Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May the blessings of Christmas sweeten your Life.

May the joys of Christmas continue to bless and keep you.

May the happiness of Christmas stay with you throughout the year.

May the light of Christmas illuminate your path, direct your ways and bring you peace.

Penni Jo

This artwork is my gift to you.

You may use these angel pictures for you own personal use as image transfers, page decorations, etc.

The angel alone is on a transparent background.

Another New Caboshapes mold # II

December has been a very, very busy month. I sculpted caboshapes for another new mold. PJ039 Caboshapes II - Divas!

DH made the initial mold. From there we jumped right into sales and marketing. Whew!

The new mold is designed with a feminine feeling with 12 openings featuring three stylized female figures, one large figure is 4 3/8 long by 1 1/8 inches wide. The two smaller female figures measure 2 1/8 X 9/16 inches and 1 1/2 X 1/2 inches.

Also included is a stylized tiny baby that is small enough to be held in 'arms' or to be applied to the larger figure to represent a “child within”.

From “mother nature” to the popular 'goddess' look , these figures can be used to embellish and decorate jewelry and many other things. As always, free instructions are included with the mold. The project instructions with PJ039 makes a “Mother Nature” pin or pendant.

  • Three stylized female forms.
  • A small face that can be used on the larger form.

  • A tiny stylized baby.

  • Two stylized shapes that can be used as 'hands' or 'wings' or feathers.

  • One elongated teardrop shape.

  • One Collar that can be thin for an application or thick to form a bead etc.

  • One Crown, doesn't every diva need one?

  • Two tiny accent parts, a heart and a diamond shaped jewel.

Most of the parts have flat fronts and are about ¼” deep. Some of the parts are curved. The depth of the smaller parts is from 3/16” to ¼ inch deep.

The projects instructions are to make a Mother Nature pin or pendant and uses only a few colors. A Skinner blend sheet is pressed into the mold then the mold is filled with solid color clay. The excess is trimmed away and the lovely feminine shape is easily de-molded. The figure of gently blended colors can now be embellished with vines and leaves. A tiny molded heart adds to the feminine beauty of the pin/pendant.

To make the Child Within, mold the large figure in choice of color.
Mold the tiny baby in choice of color. Maybe pink or blue? Press the baby onto the front of the figure. Bake and finish as desired.

The finished figure could perhaps embellish a baby album cover, or a table favor at a baby shower?

We hope that you enjoy our molds and would love to see what you do with them.

Penni Jo.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And Yet another NEW Mold!!!!

On the way home from Sandy Camp, we reviewed our sales and the notes of people's requests for future molds. It became clear that folks really liked the cabochons. There are five of them in our line but they are all common shapes, circles, ovals, squares/rectangles and one odd shape. All of them are asymmetrical.

Little sketches were drawn on a number of pieces of paper, sketches for possible new designs but what could we call an odd, distorted or asymmetrical cabochon?


Similar in depth, style and size, these Caboshapes could be used in any mix or singly.

For instance, you can mold a caboshape using about 2/3's of the clay called for. De-mold it and set it aside. Now cut a thin slice of your favorite Mokume Gane. Line the mold, press in the thin, molded caboshape. Press firmly to bond, trim the excess and demold a beautiful, smooth shape, ready to bake and use.

The same can be done using a slice of a Kali cane, or a group of small cane slices. etc, etc.

The first Caboshape mold is fairly simple with eleven unique, hand sculpted Caboshapes.

Three Shield-like shapes,

Four Triangle-like shapes,

One Cube / square,

Four Curved shapes.

Most of the parts have flat fronts and are about ¼” deep. Some of the parts are curved. The depth of the smaller parts is from 3/16” to ¼ inch deep.

For the project, I used two different shapes, the curved shield and a narrow football shape. After baking the shapes, a faux Bali Silver Bezel is constructed around the two shapes.

The response to this new format has been great. Thank you all.

Stay tuned, there are sketches and plans for five more caboshapes.

Sandy Camp Review

Sandy Camp was absolutely delightful. There were four and a half days of fun, fellowship and clay play. It was truly a retreat. Except for watching a 30 minute demonstration two or three times a day, all our time was spent making things of clay. With each demonstrator, we learned something new that we could take back into the tent to try out.

The store was only open a couple of hours a day. This allowed the vendors and staff to play along with everyone else. Left is a photo inside of the store. In the background, left a gentleman is standing in front of our booth.

