Saturday, June 30, 2007

Change of Plans

Well, I tried to make a huge leap by leaving my scientific job and becoming a full-time artist. Unfortunately, family circumstances force me to make a sharp turn right in the middle of this leap. Not only do I have to stay at my job, but I will also have to significantly cut my polymer clay-related activities.

I will continue maintaining my web site and will add new items and tutorials when I have a chance, although it will not be happening with the frequency I was anticipating.

To make this message less disappointing, here is picture of my new set of fairy faux cloisonné beads, “The Violet Moon”. The cylindrical beads in this set were the fist non-flat faux cloisonné beads I made. They were very tricky to make since the glaze I am using to create the glass-like surface takes a few hours to dry, and the only way to distribute it evenly around the bead is to keep rotating the bead until the glaze is set.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crafts Shows Equipment

I met a few wonderful people in my class in North Carolina, and among them – Marley Beers. Marley and her husband Jetze have lots of experience in doing craft shows and are very generous about sharing it. Marley suggested I post this information in my blog for all interested people.

Thank you, Marley!

Outdoor tent:
Trimline, made by the Flourish Company, Great product, great people to work with, very open and honest. By far superior considering this combination of characteristics.

Indoor frame:
Also Flourish Company, however their indoor frame is quite heavy and not telescoping, thus harder to set up. A lighter (aluminum) indoor frame is made by Georgia Expo. They have 2 different diameter frames (1.5 and 2 inch?) and offer the option of telescoping corner poles. This is easier to transport and to set up. Also, the horizontal tubing for the top of the frame can be made telescoping, which can be important since no shows guarantee exact booth dimensions. And, sometimes one may rent a larger space than just 10 x 10, so just one extra upright and a horizontal extension will do the trick. (To clarify this, come and see our frame.) Georgia Expo web site: In case you decide for a Trimline outdoor tent, you can use that frame also as your indoor frame instead of buying a separate one. It is just a little bit heavy and takes a second person to help with the setup.

Cash register:
Certainly in the beginning not a must. However, if business goes well it is important to have sales and inventory records without having to rely on written notes and/or copies of sales slips. An important issue is the availability of electricity. Indoor shows always offer it for a fee and you need it for lights anyway. But many outdoor shows do not offer it or it is limited to some booth locations. Therefore, a cash register that has a dual mode (110 Volts or battery) is the best choice. Only 2 companies have reliable models, Royal and Swintec. Swintec is our preference. It is a sturdy metal case and has a low profile. It is also simple to operate, however both brands offer limited options in terms of what you can do with the cash register. Nevertheless, we are very much into semi-automated record-keeping and the Swintec has become our base for inventory and sales information. The model is SW20 and the web site is

Credit card equipment:
Taking credit cards (mostly Visa, MasterCard and Discover) is a MUST. Here also, don't jump into the more expensive hi-tech situation until your sales volume justifies electronic wireless equipment. A good and inexpensive way to start is with the old-fashioned knuckle buster, the slide in which you place the credit card and a blank paper slip, and then complete the slip manually with all pertinent information. This manner requires after-sales phone transmittal to your service provider and, since it is after the sales, does not give you acceptance authorization before the transaction is complete. This is the risk of a manual system but it is also the cheapest way. You still can do pre-approval over the phone but that takes time and is often awkward in front of the customer. Of course you can still protect yourself a little bit by requiring good identification and record phone numbers and driver license information. A good company to work with this way is TeaMac Inc. in Pennsylvania. They specialize in services to artisans and have an easy application process. Web site is

