Nov 25, 2011

Black Friday to Cyber Monday Sale -Free Shipping!

Black Friday to Cyber Monday Sale in my Etsy shop!

Free shipping on all domestic orders.
Enter coupon code: FREE SHIPPING ETSY
This offer is good until Tuesday, Nov 29 !

Nov 18, 2011

Fall is Finally Here!

Here on the gulf coast of Florida, we really don't have the four seasons. I like to say we have two seasons; the brown season and the wet season.  The little bit of fall we do have is usually a week or two that preceeds Thanksgiving, and then it's straight into the brown season.

I woke up this morning to a nice cold snap, and even though it warmed up to 75 degrees this afternoon, it occured to me we were in the throes of our mini-fall season. There's even a tree in front of my house that has leaves that are a tinge of red. Too bad they'll turn brown in a week or two. It's okay, though. I'll take this little bit of autumn rather than have none at all.

Snowflake ornaments painted with cobalt blue oxide.

I'm a little sad that my daughter has moved out of town. She's living in Biloxi, Miss with her new husband, and even though she'll be home for Thanksgiving, it's not the same as having her here all day and sitting down for a big meal. On top of that, my son will be going to his dad's house for dinner, so it's probably just me here all day. Talk  about an empty nest! 
I think we've decided to have coffee and a little breakfast together, then maybe I'll just go shopping!

I must be going nuts, because I bought a turkey - a 10 pounder. You can't find a tiny turkey; I know, I tried.  Looks like we'll be eating a lot of turkey for a while. Maybe it's really my denial of having no Thanksgiving  dinner that made me do it. Crazy, huh?

Blue and white cobalt oxide  painted ornament.

Nov 2, 2011

Handbuilding Clay - Works in Progress

This is a before and after of a simple sculpture of a girl holding a bird on her hand. I wanted there to be a feeling of movement in this sculpture, and it's illustrated by the sweep of the girl's hair and her dress. She's also standing slightly leaning into the wind. These all add to the feeling of movement and that there is the presence of wind.

In the finished sculpture, the combination of glazed and unglazed areas make a nice contrast to the layered glazes. I also used iron oxide on the hair. Iron oxide is a great way to color unglazed clay and when used thickly it becomes almost metallic in appearance. 

In the following photos, you'll see a Santa sculpture I made recently. The first photo is when the santa is pretty well modeled. I use the same series of steps as I did in a previous post on making a Gnome.
In this pic, Santa is done, except for his face and hat.

Here is a side view of Santa. You can see the little squiggle of clay on the lower left that will be part of his moustache.
 The finished Santa! Don't mind my dried up, wrinkly fingers. They do look pretty bad, don't they? The clay really dries them out.

Here is the Santa all finished and fired. Of course, I bisqued him first, but what ismynew neat trick is applying a layer of white slip over the brown clay for white areas like the beard and white fur of the outfit. This means less glazing and less of white underglaze, which never really works that well for me. I think he came out great!

 The next photos are of the gnome I posted previously. Here is a photo of the finished wet clay.

 This is the gnome when he was fired. I left his face unglazed. This sculpture was fired in a hotter part of the kiln and there is a lot of melting in the blue of his jacket. Normally, I'd be pretty unhappy with my glazes getting too hot, but it works here because it just adds to the vintage feel of this piece. I'm really happy with this little figure.

The following pics are of sculptures I have drying on my rack right now. I've been making a lot of my hedgehogs and they are taking me in directions I never thought of. Here are two musicians:

 Here is a little pigtailed hedgehog girl with a cup of cocoa. At least I hope it is- I hate to think she's drinking coffee at her age.

A screech owl spirit guide:
 A warrior ferret:

Sep 9, 2011

I joined

I was accepted to join this week. It's a juried site to list your wholesale items to buyers who register for the site. I've talked to a few people who've sold a lot of their work there, and some who've not done so well. I'm optimistic about it. My kind of work isn't found there, so it might be a good fit for me. The juror comments were kind, although one of them suggested I lower my minimum order (in this economy). 

