked image is good. Here I used the Eco Green Garden Chic set from my Altered Element DT challenge pack.

Ink. I used Brilliance but Crafters or Chalk ink pads which also heat set will work too.

And to finish as many bits and pieces of embellishment as you choose from your stash.

A few basic tools are useful and those you don't already have can be improvised. I work on a heat proof non stick craft sheet so it is easy to transfer projects. A rolling pin (or substitute) and a blunt edge like a table knife for cutting are pretty much essential too. You can buy lovely purpose made tools for working with clay though if you intend to use it a lot.
All the materials and tools can be obtained from The Altered Element.

To make a finished piece to fit roughly folded A5 or a 4x6 incj frame, take half a block of clay.

First condition it by warming and rolling in your palms until you can form a ball. Then roll it out, either through a pasta machine (note DO NOT use it for food as well) or with a rolling pin. You can buy acrylic rolling pins for the purpose but a child's plastic one from a baking set is cheaper and works as well (or even an empty - well it wouldn't be full would it - wine bottle). Roll and fold 4 or 5 times to get a flexible sheet of clay. I roll in opposite directions each time so the end result is something like a rounded square rather than long and thin which it is after the first roll - unless of course you want a long thin project.
Next trim your sheet to the size and shape you require. Here I have straightened the edges. You can use a plastic blade or a table knife as the clay is very soft. Note: I have learned the hard way not to use a craft knife - you can see the line cut through my craft sheet as a result in the picture below!

(My piece was a bit square so I gave it another roll before the next step.) Now cover the clay completely with mica powders in your choice of colours. Use either a soft brush or just your finger tips to spread the powder onto the clay. It will stick by itself with no pressure so that you end up with a smooth sheen on the surface.

Next ink up your stamp and stamp onto the prepared surface of the clay. Press down evenly over the whole stamp. You need to take a little care to press so that you make an indentation into the clay but you don't need to press really hard or you go right through.

The good news is though that accidents are easily put right. If you press a little too hard and end up with a mark where the edge of your stamp pressed this can be disguised by gently rolling the clay again. Your impression will be deep enough to remain after the edge marks are smoothed.

If that doesn't work you can still either carry on with the next steps and add design features and embellishments to disguise blemishes or roll the clay up into a ball and start again. This works even after you have applied mica powders and ink and in fact if you've had several goes the powder helps stop the clay becoming too tacky and overworked.

Stamping into the clay will distort it a little but it doesn't matter because the next step is to take advantage of the clay medium and add some more distortion.
Gently peel some of the edges up from the craft sheet and gently stretch the clay a little so it doesn't lie flat again. Make small nicks into the edges (I use my thumb nail) and then roll the clay edge back to get an effect a bit like the curled edge of an old scroll.
Finally poke some holes hrough the clay. A ball ended parchment or metal tool or the rounded tip of a paintbrush handle works fine. Simply push the tool right through and circle slowly to stretch the hole to the size you like. You might need to brush a little mica powder over the edges and holes to conceal any bare clay exposed at this stage.

When you are happy with the result it is time to bake it. Follow the manufacturers instructions regarding temperature and timing. I transfer the pieces still on my craft sheet onto a baking tray, cover it with foil and fold the edges to seal in any fumes.

Remove from the over after the recommended time and leave covered to cool. As a precaution I generally unwrap outside to release any fumes.
The final steps are to embellish and mount the piece. Here I have made spirals of wire to thread through the holes at the top and then pulled these into 3-D shapes. I have threaded beads and cord through the holes at the side and added some Vintaj brass charms to finish.
The whole piece is mounted onto an easel style card but you could also frame it. Use an ordinary photo frame and put a sheet of card or paper in front of the glass inside the frame, then glue the clay piece into place.
For further ideas on using the scraps trimmed off and to see my first experiment with Bake and Bond please come back and see installment 2.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

At last!

I have finally caught up with myself. Seven months down and five to go in the 365 Calendar Challenge and I still haven't managed to post a single month on time. July has been especially late but with fab excuses - the weekend of 31st I was away in Bristol to see my son playing a concert with the National Childrens' Orchestra and, equally brilliant, on the Saturday just gone I had a day at Art from the Heart doing a Dina Wakely workshop. That, the day job and domestic duties have not left time for the technological trials of posting until now.
I've got a week off work now though and when the gardening gets rained off - which forecasts indicate might be a lot - I'm playing with the Garden Chic stamps Lynne at The Altered Element sent for my DT project this month. I've been working on tiny little canvas surfaces 4x4 and 2x2 inches that were part of the stamping surfaces pack a couple of months back.
This first one is the larger size and has a thick gloopy painted background with added string for texture. The butterfly is made from layers of paper sprayed with inks.
This tiny canvas has a less painty background and more string.
And this (also tiny) one was a complete disaster at first. I just couldn't get the background so I liked it and I used so many layers to try and fix it that it was much too thick. So I peeled the canvas off the board, painted it white and started again on a smooth surface. The same paints look quite different on a smooth background on this small scale. I added dimension by putting Glossy Accents over the flowers and stems at the end.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

And another one...

These little books have covers bound with painted silk, reinforced with Vilene interfacing and glued over hardboard. The pages inside are made from watercolour paper, folded into signatures and pierced using a pricking tool and... the reverse of the mouse mat.

I photocopied the painted silk before binding the covers and used the copies to make matching fly sheets at the front and back.

And use five for a surplus mouse mat is for embossing. With apologies to any parchment craft lovers, who will no doubt be appalled, I embossed the figure in this photo (another image from the Artchix sheet in my July DT pack) using the rounded end of a paintbrush handle and the back of a mouse mat to give her something of the effect of those Wedgewood cameos where the image is in relief.
I also painted her with a coat of watered down glossy accents so she appears as a raised image with sheen against the grungy background. As ever my photography in not the best but you can just about use imagination to see the effect in the close ups below.

Both items were made for swaps so I really hope I haven't spoiled the surprise by showing them here.
And onto August already! I don't know where time goes. Lynne at The Altered Element sent me these pretty garden themed stamps which I will play with as soon as I've caught up with my 365 day challenge.