The other option is to jump high and go for wireless and battery-operated equipment. This has become a highly-competitive market and it is worth shopping around for the best deal. Many companies offer (mostly) free equipment. The trick is to find a provider with low discount percentages and reasonable additional fees and no or low minimum monthly charges. It may worth your while to talk to your regular bank to see what they can offer. In terms of equipment, there are many options ranging in purchase price from $350 to $1250. The most popular machines are made by Nurit and by Way Systems. Our equipment is the Way Systems cell phone based MTT 1510 with a small battery-operated printer. It works just about everywhere and has been almost 100% reliable. The reception and therefore the connection to the wireless network is usually better than that of other equipment. We recommend this system over anything else. Again, you just have to find the best and fairest merchant service provider and get free or almost free equipment without lengthy and expensive contracts. For Way Systems equipment information you may want to visit

Monday, June 25, 2007

Faux Cloisonne Class in Raleigh, NC

I just came back from North Carolina where I taught a faux cloisonné class this weekend. Below are a few pictures from the class (14 total). Sorry I did not catch every participant, nor did I photograph every pendant made in class, but I hope this slideshow will reflect the class atmosphere.

I had 16 people, all with different skills and backgrounds. Teaching a group of people whose level is unknown to you is always a challenge, but I think this class was a great success. Everybody participated, everybody learned, and lots of people told me that now they have lots of new ideas they want to try with my technique. They tried some of those ideas in class, and I absolutely loved it. We all enjoyed seeing various designs that people were coming with.

And as always in my classes, I enjoyed meeting new polymer clay enthusiasts and seeing their works. Linda Douglas shared photos of her sculpted horses and unicorns, Jeanne Rhea brought a few of her amazing colorful ATCs, and Vickie Rhine had one of her whimsical dolls. Lots of people were wearing necklaces or name tags they made out of polymer clay. Every creation was beautiful and unique.

I also loved the store where the class was arranged, Artist Oasis. Renee Fletcher, who owns this store, has a huge collection of stamps, shelf after shelf of various pigments and dyes, and lots of other artistic supplies. I wish I had more time to explore it.

Here is the link to the Raleigh polymer clay guild:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Wonder Glaze for Polymer Clay

On my quest to find a better substitute for PolyGlaze I stumbled upon an interesting product called Triple Thick (by Krylon). Why didn’t I see it before? I think I am going to like it even better than EnviroTex Lite. For one thing, it does not smell. It does not require any mixing. It dries quickly, does not produce too many bubbles (which are easy to remove), and it is waterproof! It is also much cheaper than PolyGlaze and is available almost everywhere. Here is the list of stores that sell this product:

It looks like the only quality in which EnviroTex and PolyGlaze surpass Triple Thick is clearness. Well, you cannot win in everything…

Triple Thick is actually pretty clear, especially when applyed in thin layers rather than in one thick layer. That is why I say it is a very good dimensional glaze. I am going to recommend it in my class this weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

…and Some More on PolyGlaze

I am ready to report results of my experiments.

Below is the promised photo of the tile with cracked Poly Glaze layer. The glaze was cracked on purpose (see my previous post).

Now the same tile covered with the second layer of Poly Glaze. This glaze is whitish in color when applied and then it becomes clear when it is completely dry. Because the glaze layer is deeper in the cracks, they appear darker in color.

And the final picture. The glaze is completely dry and transparent. The cracks are mostly gone. You can see traces of some of them if you look really close. If this were a real pendant I was trying to save, I would probably apply one more coat of Poly Glaze.

Conclusion: PolyGlaze forms cracks if cured at lower temperature. The cracks may be fixed by applying a layer or two of Poly Glaze on top of them. However, I would recommend avoiding this problem rather then trying to fix it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More on PolyGlaze

I am getting ready for my faux cloisonné class I will be teaching in NC later this month.

A new thing I am adding this time is a demonstration of clear surface finishes that may be obtained with PolyGlaze (which I normally use in my work) and materials other than PolyGlaze. I am also going to show possible problems that may occur with each of these materials and how to avoid or fix them.

By the way, making mistakes on purpose is more difficult than I thought!

One of the problems with PolyGlaze that I was told about is its occasional cracking. The person who had this problem lives in Maine, and she told me about it this winter. I suspected the cracking was a result of lower temperature she may had in her house during that time. This had never happened to me, so the entire idea was a pure speculation.

