Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fantasy Feathers

 As I mentioned on facebook, the old "What if...?" bit me today. 

So many times, the best successes I've had began with "What if I .......?"

Left is a photo of my work table.  The faux eagle feather cane is upper right, a project I'll be teaching next year. It is a traditional feather and so far a favorite.  But, what if... I used the same technique but very different, non traditional colors? Note the two feathers to the left of the eagle feather. They are the answer to "What if I...?"

There were three colors on the work surface (black glass) today, Turquoise, pearl white and a soft coral color, leftovers from some project. 

Also on the work surface was a small Stroppel cane that Jane and I made together on our last play day. 

Shaft ready to be added to the feather halves
Using the three colors a Skinner blend was created. Turquoise on one end, soft coral on the other and the pearl white in the center. The resulting blend was fan folded into a block from which a feather would be made. After cutting the corners away the feather shaped block was cut in half leaving two sections of 'barbs' ready for splits.

The side splits in the 'barbs'  were finished and I had reached the point where the shaft needed to be wrapped in black to separate the shaft from the feather barbs but it seemed to me that black would be harsh and not fantasy like. 

After holding a number of colors up to the shaft and parts of the feather I pretty much gave up. Actually I was hoping for one of those "Ah-HA!!" moments that often come after I give up trying. 

 That's when the Stroppel cane caught my eye. "What if I were to wrap the shaft with a slice of the Stroppel cane???  If lengthwise, then it would be the same problem as the black clay but if vertically then the shaft would have dozens of tiny color bits as we'd be looking on the cross section of a very thin slice. 

Would it work?  A thin slice of the Stroppel cane was put through the pasta machine on a thin setting. #7 in a machine where #1 was the thickest and #9 was the thinnest.

After covering both sides and the ends the shaft was inserted into the feather halves. 

They were pressed together leaving the thick end of the shaft sticking out of the feather cane about 1/4 inch. 

A small vertical slice of the Stroppel cane was placed from the tip of the shaft to the tip of the feather.

The cane was then tightly pressed together, shaped and reduced slightly.
 The cane provided about a dozen slices from large to small. Left are shown some of them. 

The lines around the shaft appear almost 'sparkly' due to the darks and lights.

Left is a close up scan of a Fantasy Feather.  

Original Design by
Penni Jo Couch

Designer and sculptor of 

Designer of

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fun with Jane

My friend Jane and I are fellow junkies and Polymer Clay is the object of our obsession (of course after faith, family, and friends). When we have a chance to play in clay it is always more fun to play together as our ideas are enriched by each others insights. Since moving over 30 miles away, we do not often have a chance for a clay play day but managed to squeeze one in on Thursday this week.
 Jane is an excellent designer and brought with her a polymer clay necklace she'd made using our newest mold, PJ047 Conical Seashells shown left. 

The tiny seashells are brightly gleaming 'gold' on a back of matte, hammered 'gold'. The added glass beads in ocean colors accent the pendants. Each pendant/charm is hung using a trio of oval jump rings.  

A tiny bit of antiquing around the molded seashells gives extra depth to the pendants/charms.
Very, very nice!! Thank you Jane!!

  She has often encouraged me to write a polymer clay book and I've finally taken the plunge. Faux Ribbon Embroidery (or great fun with tiny bits of Skinner Blends) is currently in the works.

Since I've become a fan of Pardo Clay, and plan a number of color schemes for the projects in the book using this clay the first step was to obtain all of the colors including translucent and make samples of each color.  Metallics will follow later.

Above is a yellow ceramic tile with all but the blue color teardrops of clay and one teardrop of pearl clay (12 o'clock on the tile).  There are two different translucents. The Viva Decor label translucent and the Lisa Pavelka (upper left corner) label translucent.  I wanted to be sure they behaved the same. 

The samples on this tile are covered with candy paper and will be the control group. Two sets of the colors have been baked and these unbaked ones will be compared to baked colors to check for any color changes. 

Jane and I conditioned about half a block of each color and cut a number of the teardrop shapes. It's so much more fun to condition clay for a long time if you have some one to visit with and help.  The colors conditioned easily, the clay was pleasant to use and in a very short time we'd finished and the colors were put away.

After we finished up the conditioning, and on a whim, we tackled the exciting Stroppel cane. (Alice, thank you for sharing your technique!) 

Having very few canes not being used I gathered up a bunch of colored scraps from projects. While I chopped the scraps with a blade, adding a slice of ivory and an old patterned cane, Jane started making sheets of black clay. We did just like the video suggested but maybe not quite so neatly added the colored bits and lumps to the first sheet, then added a sheet of black clay. Again a bunch of bits, slices and lumps and more black clay. After one more layer we packed the stack down, cut it in half and re-stacked the stack. A couple more cuts and stacking and above is the resulting cane. It looks like a happy summer day to me. :-)

If you would like to see images from artists all over the world of items made using this technique, check HERE. Amazing, right? 

The mold used by Jane to make the necklace above is the PJ047 Conical Seashells, shown below.
PJ047 Conical Seashells.

This seashell mold is filled with 17 different sizes of shells. All have a conical shape. 

Some are created with the 'opening' of the shell showing. This open area allows for beautiful pearly 'inside' finish contrasting the outer shell. 

All of the shells were natural shells but had to have clay added to make them able to be molded.

Jeweled Seashell Pin/Pendant

Free instructions to make this beautiful jeweled seashell pin/pendant (shown left) are included with the mold. 

This and other original molds are available on our website:

Penni Jo