Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1st Book Review - Creative Clay Jewelry by Leslie Dierks

The posts entitled Book Reviews will be about the books I used to learn how to work with polymer clay. They are based on my journals, as I kept them during the work. In the winter of 2010, I got hooked on polymer clay. I loved the range of what I could do with it, the fact that I wasn't limited in any way for the beads I could have. Buying glass and metal beads from the stores was going to be more expensive than I was ready to live with. I wanted to make affordable jewelry and polymer clay seemed a good way to cut costs, by making the beads myself. So I got my hands on many books and went through the exercises and projects and learned my craft. I'm still learning but I got a good basis to start from.
I did the exercises in this book in late February of 2010.
On first appearance, the book seems outdated but I got lots of work from it. The first exercise I tried was the Simple Flower Cane (page 28) Cane work is not a force for me so far but I liked her illustrations and explanations. It's very simple and to the point. For the flower she asks you to wrap the petal only 3/4 around to give it more depth. It seems simpler than the others I've tried with the same results. The Star (PAGE 28) was also easy. She offers 2 ways and I tried the second, it has less steps. I like that easy thing. So both canes are waiting for me to do something with them.
Then I sculpted a small face (page  31). That was also fun. I managed to do it without distorting the head shape too much. He's cute in a scary kind of way. Getting the right expression will take some work. Next, I did her Bulls'eye Galore (page 42). The cane was easy, her instructions simple. I let it sit overnight and this morning I covered some scrap clay with the slices.
The challenge was Double Link Quilt Pattern (page 50). Again her illustrations and directions were bang on. I made square scraps of clay and that took some thinking. Now that I think about it I should have made a log and squared it up but you never know how much clay you'll need. Anyway, you're supposed to ball the squares up after you've made them. I did that and it went fine. There are lots of cracks and lines showing when squaring so making them round gets rid of that But one bead stayed square with rounded edges. I liked it better so I did them all like that.
The triumph of my day, my week was making Leaping Lizards (page 52) . It took 2 1/2 hours and over 5 blocks of clay but I like my results. Again, this woman has great illustrations. I am so proud to have pulled it off. I didn't reduce it because it was the end of the day. I was already 45 minutes over my time limit so it rested until morning. My proportions are right and the ivory sets off the turquoise really well. Bravo to me!
After having brought myself up to date, glued my samples in the journal I kept going. I replaced the parchment paper I'd been working on for a piece of thick glass (old glass doors from a cabinet). I'm hoping it keeps the clay cooler for the canes ( I use Sculpey).
This next project was frustrating. Wish upon a Star ( page61), a star cane, looked fairly straightforward but it flopped. She calls for a 4 peak star and it collapsed inside. I might have done better with a 5 peak star but well now it's over. I will cut it and make a kaleidoscope or something. Then I made the parquet pattern in her Heart's Desire ( page 75). The cane is fine but she wants to shape hearts out of tripled cane pattern. The cane parquet pattern cut in 3 and put back together. I didn't think that would have produced consistent hearts so I'll consider my options first. I was thinking of cutting out hearts with plastic cover over the clay so as to round them and then sticking a face in the back of them. The biggest job was the Stained Glass Effect (page 76). I made the cane but it was huge and I had reduced it from her original recipe. Being square, the reduction is tricky. Then leaving it too big makes cutting difficult. I didn't manage to get one whole slice. she calls for wrapping colored clay with the cane slices so as to see the color through the cane. I used white, it was the best end product. Well, it's hard to tell, the dark turquoise and pottery looks all right. I covered a baked bead, to see the difference with the thinner cane. It is better. The raw clay gives too much to get a really thin sheet of the translucent. You can spread the thin slice of translucent cane on a baked surface. You can press harder on it without distortion. Still all right and I made a few donut beads, first time. The Special Occasion Barrettes (page 94)was easy as pie although I'll probably have to glue the clay to the metal barrette once it cools.
The next project Corporate Counter Culture (page 109)is a tie. It was fairly straightforward but the assembly gave me a hard time. the clay kept cracking when I tried to bend it over the tie part. I think the tie should have been thicker too because now that it's baked I could easily snap it in half. the top part would have worked better a little thinner. It might not have cracked. Community Gathering (page 116) was also fun although her instructions although her instructions for canes seemed clearer than the other stuff. Like for the base of this piece, she calls for a piece of clay 1 3/4" in diameter but does not mention the thickness. I sheeted it at the thickest on the pasta and when I went to curl it, it cracked all over. Story for today, think about the intended use to determine the thickness. Anyway, my piece is huge, it'll be a pin. I made it all pink because I wanted to use up the clay and I figured the bronze color added later will look nice with the pink. I skipped all the image transfer stuff because I tried it and nothing happened. I'll retry it with another author. The Rising Sun (page 130) was fun but again I changed some things like I used butterflies as background and I added some rope bezel around the face. the Tender Heart (page 138) I couldn't do exactly either, couldn't find the lace for the heart but making the ruffle was a lesson.
Now, the hardest and most disappointing projects are the Cascade of Gold ( page 128) and the Classic Weave (page 106). The first one I gave up really fast. You're supposed to lift the strips of clay, insert the chain and weave the clay. Well, the strips kept breaking. She calls for silver foil on the clay than says to thin it out and the leaf should crackle, it didn't. Anyway, I used up the leafed clay for the heart pin. Now the classic weave worked a little better but I still couldn't make very much of it. The spaces between the strips made holes in the clay. Her picture didn't look like that. I would have broken the strips had I pushed them closer. I used the roller to flatten them thinking I fill in my holes, it worked but the top strips cut through the bottom ones. I had no holes but it didn't look like a basket weave at all and I had used my malachite striped cane. A disappointment.
All in all, it was a great book. I learned a lot about making canes and how to sculpt faces and using them in pieces. Recommended for sure, even if it is old.

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