I'll be working on that website in the next few days, hoping to get it ready for Christmas orders. Then, next week, my daughter Alex is getting married! Next Saturday she will be a married woman. Wow, the time flies. You never imagine when your babies are little that they'll eventually grow up and marry- yet they do.

My mom is coming into town and we have plans to make lots of clay art together- although we'll probably spend a lot of time just talking. I really enjoy that and it's what makes family visits worthwhile. Well, back to work. I'm getting stuff in the kiln this morning and I have some experiments with glaze and surface decoration to try out.

  Oh, here is a trick I came up with to carry my things to the kiln. I'm always hunting for a box or something to carry my unfired ware to the kiln. I came across plastic milk crates at Walmart for only $2.50 (college dorm stuff on sale). I cut a piece of foam core the size of the bottom, then added a layer of foamy, non skid shelf liner. It works great. Now my heavy ware isn't in danger of falling out of my hands or scratching up in a box, and small stuff can be fitted in easily too. Love it!

Sep 5, 2011

Magazine racks are just not what they used to be

Picture frame made with recycled magazines by colorstorydesigns
It's been raining here for days now. We've been getting drenched by Tropical Storm Lee. After 4 days of blustery winds and gusts that take your breath away, my son and I ventured out. We drove to town in search of anything to break the monotony.

After a so-so dinner at the chinese buffet, we went to the bookstore. No, not Barnes and Noble. They're my favorite with the best coffee and places to sit and read. Nope, we went to Books A Million. Sort of the B &N ugly sister. They do have books. Plenty of fiction paperbacks and kids books, but the windy aisles through tables filled to overflowing with the latest titles they're pushing (40% Off for Members!!), make me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I just want to get the heck out of there.

My favorite section in the bookstore is the magazines. Not so this time. I think the management decided the back of the store was the place to put the extra tables of books they were pushing and all the other junk that they had no room for. No place to sit. Hot and muggy. Just not browse-worthy. And on top of that, they didn't have any of the art magazines I usually look for.

I've noticed Books A Million carries less and less art and craft magazines and more and more music, fashion, and techie titles. What's up with that? I guess people in this area don't like art? Not creative? Apparently they like knitting, since there were at least 10 mags on knitting. Same with papercrafting/scrapbooking. Some jewelry making titles (although that seems to be waning. I see much less of those lately). But, seriously; where are the art titles? Aside from Artist Magazine, and a couple of painting ones, there was not really much variety to choose from. I couldn't find my Clay Times, or Pottery Making Illustrated. Those have been gone for months now. I missed the wide variety of craft magazines that Barnes and Noble carries; the imports from the UK and Australia, and the weird indie magazines that I love.

After looking at what they are choosing to carry in my area, and making the connection to what people are doing in the way of crafts/handmade/art- I'd say the latest trends here are knitting and mixed media/ papercrafting. Quilting is super strong as well. Jewelry making had tons of magazines in the rack, and now there are just three being carried. My poor Clay Times, Art Doll Quarterly, Soft Doll Making seem to be casualties of the bookstore wars. Just not enough sales, I guess. It saddens me.

I picked up a couple of Moleskine sketchbooks (my favs!), and headed to checkout. No, I do not want to buy a membership where I could start saving right now. No, I do not want to give you my email address. No, I do not want to take advantage of that special offer of 3 months of free magazines. and YES, I would definitely like a bag. 

I hope magazines never go away. I love you, mags!  Books A Million, not so much.

UPDATE:  I went to the Books A Million store in Pensacola yesterday. Boy, what a difference! The store is 3 times bigger; many, many more magazines; and I found everything I could want. Plus, they swapped out a book Jared bought in the other store that had misprints- no questions asked. I was impressed. Now I just have to ask -what's going on with the other store? who knows- but I'm going to Pcola from now on for my magazine shopping!! Wheeeee!

