Sunday, January 31, 2010

February PCAGOE Challenge--Gemstones and Flowers Associated With Your Birth Month

This was a very challenging contest for me. The challenge was to create a polymer clay piece around the theme of your birth stone or the flower associated with your birth month. Mine is December and I decided to create a piece of jewelry with both birthstones and flowers. That was a pretty tall order for me because I have only sculpted one other flower and it was highly stylized--my poinsettia ornaments which I designed at Christmas based on Sandra McCaw's color variation canes. So I spent most of January trying to decide how I was going to represent these themes in a piece of jewelry. I finally decided on a turquoise bracelet with a daffodil flower on the front with garnet colored swarovski crystals for the stamens.

The first order of business was to determine how to make a daffodil. I looked online to see if there were any tutorials on this subject but couldn't find any. There was a discontinued mold by Amaco for making daffodils but I really didn't want a cookie cutter look for my flower so I decided that I would just have to sculpt one. Then I googled "daffodil" and "narcissus"--google image, that is--so that I could study the flower petals and stamens and color variations. I decided on a yellow center with verying shades of yellows so I rolled out a square of Zinc Yellow Premo mixed with Translucent and a square of White mixed with Translucent, cut each square diagonally, matched up a triangle of each to make a new square, sliced 10 equal sized strips and mixed them thoroughly so that I had 10 pieces of slightly different shades of yellow and white. Then I stacked these and cut slices with all the color variations about 1/8" thick using my ripple blade so that I could get a head start on the ruffles for the flower center. I took two of these multicolored slices for each flower center and joined them at both seams, making a tube with striped undulating sides. I then took a large knitting needle and gathered one end of the tube around the top of the knitting needle. Then I made the petals a very light butter color with the leftover lightest shade of yellow/white. I made teardrop shapes and pinched them lightly at both ends to make a little 3 dimensional effect and used the knitting needle to seam them down the middle on front and back. I placed 6 of these around each flower center and arranged them until I liked the look and then pressed them in place. I decided that my flower needed to drape itself toward one edge of the bracelet for the sake of stability instead of sticking straight out, so I
bent the flower center over onto two of the petals and made that the bottom of the flower. I curled the top of the flower center so that the inside was visible and so that the stamens would be more visible, too. I further pleated the flower center by making lines with the knitting needle and I used my ripple blade to get a wavy edge around the ends of the center petals. Now it was time to make the stamens. I used plastic coated stainless steel jewelry wire for the stamens with a crimp bead at the end to secure it into the clay and then used crimp beads and garnet colored Swarovski crystals at the tips to decorate the stamens. I decided to limit the stamens to 3 per flower.

Now it was time to make the turquoise! I looked through at least five sets of directions on how to make faux turquoise with polymer clay. The one I decided on used white, turquoise, and ultramarine blue. I used some Translucent with this because I like the texture it gives the clay. Once all the colors were thoroughly mixed, I chopped the clay into little round pieces with the ripple blade. Then I poured small amounts of black acrylic paint and mixed all the pieces of clay up in the paint, thoroughly covering them. Then it was time to let the paint dry. Once the paint was dry it was time to figure out how to design the bracelet. I decided on a cuff and used a wire armature designed for a cuff bracelet and formed the "turquoise" over the wire form. The clay did not adhere to itself as well as usual because of the acrylic paint. I had to be careful, too, not to obliterate the "turquoise" effect by mashing the clay together too vigorously. Finally I got a stable cuff bracelet formed and it was time to attach the flowers.
I made an indention in the center of the outside of the cuff for the end of the flower head to sit in. Once I got the daffodil in place I realized that less was more and the bracelet really only needed one flower. So now I have some extra flowers! But on with the bracelet. I was a little worried about whether or not the flower would slump during the baking process. I cushioned the entire bracelet assembly on fiberfill and baked the piece for 35 minutes.

After plunging in ice water to speed up the cooling process and further harden the clay, I was ready to sand. Sanding the flower was a challenge in itself but I had made it thick enough and supported it well enough that it did fine and I was a little careful with the sandpaper, too. Sanding the turquoise was also a challenge because I had to keep from sanding away the acrylic paint as much as possible so I could keep the veins in the turquoise. Finally I was ready to glaze with a very thin coating of Sculpey Studio glaze mostly to protect the surfaces and to avoid any peeling of the "turquoise veins."

What a fun way to learn two new techniques! Now I think I want to try orchids and agates!

You can vote for your top three favorites from February 1 to February 7. The winning entries will be announced at on February 8.

Five lucky voters, chosen at random, will also win a beautiful polymer clay prize made by one of our talented member artists. Here is a mosaic of the entries for February. Mine is #13.

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