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Maker Monday is Local!

Maker Monday is Local!

This Monday’s Maker is a local that I actually know! Well, she’s local if you live in the Raleigh, NC area. Otherwise, she’s not very local to your locale. Anyway, enough of that, here she is!

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This is Amy Richards, and this is her wonderful work!

She has a fantastic aesthetic. I met her at a holiday show this past Christmas, and really fell for her watercolors. If you’re a Maker who hangs out with other Makers, you’ve probably done a trade or two. For those who haven’t, trading is a nifty thing we like to do when we really want someone else’s work, but the only thing we have to offer is our own talent. An easy trade is when you value one of your Doojiewingits at the same value as someone else’s Thingamabob, and you trade one for one.

Amy and I did that at the show, and I got these lovely prints! I sort of gave the NC coffee one to my husband as a gift, but really, that was just a formality. It’s still mine.

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What we did recently was way too cool not to share. Amy saw the ring I made for this year’s Valentine’s Day treat, and she loved it so much, she asked if we could do another trade. This time, I custom made her heart ring, and she custom painted a dog portrait of my little man! Of course, I couldn’t be normal about it. I wanted to showcase Odin at his absolute dorkiest. Amy said to send pics, so I flooded her phone with all the most adorable shots of Odin. Fancy Odin, Dorky Odin, Sleepy Odin, more Odin than you’d ever care to see.

Our dog is just the most ridiculous little thing ever. Think dog version of Draco Malfoy. A purebred whose bark is much worse than his bite, and goes crying to daddy (and mommy) when things don’t go his way. He’s such a little dork though! When he plays with his toys, sometimes his lip gets stuck and he forgets to put his teeth back in. It’s the cutest. So that was my only wish for Amy’s portrait.Please show his teeth!

She totally delivered.

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This is so Odin! This is the face he makes when he’s in the middle of playing, and looks up to see if you’re still paying attention to him! She caught his perfect little face without even meeting him. Awesome.

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{Amy, I’m sorry Odin’s still on the mantle in plastic…I haven’t gotten the right frame/mat combo yet! I will soon, I promise!}

Well, that’s Amy! I’d love you to check out her website, and her Instagram is amazing too.

Maker Monday is all about Enchanted Doll!

Maker Monday is all about Enchanted Doll!

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to the genius behind Enchanted Doll, Marina Bychkova! Please click on any of the photos to read about them in her blog.

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One look at her site, and I’m drowning in the beauty of it. Each doll has her own story, personality, and incredible wardrobe (or tattoos!) and it just pulls me in.

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I’ve loved dolls ever since I was a kid, and have dreamed of owning a ball-jointed one. I used to make so many things for my dolls: clothes, furniture, food. I even put carpeting and roof tiles on my dollhouse. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine anything like Marina’s dolls.

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Every face and tattoo is hand painted. Every dress is hand sewn. Every shoe and accessory is tailored. The detail and passion that goes into her work is truly astounding.

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My friend Kiersten inadvertently introduced me to Marina’s work when she entered and won the annual Enchanted Doll birthday contest. (Read about her tattoo design on Marina’s blog! It brings attention a women’s rights issue that many here in the US aren’t aware of.)

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Kiersten’s winning design!

Below is the gorgeous doll she won!

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I’ve been hooked on the dolls ever since. I’m so glad that Marina is back after her hiatus this summer, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year!

(Also, all images belong to Marina Bychkova! None are mine, I’m just a huge fan.)

The (Finally) Finished Arkenstone! (Pic Heavy)

The (Finally) Finished Arkenstone! (Pic Heavy)

This stone has quite a history for me. It’s not exactly a rare find or anything. It’s just a simple 10mm 5 ct mystic topaz. Mystic topaz are treated to give them their rainbow look. Anyway! I found this one at a stall in the Philippines while visiting my mom. Most of the stalls just had pearls, but this one had a lovely array of faceted stones, and I couldn’t resist. I brought home quite a few, including this one.

The Arkenstone, my 5 ct mystic topaz.

The Arkenstone, my 5 ct mystic topaz.

I grew up loving Tolkien, and still do, so as soon as I saw it, I thought it would be a great Arkenstone. I bought it knowing exactly what I wanted it to be, but no idea how to do it. I’ve been trying to come up with a design for the past 3 years, and have finally come up with something I liked!

The templates are ready and cut out using the Cricut Explore.

The templates are ready and cut out using the Cricut Explore.

So many times I tried to come up with a setting and couldn’t think of a thing. So many scrapped drawings. But it’s finally done! I made the templates in Illustrator, and cut them out with the Cricut Explore. I used a medium grade cardstock so that it would be a bit sturdier and not warp as much when it’s on the metal clay.

I prefer Goldie Bronze Clay Hard, but I’ve been trying out the 50/50 mix of hard and soft to see if that captures better detail. Since I do most of my carving when the clay is dry, I think I’ll stick to just hard. The dry clay tends to be more flexible when it’s got soft in it, so I always feel like I’m about to snap the piece.

Here's the underside of the setting, before I decided it was way too plain.

Here’s the underside of the setting, before I decided it was way too plain.

The prongs are all on, and the knot work is carved and secured.

The prongs are all on, and the knot work is carved and secured.

Remember how I said the back was too plain? I fixed it with more knots.

Remember how I said the back was too plain? I fixed it with more knots.

Working on the bail now.

Working on the bail. I kept thinking I was going to snap it while carving.

It's all ready to go in the kiln now!

It’s all ready to go in the kiln now!

The patina, fresh out of the kiln! I always take pictures because the colors never last.

The patina, fresh out of the kiln! I always take pictures because the colors never last.

The seat is cut, and the stone is set. After 3 years, it has a home.

The seat is cut, and the stone is set. After 3 years, it has a home.