Sep 4, 2011

Step By Step, How I make a Gnome

I made a new gnome sculpture, and took a few pictures along the way. Here's a little bit about how I did it. I start with a base of clay- more of a fat pancake, than anything, and build from there. The base is about 1/2 inch thick; thinner at the edges. I put this pancake on top of a piece of paper towel so it doesn't stick to the surface of my sculpting wheel. When the clay is firmer, I'll remove the paper.
This photo shows the legs and lower coat attached. I wish I had a photo to show you the legs only. ( You'll just have to imagine this part. ) The legs and feet are made from a solid block of clay. I cut out a wedge from the area that will be the legs and attach this to the base, scoring and slipping as needed. I shaped the feet and pants, and then hollowed it out with a small wire tool. I poked a pencil down each leg, too. I want to keep the wall thickness of the sculpture to about 1/4". After that is finished, I added a strip of clay around the pants as the bottom of the coat, and use my fingers to press the layers together and smooth them out. The overlapping front of the strip will serve as the front of the coat.
The arms I added are solid, and I probably could have modeled the hands on the end of the arms, but I added them separately. The walls of the body strip are worked up and turned inwardly, to create the shoulders. You can see the piece in the photo that will be added to the top for the collar. The belt is not added on, but pressed into the clay.
The head was made as a solid ball. I made him without any beard or hair, and attached it to the body. The beard and hair were added , and then the hat. The caterpillar and mushrooms were the last addition.

Aug 25, 2011

Helga Cruz- My Talented Mom's Clay Art

Helga Cruz, my mother, is a super talented lady who was working in clay a long, long time before I ever thought about sticking a finger into it. She gave me the courage to try it, and I thank her every day! She wholesales her work to a couple of places in the popular mecca for the rich and trendy; Sedona, Arizona, and other places in Arizona and New Mexico. Kudos to you, Momma!

These adorable sculptures are part of Mom's line of Southwestern Angels. Each of her little angels holds something different; a bird, a cat, a tree, a wreath, etc. Each is supremely charming and as individual as can be.

The Santa is one of her newest designs. It's a combination of majolica and traditional glazing, with tons of old world charm. When I saw that sweet face, I felt like it was Christmas already.

The good news is that we're soon opening a Christmas shop on Etsy, with plenty of holiday ornaments, handmade gifts and clay art Santas, Angels and Nativities. I'm in the process of setting it up and getting it ready to roll. We need to get moving, it's almost Labor Day!

Aug 20, 2011

Making a Screen with Drawing Fluid

My screen printing press is still sitting unused in my garage, and I've been just too busy to get wholeheartedly into making prints. Well, that's what I've been saying to myself. Actually, it's intimidating as heck to make a screen print. Not only is there the design to consider, but making the screen is technical, with lots of room for error.
I knew I had to get going on doing something screen print related, so I thought I'd start with baby steps, and use drawing fluid and screen filler on my screen. Little did I know this would be more problematic than the emulsion/exposure method.

First, I got my screen and traced my design; based on my little clay house with a bird on top, this is just a collection of little houses.

Then, I started painting the design on the screen using the drawing fluid. You can't get a very thin line with this method. I tried to make sure I used plenty of drawing fluid with each line. It's thick like honey and even using a thin liner brush, it was very challenging to get a uniform line.
After all the lines were painted, I let it dry overnight. When I got up, the drawing fluid had hardened even where thick. Then I began taping it off, as the drawing fluid instructions said. This was different than the screenprinting shop where I used to work did it. They washed out the screens and then taped it off. Oh well, I went with the package instructions.
Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the screen being coated with filler. It was awkward and I was juggling the screen filler, a squeegee, and the screen. Let me tell you first, that the filler must be VERY well mixed. A few gentle stirs almost did me in. It was way too watery when I poured it on the bottom of the screen to begin coating. I should have stopped, poured it back in the bottle and started again, but I got lazy and knew it was't right, but did it anyway. My first attempt had me pouring the filler and using the squeegee to spread it. Not successful, and puddley areas on the screen made the drawing fluid start to dissolve. I just let it dry and did a second pass with the filler in a screen coater. That worked very well.
After the filler dried, I washed it out with the faucet sprayer in my kitchen sink. Easy peasy!
Then last photo is the finished screen. It was a great learning experience, but some lessons learned; keep your design to thick lines and little detail, use plenty of drawing fluid, and if it looks thin after drying, go back and add a second coat, use a screen coater to apply the screen filler, make sure filler is thoroughly mixed until it's thick and creamy.
Ok, that was my project for today. I hope you learned something. I sure did!