This time I decided to re-create the problem. Since it is now hot a humid in Maryland, the only cold spot in my house is a fridge. So, that is where I cured two samples covered with PolyGlaze tonight. I understand it is overkill, and I seriously doubt that my friend in Maine had such a low temperature in her house, but I had to start somewhere.

I am happy to report that by morning both of my samples were dry and both of them developed a few cracks! I will take this fact as the proof of my theory – PolyGlaze does crack at lower temperatures.

Although this is not quite scientific and I cannot tell you the critical temperature when this occurs, I think we have enough information to work with. The lowest temperature in my house (in winter) is about 65F. It is safe to say that PolyGlaze dries nicely at 65F and above. Any lower temperature may be risky.

My next step is to see if the cracks could be fixed. I will work on it tonight and report the results in a day or two.

I also promise to have pictures by that time.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I am Quitting My Job!

Yes, that is right – I am quitting my job – I gave my boss a four-week notice yesterday. I feel like such a coward leaving him with all the projects we have on hand, but I have to follow my heart.

I have so many ideas (all related to polymer clay) that it became impossible to continue cutting them short.

I had a nice balance between work and play for a while. I am a senior development chemist at a pharmaceutical company, and so I was happy doing science by day and art by night. Then art began prevailing. First it started cutting into my family life. With two kids in elementary school and our busy schedule (we are swimming together a few times a week), I never had much time left for clay, so there was not enough room for expanding. I found myself staying up late at night, doing less cocking and cleaning (thank goodness for the help of my husband and kids), and spending weekends in my studio… After awhile, that was not enough.

I tried to collect my ideas for some distant indefinite future, filling up one notebook after another with my sketches. But just capturing the ideas for my sculpted jewelry is not all. I want to teach more, I want to write more articles about polymer clay and more tutorials for my site, I want to do a lot with the site itself, I want to do shows…

So now I am taking the next step. July 6 will be my last day at work, and then I will be free to see how far I can take my interest in polymer clay and teaching.

Although this is something I was dreaming about for a long time, actually doing it is scary. I am all numb inside. I am welcoming this change and afraid of it at the same time…

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Custom Order

I just finished these two sets of beads - hand-sculpted polymer clay calla lilies and orchids on black background. I am told that the bigger beads will become pendants and the smaller ones will adorn hair sticks. That is why the design on the smaller beads goes all the way around them...

Thank you, Linda!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Polymer Clay Tutorials

I received this E-mail from a fellow polymer clay enthusiast, Heather:

I love your work and love the tutorials you have on your web site. …Are you planning to publish any more tutorials in the near future?”

I already answered Heather in a private E-mail, and then I decided it would be nice to let other interested people know about my plans as well.

Currently I have a few general polymer clay tutorials and a glossary that would be the most beneficial for those who are just starting to work with polymer clay. I also have one technique-specific tutorial, which explains my faux cloisonné technique using a heart-shaped pendant as an example. This tutorial is intended primarily for people who have tried their hand in polymer clay already (although I know at least a couple of people who have successfully completed their very first polymer clay project following this tutorial).

I am working on a few more tutorials that will teach how to sculpt different leaves and orchid flowers out of polymer clay. Since most of the leaves and flowers use Skinner blend, I am planning to post the Skinner blend tutorial(s) first. I want to show how to obtain a sheet of polymer clay with color gradation (starting with two and with three colors) and also how to transfer those sheets into logs with different patterns.

The Skinner blend tutorials will be followed by at least two or thee tutorials for different leaf designs and for different orchid flowers.

I also want to write a few tutorials for projects based on faux cloisonné technique.

As for the time frame, expect to see the first tutorials in mid July with a new tutorial every two or three weeks after that. I cannot give out any details yet, but I expect to have much more time for this kind of activities starting the beginning of July.
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