Archive of ‘Lifetime Learning Institute’ category

Fall Harvest “Stained Glass” Votive

Fall Harvest Stained Glass Votive

Fall Harvest Stained Glass Votive

I know it’s Spring, but I’ve been in fall mode, dreaming up projects for my Lifetime Learning Institute class that begins in September.
This project, the Fall Harvest “Stained Glass” Votive, is so much fun. All you need is small glass votives, a smidgen of black polymer clay, Elmer’s glue, and alcohol inks. You don’t need a pasta machine. You can extrude the clay or roll skinny strings by hand.
Candles lend magic any time of year. If I get my act together, I’ll create some more patterns soon. I’m thinking something summery for candles to use on a patio.

Free Tutorial for Making an Attractive Necklace Closure: the Sliding Knot

This necklace of polymer clay beads closes with two sliding knots that make it adjustable. I can wear it over a sweater or shorten it to wear with an open-collared blouse.

This necklace of polymer clay beads closes with two sliding knots that make it adjustable. I can lengthen it to wear over a sweater or shorten it to wear with an open-collared blouse.

When you indulge in polymer clay, you’ll eventually find yourself making beads and/or pendants. What to do if you don’t have jewelry making skills or tools? Don’t despair. The sliding knot closure is an excellent option.

The sliding knot does’t get the respect or widespread acceptance it deserves. Done right, it’s handsome yet unobtrusive. It’s the way to go when you want an adjustable length necklace. And it’s ideal for people whose fingers stumble over most necklace clasps.

Check out my free tutorial for making the sliding knot. I show you the secret for making a neat knot (that could be a tongue-twister) where the loops line up like obedient drummers in a marching band instead of looking like so many crossed fingers.

I should apologize to my left-handed friends although I suspect they have years of experience translating directions written for a right-handed world.

If you care to know my history with the sliding knot, I first made it while teaching a polymer clay class. I wanted to do a necklace project but didn’t want to teach basic jewelry making skills as I thought it would take too much time. Well, anyone in that class can remember how I struggled to get the knot right. It’s tricky. That’s why I provide step-by-step directions with photos in my tutorial. I hope you enjoy it.

Dare To Imitate

Light pulls edited DSCN6360“Don’t copy!” Do those words take you back to grade school? I haven’t heard them for many years, and I think at some point I purged them from my subconscious.

I’ve come to think that¬†“originality” is over-rated and largely mythical. Let’s face it. We don’t create in a vacuum. We’re influenced by everything that’s going on around us.
Allowing myself to imitate–whether it’s a technique, project or color palette–frees me. Imitating is just a springboard. I always find I want to take things in a different direction.

The light and fan pulls above are a good example. I had made a very nice leaf cane for the Lifetime Learning Institute class I was teaching. The leaf reminded me of drum beads made by Karen Lewis, who goes my the name Klew.Klew drum bead
I actually started out making a bead. It was going to be one of several on a necklace. But the bead was humongous. The  scrap clay I was using was the equivalent of a third of a package of clay (about two-thirds of an ounce).

The first one I made I painted with Folk Art Metallic Antique Copper. Once the paint dried, I applied the clay vines and leaves and inserted the chain. I cured the pull on Fiber Fill, which was a mistake. It caused the clay to darken.

The second pull I painted with a blend of DecoArt Americana Raw Sienna and Apple Barrel Flesh. For some reason the clay appliques would not stick without Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS). I cured this one on cardboard so the clay colors didn’t shift.
I plan to use the light pull as a project for my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class.