I made some painted batik fabric to use in some of my sewn projects. I call it batik, but really, it's more of a faux batik, since there is no overdyeing involved. Basically, I waxed the fabric as in traditional batik, dyed it with fabric dyes and removed the wax. I think it makes a nice stand in for the real thing, and it's a great way to add whatever designs and colors you want.

To begin, I stretched my cotton fabric onto a wooden frame using special silk tacks.

Using batik wax and a tjanting ( a special batik tool), I waxed the design. This was definitely the hardest part. Keeping the wax hot enough was a challenge, and if it got too hot, it would run so quickly through the tjanting, that I had a lot of blobs and drips. I did get the hang of it, but next time, I'll practice the designs I want beforehand.
After the waxing, I get out the fabric dyes. Before painting, I like to spray the fabric with a fine mist of water to dampen it and allow the dyes/paint to flow more easily.

Painting the fabric is easy with the use of Dye-na-flow fabric dyes. Very strong and intense and can be thinned with water. Some of the dye ran under my waxed lines, but that's okay, since the style of this fabric takes well to that kind of "boo-boo".

Here are a few pictures of the fabric in the process of the painting/dyeing.

When all the non-waxed areas are painted, I let it dry horizontally. This lets the puddled dye work it's way to the edges of the waxed areas.

I remove the wax by using a hot iron and putting the fabric between layers of paper towel. I suppose you could use newpaper if it was the non-smudge kind, or blank newsprint. Make sure the iron is NOT on steam.

Ta-Da! The finished fabric! Now I'll cut this up and use it for some sewing projects and soft art dolls. I cant wait to see what they look like!

Jul 30, 2011

Lost and Found Art

In my frantic search of the garage, where I was hoping to find an electric frying pan or something to melt wax in (for another project)- I came across a box with these Christmas nativity sets in it. The funny thing is, I lost this box after a craft show about 5 years ago. It's weird to see things you did in the past.

I still love the little sheep. Maybe this year I'll try to make a whole scene. That'll be a heck of a project.

Well, at least I have a few things to list tomorrow. I'll even keep the old prices, I think. After five years in a box, I bet these little Mary and Josephs are eager to be out in the world!

Jul 21, 2011

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself

Sometimes we get down on ourselves about what we think are our shortcomings. I know I do. It's hard to, when you live in such a competitive world like we do. I sometimes think to myself: I should be selling more/ making more/ getting into galleries/ doing a show.

If you work in a traditional job (meaning; you work for someone else), you probably feel those pressures that come with the job- your boss's expectations, whether you are doing well or coming up short, how you get along with your peers. It's overwhelming at times. In our off-time, we face much of the same. Raising kids, family, relationships, etc. There are so many ways to fall into the trap of thinking, "I should be doing it this way".

Every once in a while I like to remind myself that I'm doing a great job. I still sometimes set expectations for myself that are out of reach. That can be a problem, because I'm pretty hard on myself. I do my best, but if I fall short, I try to not beat myself up about it. I try to not sweat the small stuff - I said I try. I'm still working on it!!

Jul 12, 2011

What is a Power Animal or Spirit Guide?

The terms Power Animal and Spirit Guide have entered the popular culture in recent years. I thought a short discussion of what Power Animals and Spirit Guides are would help explain to some who still have questions - what is this whole "Spirit Guide" thing all about?