At school we learned to give a "book report" a most dreaded task to say the least. However as the years have gone by I have learned to enjoy book reports and will often share with our guild the goodies I have gleaned from one book or another.

This is not a book report, just an overview of the wonderful demonstrators at Sandy Camp. (OK, I may not be so wonderful, but I loved doing the demo. )

Sandy Camp Demonstrators & Demo Notes:

1. Jill Kollmann: Jewelry, pendant with wirework.
Excellent demonstration with a handout. Her demo was, what she calls, “Fusion of Wire and Polymer Clay”. A clay cabochon is captured in wirework with swirling wires, beads and tiny sculpted details. You can see some of her work on her Etsy site.

2. Victoria Hepfner: Boxes made using cookie cutters.
This was NOT what I expected. It was so much more!! The lids on her boxes went all the way to the bottom of the inside, bottom box. Like a candy box. The long lids allowed for both a nice, snug fit and the ability to have beautifully decorative sides. The Technique was developed accidentally by Brenda Urquhart and demonstrated by Victoria.

3. Penni Jo Couch. I showed how to make clean molded parts that are ready to use immediately after molding, how to de-mold, ideas for using molded parts in a project and how to make cabochons with embedded slices of millifiori canes. Everyone got a copy of the cabochon project. Left: a sample cabochon.

NOTE: A video of molding an de-molding is on our website's home page .

I also demonstrated how to sculpt a calla lily and gave everyone a pattern.

4. Patty McElhiney: Wow, Incredible hollow beads! This demo was loaded with all kinds of info, from all sizes of lentil beads, styles of hollow beads, to hollow spool shaped beads. She showed some of the home items that could be used to make the lentils and how to treat a dowel rod to make a form for the spool beads. Lastly, she showed how to make a filigree bead over cornstarch packing peanuts squished into a bead shape. Wonderful demo, filled with info and fun.

5. Dawn Schiller: Fun faces in bezels.
She had a super layout of the shapes needed to make a face. She also had a simple way of putting the shapes into the bezel and then blending them together to make a face without a nose. The nose was last and added great character to the face. A most amazing demonstration. -- She only used a nail tool to do all the sculpting. cool. She was amazing.

The clay was a polymer clay from Brazil called bozzi. It evidently is super to use and easy to condition, and strong and is available here.

6. Marie Segal: Extruder Fun:
This was also unexpected. It always amazes me at how much I don't know. She showed how many of the shapes we might never use go together to make fabulous patterns. Also, if loading more than one color into the barrel, the last color that goes into the extruder will be on the outside of the extrusion until it is all gone. The potential of the stacking is really exciting as are the patterns that can be formed using the extruder.
Ideas- plaids, quilt blocks, etc. Lots of ideas a-brewing in my brain and a few notes.

7. Christi Friesen: fun and a great demo, a koi pond.
This project was done as a stand alone tiny artwork or as a pin or pendant. The project was a tiny “pond” with lily pads, stones, a koi fish and resin water. She does not spend much time conditioning clay, just using it as it comes from the block. I'm guessing it is premo but could not see the brand from where I sat. She is a fabulous teacher and such fun. 'Can't wait to try this one.

8. syndee holt (no caps on purpose) Mosaics using polymer clay and glass drops. A very, very informative demonstration from preparing the background, creating the clay tiles, gluing the parts, grout tips from choosing the color to mixing and spreading it into the spaces, and finishing the piece. Polyform supplied a frame and tiny cutters to make clay tiles and decorate the frame for a contest.

9. Tony Aquisto, creator of Kato Clay. Fun, tongue in cheek history of polymer clay, a 40 minute power point presentation. Very clever and informative :-).

The retreat was relaxing, encouraging and I came home rarin' to get clayin'!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dr. Laura's show 11-1-10

Over the weekend Oct. 30-31,2010, an order for some of our molds came in from a customer named Dr. Laura Schlessenger. As I read the name on the order my mouth dropped open. I have listened to a Dr. Laura on radio for nearly two decades! Could this be that Dr. Laura? After a bit of research, we discovered that, indeed, it was THE Dr. Laura.

Joe normally picks the molds for orders, but, knowing that I had been a fan of hers for years, he handed me the bin and read off the numbers so that I could pick the order. So many of them were my favorites, molds I continually go back to over and over again.

