Archive of ‘Lifetime Learning Institute’ category

Polymer Clay Class Showcase 2016 #1

Jan Sills

Jan Sills

My next several posts will feature work and play from my Spring Polymer Clay Birdhouse class.

This photo shows the birdhouse back made by Jan Sills. She chose to make a bright yellow veneer to show off the mokume gane cowboy boot and stars.

I’ve never taught mokume gane in a class before because it can be such a crap shoot. But it worked beautifully with this class, as you can see from Jan’s results.

Jan has been my much-appreciated teaching assistant for the last four classes.

Polymer Clay Mokume Gane Featured

Back boot 7016 gimpedMokume gane. It’s the polymer clay technique everyone loves but hates to pronounce. So here it is: mah-KOO-mah GAH-nay. Not to be confused with “hakuna matata,” OK?

Polymer clay actually borrowed the mokume gane technique from a metalworking technique used by Janpanese sword makers.

I’m better versed in how it’s done with polymer clay than in swords. I’ll be teaching one method, as illustrated in the boot, in my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class.

If you’d like to try your hand at it, here’s a Mokume Gane Bead tutorial from Polymerclay web.

Polymer Clay Micro Mosaic Guitar

Roof tuitar 7013 gimped Teaching a polymer clay class is so much fun, and a big part of the fun is coming up with new techniques and projects to teach. I can say that now that I have a prototype and a plan for teaching it. The truth is there’s a fair amount of trial and error and heartburn before I reach that point. The micro mosaic guitar pictured is one example.

The guitar goes on the roof of the wooden birdhouse which is the project for my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class. I think participants will have fun with it. Of course that’s my hope for everything we do.

Transfer on Polymer Clay

Side Jeremiah 7031 gimped “Jeremiah the Innocent” is the name creator Daniel Johnston gave to the subject of the fanciful wall mural at 21st & Guadalupe in Austin.

Probably everyone who lives in Austin and many visitors to the University of Texas have had the experience of driving in nerve-wracking traffic, then seeing Jeremiah, and breaking into a smile.

I’m using the image in a transfer on the side of a polymer clay birdhouse, the project for my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class.

The theme of the birdhouse is Austin or Texas. Because one or more class participants may not live in Austin, I’ll offer alternative images.

A New Polymer Clay Birdhouse

Birdhouse front 7012 gimped Lately we’ve been hearing a robin. Heading north? South? Staying put? Everyone’s confused by the weather, it seems. Anyway, it seems fitting to introduce this polymer clay birdhouse, the project for my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class which will begin February 15th.

The theme for this birdhouse–a wooden structure embellished with polymer clay veneers and decorative elements–is Austin or Texas. So the front is a tribute to the Texas state flower and the Austin kite festival. Did I mention that each week of the class will feature not only a different motif, but also a different technique? The only repeat from the birdhouse class I taught in 2013 is the bluebonnet cane/applique.

Watch this spot for posts of pictures and descriptions of the sides and roof. Or if you must peek, take a look at the page Lifetime Learning Institute Spring 2016. (I’m especially excited about one of the roof elements.)

Steampunk Adventure


Thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase my Lifetime Learning Institute class. Today we ventured into sculpting with a steampunk flair. Participants made Christmas ornaments and one Hanukkah ornament. We used patterns from the Ebook, Steampunk Christmas Ornaments, by Maria Maestri. It’s available in her Etsy shop.

Among the steampunk findings we used were snaps from an inherited sewing kit: a card of 12 snaps cost 10 cents.IMG_0069 (1)

Polymer Clay Steampunk Christmas

Steampunk Elf

My polymer clay steampunk elf, from Maria Maestri’s Ebook, Steampunk Ornaments.

This will be a quick post as I’m pretty much consumed with our move. Speaking of moving, I’m glad we did it before bubble wrap is taken off the market. (If you didn’t know that, I’m sorry to be the messenger.) Did you know if you have a bunch of bubble wrap on the floor and stomp on it, it sounds like fireworks?
Anyway, back to polymer clay. My Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class will include a polymer clay steampunk Christmas ornament project. Participants can choose from among the patterns in Maria Maestri’s Ebook, Steampunk Ornaments. Go to this blog post for a link to the book in her Etsy shop. In the same blog post you’ll see the light/fan pulls that we’ll also make in class.

Polymer Clay: Plastic With Class

Mica shift pins exhibit the essence of polymer clay.

Mica shift pins exhibit the essence of polymer clay.

As much as I like to play with the many embellishments that can be added to polymer clay, I love what humble, basic clay can do. Polymer clay, after all, is plastic, and let’s face it, plastic still has an image problem.

I think these polymer clay mica shift pins exhibit a beauty all their own. There’s no embellishment, just polymer clay manipulated to take advantage of the light reflecting properties inherent in metallic and pearl clays. After curing, the pins are sanded and buffed to a high shine.

The pins will be one of the projects I’ll teach in my Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class. We’ll use the soda bottle method when shaving the clay to reveal the magic of mica shift. This method is described in my post “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed.”

Gilded Polymer Clay Napkin Rings

Gilded polymer clay napkin rings could double as scarf rings.

Gilded polymer clay napkin rings could double as scarf rings.

I like using cloth napkins. Mine are humble western bandanas to go with Fiestaware and southwestern decor.
For several months, Tim and I have been “test driving” the napkin rings in the photo to make sure the appliqued leaves and vines don’t fall off. I can’t report total success. One leaf fell off mine, but I’ll live with that.
The napkin rings will be the first project for my Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class, “Polymer Clay Explorations.” I’ve borrowed from the approach Zan Caperton brought to a class several years ago when we co-taught. The base clay gets wrapped around a short section cut from a 1 3/8″ diameter cardboard tube. This time I’m covering the tube with a light texture sheet, the same type I use to texture the back of the clay. It will keep the clay from sticking to the tube and preserve the texture.
We’ll make the vines and leaves by hand–no fancy tools, except needle tools for adding veins to the leaves. Which reminds me, I need to get busy making needle tools for participants. (It simply involves making polymer clay handles for crewel needles. See “Handles With Ease.”)

The clay stays on the cardboard tube for curing. The tube is placed cut end down on a ceramic curing tile.
I’m taking the easy way out for the next couple of posts, using material from my upcoming class. The reason is that Tim and I are moving. It will be a fun move as moves go, as we’re going to a renovated apartment with the same floor plan we have now. But it’s really putting a cramp in my polymer clay activities. Can’t wait to get back in the saddle.

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