Stencil on Polymer Clay

LLI Stenciled Postcard 053b
Looking for a surface technique to teach and getting a nudge from my friend Zan led me to try stenciling on polymer clay. I didn’t know how much fun it could be.
With the polymer clay postcard pictured, I pulled out maybe not all the stops, but at least a few. I stenciled on raw and cured clay, with ink, powder and marker. I used manufactured stencils and cut my own.
To start, I used Premo ecru clay sheeted on a medium setting. Because an earlier test mailing of a pastel postcard resulted in it getting soiled, I decided to imprint both the front and back of this postcard using the Texture Gallery “Cheesecloth” stamp and StazOn brown timber ink. At least smudges won’t be so noticeable.
Tip Stencil Materials 064
The boot was created on raw clay with a stencil from Southwest Decoratives. This was an easy stencil to use–a thin material with a smooth, non-adhesive backing so it doesn’t mar the clay surface. I used a piece cut from a make-up sponge to apply StazOn ink to the boot and Pearl Ex powdered pigment to the spur. Powder can be tricky in a design that calls for nice crisp edges. It has to be applied sparingly as loose powder will migrate. I discovered I can remove excess powder with a piece of scrap clay before lifting the stencil.
The spur got lost in the ecru background, so I outlined it with a BIC Mark-It marker after the piece was cured.
To stencil the thin lines of the star, I made a dauber by cutting a sponge to a narrow edge and gluing the opposite end inside a skinny straw. (I love making tools.) Having a “handle” on the dauber gave me more control than I had holding the sponge in my fingers.
Some of the elements on the postcard were created using homemade parchment paper stencils (which made me hungry for homemade cookies). You can cut stencils with an X-acto knife (thank you Cindy Lietz) or use a scrapbook punch as I did for the stars which I added to the boot after curing. One great thing about parchment paper is that it lightly clings to the clay without leaving a mark.
Both the StazOn and Pearl Ex powders must be heat set, and Pearl Ex must be varnished after curing. I didn’t want to varnish the whole postcard, so I set the stencil back on the postcard and varnished just the spur area.

Rushing the Season

Poinsettia Dish It might be 100 degrees outside, but I’m looking at red and green polymer clay and thinking poinsettias. A poinsettia dish, to be exact, one of five projects I’m developing for my Fall Lifetime Learning Institute class. All the projects excite me, but this one is special because it came together in a flash from conception to prototype. (Maybe not perfectly–I know better than to try to eyeball the center.)
This dish is so easy to make a beginner can do it. Soon I’ll create a step-by-step tutorial to put in my Etsy shop.
I should say a few words in praise of Lifetime Learning Institute in Austin. It’s an all-volunteer organization offering short courses–everything from hiking to film appreciation to foreign languages–for people who are 50 and older. Some very dedicated volunteers work to line up courses and instructors, scout venues, publish catalogs, handle registration, and more.
Last Spring there were 62 different courses. The two-hour classes meet once a week for six to eight weeks. The cost is just $20. That’s not $20 a week. That’s $20 for an entire course. Instructors like me receive a modest honorarium, but the real reward for me is having people discover polymer clay and express themselves in ways they never thought possible.
A great organization. I’m proud to be part of it.

My Job Is To Make Mistakes

LLI Mosaic Frame 049 OK, so maybe “making mistakes” isn’t #1 on my job description list (although I excel at it). Let’s say it falls somewhere behind “having fun” and “inspiring others to play and express themselves.” So as I develop projects for my “Polymer Clay Impressions” class for the Lifetime Learning Institute Fall term, I hope that I’ll make mistakes so participants don’t have to.

The mosaic picture frame in the photo is a good case in point. It features the “brocade” technique from The Art of Polymer Clay: Surface Techniques,” by Donna Kato. You start with black clay and apply metallic gold acrylic paint or gold leaf. My first try was with paint. Ordinary acrylic paint dries fairly quickly on clay, but not this metallic paint. Had to rule it out as a two-hour class would be over before the paint dried.

Gold leaf worked, but I didn’t wait long enough after applying paint to the stamped impression. (Duh!) I messed up big time, going over the surface with my acrylic roller. The roller grabbed big patches of paint, leaf, and clay.

I stumbled a few more times on my way to being ready to teach this project. Time to move on to–or more accurately, get back to–developing the next project. It’s been on the back burner. You can guess why.

I’ll say more later about Lifetime Learning Institute, which is a real Austin treasure.

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