I started to write a
'thank you for your order' note to her when I remembered that the reason I started sculpting in the first place was so that I could continue to stay at home with my children. We had been transferred to Oklahoma in 1981. Our financial circumstance had changed greatly but I had been a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) since the birth of our first son in 1963 and wanted to continue to do so.

The first email I wrote was the "War and Peace" version. Too long and WAY too much detail. During the day I would pop back into the studio and pick away at the email, trying for the best "Reader's Digest" version possible.

Someone once said about writing: "Don't use too many words, but, use all the words needed to tell the story." or something close to that.

After much typing, retyping and thinking, I finally sent a thank you letter to Dr. Laura. She wrote back and asked permission to read it on her show and I said yes. Here it is below.

"Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you so much for your order. Our little mold business started in '81 because I wanted to continue to be a stay-at-home-mom. I just had to write to tell you how tickled I am that you have ordered our products. How they came about is right up your alley.

In 1981 we were transferred to Oklahoma. In our previous home, I had been a stay at home mom since 1963, raising our kids and loving it.

My mother had to work from the time I was 3 as our father and mother had divorced. Times were extremely tough in the 40's and 50's. My mom had to work. Dad, a physician, lived 1700 miles away, remarried and raising his new wife's son. Mom struggled to keep us fed and warm. Fortunately, her parents and her maiden aunt helped to raise my sister and myself. As you can tell, so many of the stories I hear on your radio show (I've been listening since the mid 90's) and in your weekly emails ring true to me. My heart goes out to the children of the self centered crazies.

From the time I became a mom I was determined to stay home with my kids.

When we moved to Oklahoma, it was a tough time for the economy. Houses were expensive, loans had double digit interest and my husband had to take a cut in pay to keep his job. We did all we could to allow me to stay home.

In a miniature club meeting in the winter of 1981 I found polymer clay and fell in love with it. Turns out, I could sculpt, who knew?

A few months later, I signed up for a small local craft show, to try to sell my hand crafted miniatures to earn enough for new winter coats. To my surprise, I made $700.00!!! You could have knocked me over with a feather. The kids had warm coats and we paid some bills. It seemed that I was in business.

For the next seven years I stayed at home with my kids while making miniatures, sculpting doll house dolls and eventually ended up with a little signature line of tiny teddy bears called PenniBears.

I taught polymer clay classes in my home, at conventions, (the kids went with us) local stores and eventually had a few dealers who sold my miniatures and PenniBears all over the country. Soon our kids were back in Christian School and I had a decent car.

In '89, my skill as a miniaturist came to the attention of Gary Clinton, owner of United Design in Noble OK. and I was offered a position of designer/sculptor with their company. Since my husband worked nights and I would be working days, there would always be someone home with the kids were home from school for the next two years until they were grown and gone. For the next 15 years I was a master sculptor designing giftware, angels, home decor, and animal figurines for home and garden. Eventually the company was sold and moved out of Oklahoma so I started a design studio in my home.

After retiring we decided to market our line of rubber molds. I sculpt, design the project, write the tutorials, measure the clay and take the pictures. Hubby Joe makes the molds, creates and maintains the website and ships the
orders. We are having a great time, staying busy and enjoying life.

And, it all started with me trying to find a way to stay home with my children. Ain't life grand???
Most Sincerely,
Penni Jo Couch

Designer - Sculptor - Writer"

Dr. Laura read my email on Monday Nov. 1 2010 that I had written to her on her show. I mentioned this on facebook and have been asked "What did your email say?" from those who did not hear the show.

She mentioned our website before reading the email and our server lit up, stuttered a bit but did not crash!

We've gotten some nice emails and are encouraged by the response.

If you are reading this and are a SAHM or want to be, I encourage you to keep trying. Budget both your time and $$, plan meals around items on sale, start cooking from 'scratch' rather than buying pre-made meals. Most neighborhoods have free sale fliers, check out the weekly sales and coupons.

Look around and try to see what skills may be needed and wanted that you could do while home with the kids. I have a friend who irons for people. It's amazing how many people would like to have their clothes ironed and are are willing to pay.

Check out websites for all kinds of recipes and helps for stay at home moms.

My DIL's favorite laundry soap recipe is on this page: -- I still make my own laundry detergent. I guess that thriftiness gets to be a habit.

Left: PJ037 Settings (bezels) for standard oval cabochon.