According to the Spirit Walk Ministry "A Spirit Guide is a spirit that comes forth to guide you through the trials of your life and to help you to understand the lessons that these experiences are there to teach you. Spirit Guides often represent archetypes of behavior for facing the challenges of life and they serve as paradigms of comportment for you to emulate in times of crisis. "

"A certain Spirit Guide may be with you your whole life, or it may be there just to help you through one special challenge. You may have many spirit guides or only one; this will depend on the lessons you need to learn and the trials you must face in this life."
A "Spirit Animal" is the one who will present life's lessons. The Spirit Animal is the one who comes to you in order to show you, through its own unique nature and skills, how to deal with the manifestations of your Spiritual Journey.

The term "Power Animal" is often used interchangably with Spirit Guide.

I see the cunning of the fox; its intelligence and ability to blend into the background, becoming invisible, as skills we can use. "The lesson of the fox," according to Spirit Walk Ministry, "is to stay clear of complications, rather than getting involved in controversies, step back and observe differences from a distance. It is likely you do not need to take sides. The fox takes a neutral stand when he is not being threatened. The fox runs from trouble, preferring not to get in the mix of conflicts." You can see that by observing the fox, there is something we can take away to apply to our own lives. Similar lessons and knowledge of ourselves can be learned by observing other animals and their characteristics.

By searching on the internet, you can find many articles on Animal spirit guides and Power Animals. Spirit Walk has a list of animals and thier characteristics, as do seveal other sites. Even if you don't believe in the spirit guides as a religious practice, it's fun to see which animal you're drawn to and which characteristics seem most like you. For instance, I'm drawn to the rabbit, for its ability to take advantage of opportunities and the way it lives by it's wits. Then again, I do love the Coyote, for its adabtability, playfulness and sense that everything is scared and nothing is sacred.
I started making my clay spirit guide sculptures a couple of years ago,starting with a little raccoon. The idea of having a cute little sculpture I could sit on my shelf intrigued me and before I knew it, I had a small zoo of critters. I usually do what comes to me, but occasionally I get a request for a special animal, and it's always fun to do something new. Each sculpture is created by hand. I never use a mold - just a few simple wooden tools, a rolling pin and my imagination. I like to keep my glazing simple and I try to capture the essence of the animals spirit, at least as I see it. Visit my Iktomi shop on Etsy or my flickr site (on the right side is a link) for more of my spirit guides.

Jul 7, 2011

Designer Decor Knockoffs

I've been working on home decorating lately and wanted to share this awesome blog I've found. It's called Copy Cat Chic, and the blogger, Reichel, has found some incredible lookalikes for high end designers and shops like Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, etc.

The prices are amazing, but I must warn you, supplies are limited for some of these items, and I've followed the links, only to see they were already sold out. It didn't even occur to me there was such a market for designer knock-off home decor!

I'm off to see if I can find the perfect lamp! Toodle-oo!

Jul 5, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

I had a great long weekend. Our holiday was very laid back, with just me , my son, J, and my brother, Greg.

I picked up a box of oysters at the fish market and some crawfish. We ate some oysters on the half shell while standing next to the sink and grilled the rest. I'd never done this, but we heard (meaning, 'read it on the internet') that you should put them on the grill for about 4 minutes and remove as soon as the shells beging to open. Well, that resulted in warm, uncooked oysters; not what I was looking for. We actually put them back on the grill until they really cooked in their own juices. Wow, they were phenomenally tasty!

I made a big bowl of potato salad and an awesome dessert from a recipe my mom gave me. It's just cool whip, instant vanilla pudding, canned pineapple chunks and fresh fruit. Wow, it was so good. I served it over a little pound cake - not that it needed it. I guess the guys everything because there was nothing left.

At dusk, we headed down to the bay to watch the fireworks from the seawall next to the Navarre Bridge, along with a couple hundred other people. I kicked myself for not bringing my camera or phone to take some pictures. Greg entertained us with his tales of being an actual pyrotechnician (what you call the guys who set off the fireworks). He had some great stories and it was really neat how he could describe the different kinds of fireworks going off. We made it home in time to have another helping of dessert (hey, it's a holiday!)

A good time was had by all. What a great way to celebrate our Independence Day!