The back, all polished and bright!

The back, all polished and bright!

And one last finished shot! Now to design the clasp for the chain.

And one last finished shot! Now to design the clasp for the chain.

My Solution to Symmetry

Typically my sketches are more “guidelines” than actual blueprints, but lately I’ve had to be much more accurate with my drawings. When I’m working in metal clay, I make my own templates out of paper and tape. (I laminate the paper with tape so that the clay doesn’t get my template too soggy.) Usually I’ll make things symmetrical and get the dimensions perfect in Illustrator. It makes it easy to size up and account for shrinkage depending on what kind of clay I’ll be using.

Right now, my printer is completely broken, which means no printed templates, unless I take a 15 minute drive out to Kinkos. That’s 30 minutes I could be spending sketching! So, I’m doing my templates the old fashioned way. Lots of measuring, multiplying, and then sketching one perfect half.

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Then I x-acto out that half, fold it over on the midline, and trace it on the other side! Then cut again, and I have the outside template. From there, I just keep folding and cutting as I build it up in clay, until I have a finished metal piece, and a pile of paper scraps.

Uncommon Goods

So, I got to the semifinals on my very first jewelry design competition!

As you may remember, I’m so shy when it comes to my work. I like to agonize for days, then post a picture, and run away and hide. I’m constantly concerned with how others will perceive my work, and whether I can really consider myself a designer. From talking with other artists, this is a totally common feeling. That’s good and bad! I’m not alone, but the feeling will probably never fade. I’ll just have to shut it up with chocolates and sushi.

Anyway! I saw Uncommon GoodsJewelry Design contest on the very last day of submissions, and though, “Why not. I’m feeling brave today.” I submitted my Ivy in the Garden ring, inspired by the book The Secret Garden.  It’s always been a favorite of mine, ever since I was a kid. It’s actually created a “life dream” for me. I desperately want a house with ivy climbing the walls. Or the porch. Or the chimney. Or everywhere.

“…she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly-slowly.” -The Secret Garden

“…she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door which opened slowly-slowly.”
-The Secret Garden

Then I got the best email. I got to the semifinals! YES!

But Uncommon Goods has an uncommon way of selecting products for their site. It’s an amazing strategy; I don’t know why more online companies haven’t adopted this! They open up to the community, and let people VOTE on what they want to see on the site. Not enough votes, they don’t purchase it. Lots of votes, they wholesale from the artist, and everyone wins.

I’ve got a shot now! But I need a bit of help. This shy thing that I have isn’t helping me at all, especially with social network building, which in all honesty, is the most important thing any artist can do. I’m doing to use this to push myself out of my comfort zone and evolve from reclusive artist, to confident designer. I hope!

So if you’re seeing this, would you mind going to Uncommon Goods and voting for my ring? I’d really appreciate it!

Carving, carving, carving

Carving, carving, carving

As you can probably tell, I work mostly in 3D. The closest I get to 2D in my jewelry is surface embellishment in my polymer clay, and even that is built in a 3D way through caning.

I do like to doodle though!

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Since I want to start experimenting more with metal clay textures instead of my sculpting comfort zone, I decided to create my own texture plates based on my doodles.
I have an ImagePak stampmaker, but since my designs have so many tiny areas, the skinny ridges and dots came off while cleaning the stamp. That left me with one option: carve it myself.

My carving skills are very basic. I’ve carved lines on a rubber block, but ended up investing in the stamp maker for any real drawing. I took a piece of polymer clay and baked it, then pulled out my needle tool, Speedball and Dockyard carvers, and Sharpie, and went to town.

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About 2 hrs in! (I was making up the doodle as I went along.)

Luckily, my fiancee had the day off work, so I just sat next to him on the couch watching him play Arkham Asylum (which is pretty awesome, even if I’m not a Batman fan. I’m more of a Marvel girl than DC) and carving away.

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6 hrs in! I only stopped because a friend invited us to a cookout.

I (reluctantly) stopped for dinner and had a great time with our friends, but by 10, I was itching to get back to my doodle.

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Here we are at 2 am! Finally finished!

Finished! And then I realized that since this was what I wanted the texture to look like, I needed to make an inverse of it. So, another layer of polymer and baking using this as a mold, and voila!

Now that I’ve made the tool, I can get to work on the pieces!

Hadar’s Clay Brilliant Bronze

Last summer, I branched out from polymer clay into the world of metal clay, and discovered Hadar Jacobson’s powdered metal clays. GREAT! Because I tend to work small, I don’t use an entire packet of PMC3 in one sitting. This means that next time I want to work with it, I have to reconstitute it.

With Hadar’s Clay, you can mix however much you think you’re going to need, and the rest can stay in powdered form! Genius. I ordered her new Brilliant Bronze because it has a gorgeous golden color without the price of gold. Here’s one of Hadar’s photos showing the Brilliant Bronze next to gold.

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So, I experimented! I made a pair of earrings that I call my little geodes to see how well they shine up, and if the clay holds a fine texture well. The outside was sanded smooth before firing, and the inside is textured with a bit of rock I found on my Philippines adventure.

After firing, they had a crunchy dull colored coat on them, but it comes off very easily in the finishing process. I used varying grades of sandpaper on my split mandrel, and finished it off with my micro mesh sanding pads.

They fully sintered, and are very strong. Trust me, I’ve been dropping them all day. I’m a klutz. Unfortunately, I buried them a little to deep in the carbon during firing, and the back blistered a little. But now I know!

My other test piece was a simple ring. I wanted to see if an overlap seam with no blending would hold up during both firing, and hammering. It did!

I rolled it on a texture sheet so the design is very shallow to see if it would be distorted in any way, or sand off during the finishing. The texture prevails! And the joint holds!

All in all, I’m thrilled with the Brilliant Bronze clay.