Thanks for stopping by and have a most wonderful day.

Oh, and if you would like some molds, please visit us here at

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another brand new mold!!

A couple of weeks ago, Joe asked if I had finished the settings project re-do. It was a simple idea. Make a mold that makes a setting. Not simple to engineer though, the molded part kept sticking in the mold. Pulling a ring (or oval) is a lot, lot harder than pulling a solid cabochon from a mold.
A setting stretches if any part hangs up anytime during the de-molding. After several different tries, I was ready to call it quits.

However, we persisted and after one more modification and new de-molding technique, the ring (oval setting) pulled out of the mold. It was a combo of loosening and pressing the clay to a slick surface before de-molding. Ta-da! The design worked and more goodies were sculpted to fill up the mold.

This pretty mold has 10 openings. Four settings are for these standard oval cabochon sizes: 40x30; 30x22’ 18x13 (will also work with 16x12); & a 12x10 oval connector/setting. For best results you should have a cabochon in one of these sizes ready to use before molding the setting. A bale mold is also provided. There also are two rose and ribbon swags with tiny tassels, a right and left along with two full blown roses and a leaf. All are in a richly embellished style.

The instructions have step by step molding and de-molding instructions, including how to add a bale and how to set an oval cabochon.

Before baking the setting can be modified, stretched, reshaped from an oval to other shapes. This heart setting was made by cutting a "V" shape from the oval opposite the rose at the bottom, then pressing the two cut ends together to form a heart shape. A bit of tweaking was done before baking to shape the heart setting. If desired, this setting could be used for a tiny frame.

As always, we have measured the clay for you and provided a circle measuring chart along with a list of the size of the ball of clay needed to fill each opening.

Overall mold dimensions for this mold is approx. 3.25" by 4" by .25 to .5 inches thick. Materials up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (F) can be used in our molds.

All of the originals have been sculpted, an initial mold made and perfected, and now we are ready to begin casting the new mold when Joe discovers that we are out of the blue rubber! This is usually not a problem, I call the company from which we buy the rubber only to be told that we can not get the blue rubber until the first week of October!!! Big problem, we need the blue rubber NOW.

No blue available. We have to use a different color rubber to make the first run of our new mold. The rubber is tan, not blue, but since its' a pretty mold and we expect folks to like it, we made 20 of them for the show.

Here are some more pics of the molded parts. Rt. Oval setting with hanger or bale depending on orientation of the setting.

Setting with Bale

Round Setting

Below left: holes were made in the unbaked settings. After baking, head pins were threaded through the holes enabling the smaller setting to act as a connector and the larger one to have bead work.

This mold, PJ037 will be available on our website at
After the second week of October.

Penni Jo 9-25-10

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sandy Camp, here we come!

For the last month we have been preparing for Sandy Camp. A retreat in the hills outside of San Diego where polymer clay lovers come together for fun, play and learning.

We will be vendors so Joe is working hard to get enough molds made up for the show.

I am working hard too, preparing projects and new molds to demonstrate at the event as I will be one of nine demonstrators. We are honored to be chosen.

I'll be showing how to make these calla lilies, left, and will have simple patterns for attendees. They are made of, what I call, duplex clay. Skinner blend on one side, translucent and cream on the other side. A ribbon or bow can be added to the stem of the pin to complement the wearer's clothing.

Cabochons with embedded canes will be the focus of my demonstrations as we have several molds now that can be used to make these pretty designs.

Our primary purpose is to introduce our molds to people, show the quality and ease of use and then to demonstrate different ways this can be achieved and how they can get perfectly molded, ready to use parts every time.

I've continued to develop this technique for several weeks with continuing good results and satisfaction.

This set, Pin, earrings and bracelet, left, was inspired by antique Italian Pietra Dura.

The canes were constructed to look like mother of pearl. They did not quite make it, but the designs are appealing and give a good idea of what can be done with these colors and a dark background.

The larger pin below shows the detail.

So, what's next, buttons! This time the background is a skinner blend log cut into 1/4 inch slices and packed into a cabochon mold with the design in the bottom.

The shanks are made of colored paper clips, cut and tiny flared wire pieces sticking out at the bottom. These are stitched to a cardstock backing, just like in the 40's and 50's.

This is my work table showing the skinner blend log, tiny, borderless canes (the outside of each cane is dusted with Perfect Pearls Perfect Bronze powder to give a slight, metallic edge to the slices), pre-made cane clusters laid out ready to go into the mold, cut paper clips, a razor blade for cutting and lifting the clusters, and a mold with a cluster in the one opening, ready for the background to be pressed in firmly, forcing the cluster into the face of the cabochon. The paper clip shank is pressed into a cut in the back, clay is smoothed over the two 'legs' and pressed flat. A couple of flexes and a button pops out, ready to go into the manila folder tray for baking.

Maybe I'll see you at Sandy Camp and we can play with this technique together.

Penni Jo

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Challenge nudged me out of my comfort zone.

A while back I joined Christie Fresian's fun forum group and have enjoyed seeing member's work and reading posts. Recently she had a challenge, a circular reasoning challenge for a PolymerCafe article. Her description of the challenge of circular things were clever, fun and inventive including ripples on water. Hummm. (thinking happening here)

Suddenly a rippling idea popped into my head. (Imagine a light bulb suddenly shining over my head here) The design could be a pin with round waterlily pads, rippling water and circling Koi fish in a pond.

As I've been working in my comfort zone for far too long, this was just what the doctor ordered! Not one to shirk a challenge I jumped in with both feet.

First were the little sketches and then, thinking about how to make the fish, the background, the water, lily pads (first cane did not work, had to make a second cane) & flowers, background details, and finally the ripples. Slowly I began to get all my ducks in a row. (my apologies to readers from other lands for using this bit of American colloquialism.)

The circular background was easy, Skinner blend in watery colors. Made blend, rolled into a big cane, cut a slice, flattened on a tile. Also made a translucent and white jelly roll cane from which to cut ripples.

Now, for the fish. Uh-Oh, they need to be flat or the water will be way too thick. Humm, can't sculpt flat fish. (new light bulb over head needed again.) Finally an idea sets off the light. I'll color the fish onto the background. Uh-Oh, the colored pencils will not color over dark, light or medium blue. Another idea! Make very, very thin light gold fish on the background.

A sheet of gold was rolled through on the thinnest setting and then stretched even thinner. Three curvy fish were cut from the sheet and placed on the background and rolled smooth.

Done and baked. When cool, I sanded the goldfish down with 320 grit sand paper to add tooth to the fish so that the colored pencils will stick to the clay. Using my most favorite pencils for coloring on clay, Walnut Hollow Oil Pencils, the koi came to life with bright, rich colors. A coat of Liquid Kato was smeared over the fish and background and then baked again.

Next several slices were cut from the ripple cane, put through the pasta machine at the thinnest setting then applied over the fish and background and baked.

When cool the ripples were sanded until thin enough to be able to see the fish as clearly as possible.

Next a brown border was added, canes for the lily pads and flower petals created and applied. Tiny tendrils crawled across the brown 'earth' surrounding the pond and a final baking.

When cool, several coats of varnish was brushed over the water, allowed to dry and a pin back was added to Version 1.

Unsatisfied with version 1, version 2 was started.

This time the fish are white pearl rolled into the background clay. After baking and sanding the background the oil pencil colors were much brighter and richer. The border was added then came the lily pads, flowers, and tendrils with leaves. The lily pads were elevated above the background to let the 'water' run under them and appear to float.

When it went back into the oven, the center was filled with clear UTEE. As the pin baked, the UTEE melted and flowed into a smooth, glassy finish.

I rolled very, very tiny ropes of clay, formed them into curves and applied them to the top of the baked, solid UTEE and heated the UTEE with a heat gun until it began to melt and the cooked ripples bonded to the surface.

I hope you are able to find a challenge that will bring you as much fun and learning as this one has for me.

Thanks for the nudge Christie!!

BTW, the first person who saw the pin asked if I had used transfers for the fish. (slapping forehead with palm of the hand here) It never occurred to me until that very moment!!

Oh well, live and learn. :-)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Orlando Clay Fandango

It's official, I will be teaching at the 2011 Orlando Clay Fandango. We are excited to have our lesson chosen and for the opportunity to teach a new project that I've been working on for about two years.

Like so many ideas, this one came when I only had a very small scrap of a beautifully colored skinner blend, warm pink to ivory to warm blue and wished there were something I could do to use it up. I began wondering how I might use this small piece of a favorite blend.

Hummmm..(thinking happening here)... maybe I could use slivers, little angled slices from the skinner blend scraps to make a pretty flower with colors blended from light to dark. So I compressed the scrap into a small Skinner loaf, cut off a thin slice, cut the slice into slivers and rolled them into ropes.

The first one was this necklace and earring set using the pink to ivory part of the scrap of Skinner blend. The leaves and vines were made from a green to translucent failed cane. The gypsy in me came out as I was finishing the design with iron on Swarovski flat back jewels inserted into flower centers and other design elements.

I began calling the technique "Sliver Flowers & Leaves" and created some more designs, some with wirework.

On another one, the background was textured to resemble fabric and the resulting design was the inspiration to convert the slivers into verigated silk ribbon for embroidery.

For years I'd tinkered with clay embroidery designs but was unsatisfied with the results. Certainly nothing to write home about. The slices from the Skinner blend scrap reminded me of Ombre or Variegated ribbon so the focus changed from thread embroidery to ribbon embroidery and experiments began.

After testing and developing ways to make the various stitches with ribbon embroidery shapes and movement, I created a clay "Sampler". My favorite stitch is the running stitch with variegated ribbon. The effect is so much fun!

I'll be teaching this faux Embroidery class at Fandango May 19-23, 2011. Students will make a sampler and a pendant/pin project. I'll sculpt a new mold with tiny buttons, borders and other embroidery goodies for this class. Here is a link to more info on Orlando Clay Fandango Retreat.

The pendant to the left is 'stitched' around the edges. The ornament below right is made from the same technique only the ends of the flowers stitches are not 'tucked' in.

More pictures to follow: maybe we'll see you there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

NEW!! Woodland Spirts mold is on the web!

It is an exciting day for me, the Woodland Spirit mold is finished and up on our web site. After a year of remodeling, moving and getting our mold company up and running, we finally have a new mold finished and ready to sell.

There is a lot of work involved after picking the theme for the mold. Sizes, how many parts in the mold, how to lay out the parts for easy de-molding, etc.

This Woodland Spirit mold came about after I sculpted two leafy lady designs, one large and one small, for a challenge. It was a great deal of work and the quiet feeling of the pieces inspired some designs to go with it. They had to be modified to work as molded parts. After modifications, they were laid out in the mold size diagram and sketches were drawn to fit more woodsy designs into the mold with them. We try to get as many parts in a mold as possible.

The two "Carved" wood spirits were sculpted as old men with beards and wise faces. The owl just seemed to be a good choice to go with the group. The little knot hole can be a bead. Mold two of them and place them back to back on a bead pin or wire. Press gently to bond and bake and you've got a bead that is a knot hole.

Each of our molds come with instructions to make a project from a molded part. This one is no different. Clay buddy Jane and I worked out this beaded brooch. It is simple but very showy. The colors are mica powders but acrylic paint could be dry brushed onto the baked part before antiquing the piece with burnt umber acrylic paint.

Here is the before pic.

Announcing -- a brand new flexible rubber mold by Penni Jo!!

This lovely mold has six openings. Four are pleasant woodland spirits including two leafy ladies, one large and one small; and a "carved wood" old man's face in two sizes.

Also in the mold are a wise, kind owl and a little knot hole. The molded parts can be used to grace your jewelry, fairy doors, and home decor.

Included in the mold are instructions to make this lovely beaded brooch.

****July 4th Special -- Free Shipping****

Order from July 4 through July 6, 2010 and include PJ034 Woodland Spirits mold in your order and the shipping will be refunded through Paypal.

Anytime is Clay Time!
Penni Jo AKA Claylady43 - Our Website with flexible rubber molds. - Flickr Polymer Clay Pics Penni Jo's Creative Blog - Our Etsy Store

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another day, another project or two

After discussing with Arlene about the mats (see previous post), we decided it would be easy and meet more artist's needs to offer the mats in two formats.

One texture mat style will leave the design imprinted INTO the clay; AKA "Innies".

The second texture mat style will create the design sticking OUT of the clay; AKA "Outies".

Tonight I prepared the materials for casting Outies and we will pour them tomorrow.

Also tonight another project has finally been finished.

Our newest mold, PJ034 Woodland Spirits, will be cast tomorrow. I've been sculpting for weeks on the parts for this new mold.

It has six openings including the following: an extra large Green Lady, a small Green Lady, a medium sized Old Man of the Woods and a smaller Old Man of the Woods. Just for fun there is an Owl Face and a Knothole Bead.

The project will be a necklace featuring the larger Old Man of the Woods and the Knot Hole bead.

We will be posting the final sales date soon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Many Changes and New Product

So much to do.... So little time.... A favorite quote that is often used by folks like me and others who find their lives filled to the brim. However, with careful management, I've managed to squeeze out enough time to try a new 'mold-ie' idea.

For a long time the thought of making original Texture Mats from my own drawings has intrigued me. Our current mold rubber is a bit too soft for pressing a design into polymer clay without 'blurring' so researching a properly stiff rubber that will give an imprint and also be flexible enough to bend easily became our first priority. When there was a bit of time, I contacted the rubber company that we have worked with for years, requested samples and found one that is "Just Right".

Next we needed to create an original mat from which a mold maker could be cast. More time provided the research and solution as to what we would need for this step.

There was finally time available to make our first mats. We started with a design called Branches, a sheet of simple interlocking branches on a plain background.

The second is Swirling Ginko Leaves, ginko leaves in a variety of sizes on a background of swirling dots.

On both mats the images are "outies".

Each mat is 6 by 4.5 inches. I'm not sure if I like them this way or if we ought to remake them with the images as "Innies".

When these mats are rolled onto a clay sheet misted with water, the images are embedded into the clay. ( "Innies" ).

However, if we make a new rubber mat by molding the opposite way, when the mat is rolled into a sheet of clay, the line art images will be sticking out ( "outies" ).

Hummm...... Lots to think about. Maybe we should try "outie" texture mats tomorrow.

So much to do..... So little time....

Friday, May 28, 2010

Website work and free Tutorials

We have worked very hard to build a website for our little business. After looking at other sites and assessing the time taken to build our little site, I am in awe of the amount of work required.

Our first attempt did not seem to show our molds to the best advantage. So, we made a few changes. We took new photographs of all of our molds and reviewed the pages with tutorials and stamps.

Our most recent molds, PJ001 through PJ009 were a different format from the molds created for Sweetbrier Studio and needed work. They were used in my classes and none of them had any project included with the purchase of the mold since the students used them in a class with a lesson.

It was obvious that projects and tutorials needed to be written for each of these. 'Much easier said than done.

Starting with our top selling PJ009 Wild Flights micro mold, the choice was to make an embellished focal bead. The body of the bead was made of translucent clay with micro glitter worked into the clay. The tutorial shows two finishes. Varnish only and antiqued with heavy body acrylic paint, then varnished. Since many folks got this mold in a class but not the Focal Bead Tutorial, we have posted it on our Free Tutorials (Tutorial #6) page of our website. BEST FLEXIBLE MOLDS..

With that done, both of the Thunderbird molds needed projects. Since they are so much alike except for size, the tutorials are basically the same. A variety of color combinations and a photo of a wooden cigar box embellished with a colorful eagle.

The PJ008 Roses and Butterfly micro mold was next. Again, a project was needed. This time I went for old fashioned and feminine. A heart pin with roses seemed just the thing. (It also matches my peach jacket.) The tutorial for this mold is also available in the Free Tutorials page (tutorial #5) page of our website. BEST FLEXIBLE MOLDS..

Next we needed a project for the cabochon molds, PJ001 Almond Cabs & More and PJ002 Cabs & More have a tutorial for Faux Abalone.

While making parts for PJ003 and PJ004, I began playing around with slices of canes in the bottom of the cabochon mold. Beginning with PJ004 Dominoes and more mold, I started with a simple design. After this design, I got a bit bolder and began to do more in the cabochon mold before adding clay. The results were way beyond my wildest expectations.
Begin the project by filling the mold with less clay than needed to fill it. Push the clay all the way to the edges making in a shallow cabochon. Remove the shallow cabochon and set it aside.

Next arrange very thin slices of flowers, leaves, fun canes and loopy ribbons in the bottom of the cabochon mold. When satisfied with the design put the shallow cabochon put back into the mold, on top of the cane slices, and very, very firmly press in place.

If you have the PJ003 Egg shapes and More mold but not the tutorial, it's your lucky day. If not, the technique should work in any solid, flexible mold with a flat bottom. This cabochon is made with some of my favorite canes, especially the rose cane. The leaves are Illusion Leaves, one of my classes. They look rounded even though they are flat. The translucent and white ribbons are really striking on the dark background. Add a little ultra fine micro glitter and the effect is wonderful. (Matches my black outfit.) :-) You can download this tutorial, also for free, on our Free Tutorials (Tutorial #4) page of our website. BEST FLEXIBLE MOLDS.

The designs continue to grow and develop.

The tutorial to make this lovely cabochon on a skinner background comes with PJ004 Dominoes & More mold. I'll try to get it up on the Free Tutorial page soon. The oval cabochon in this mold is 30 by 40mm, and fits a standard setting.

Clay buddy Jane came over yesterday and I showed her how simple these pretty pieces are to make. Shown here is the result of cane slices in the PJ028 Symbols of Faith mold. A flat cross designed for patterned clay. I did it very quickly but was again, delightfully surprised at the results. The bright colors and pearly green background are a beautiful mix.

Feel free to visit our Free Tutorials page of our website. BEST FLEXIBLE MOLDS.

Have fun!
Penni Jo

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today was an Adventure in Video taping

Today DH and I successfully filmed and uploaded our first video onto YouTube. We wanted to show how easy it is to mold and de-mold clean ready-to-use sculpted parts. After all, with our molds you "Push in Clay ~ Pull out Art".

DH would be the camera man and I would be making the molded part and narrating the video. Sounds easy enough, right??? Wrong!

After four un-usuable attempts, we finally achieved a video that was OK. We uploaded it to YouTube, but you can watch it right here if you like.

What fun! 'Can't wait to do this again. What's next?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Big Changes

I guess it is no secret that I have designed and sculpted flexible push molds for Sweetbrier Studio, a subsidiary of Miss Martha Originals. She approached me in late 2004 asking if she could license our rubber mold designs. From that early conversation, Sweetbrier Studio was formed. Miss Martha and I attended several CHA shows and one NAMTA show with mixed success. Hobby Lobby picked up the line at our first show and carried it until this year. A number of smaller craft stores and web stores are also selling the line.

In February we were surprised to hear that Sweetbrier Studio was no longer taking orders. It seemed that the company is closing so my licensed designs were restored to us. When we got home the first of March, we jumped right back into the mold business. Since we recently moved and molds were low on the list of things to do, it was a HUGE job. The mold room is housed in the fourth bedroom and nothing had been unpacked before our trip to south Texas.

We had to have a work bench, shelves and lighting. Oh, and mold rubber, now where are the containers of mold rubber??? Big items like the compressor, vacuum chamber and vacuum pump were easy to find. The rest, not so easy. In the first week of March, I unpacked, cataloged and put in place over 15 boxes of the parts and pieces of mold production and shipping. It is amazing how many things are needed for productive mold manufacturing.

Joe had several computer jobs to catch up when we got home so I inventoried what few molds we had then began planning how to make the molds we needed for the orders that we had received in the last few weeks. Good news, we had mold making master for all but two of them. Next, make mold making masters for those then serious casting began.

After years of working with the United Design mold room, it was like riding a bike, only messier. In a few days, we had a shelf full of finished, trimmed molds, ready for..... the inserts!! Egad, where are those? I original wrote the projects and took the pictures but everything was sent to Sweetbrier Studio for printing.

A LOT of time was spent on my computer, searching for the elusive project inserts, color pics of the finished projects and measuring circles. Finally everything was found, printed, cut and folded and put into the plastic bags with the molds. Boxes were sealed, and weighed, postage was bought online, labels glued on, then off to the post office.

People talk about mom and pop businesses. I wonder if anyone realizes how hard mom and pop work. :-D

The last part of the job was building a website for the molds, tutorials and original rubber stamps. Our website is DH and I have spent nearly every spare minute on it over the last few weeks and tonight, it went live!!! The home page of the website with little pictures of all the molds can be found here: Molds. Our tutorials are here: Tutorials. Free Tutorials are Free Tutorials. If you love stamps, you might want to take a look at our Stamps.

It's amazing how very many pictures are on a website. Good thing Photoshop is around. The artwork and photos had to be sized, cropped, resized, re-cropped until everything fit. It was a bit scientific looking here.
DH has a PC desktop in his office next to the mold room.
I have a Mac desktop in the studio in the opposite corner of the house.
We each have a laptop, his PC, mine a Mac that were set side by side on the dining room table.
All the computers were linked.
I could create an image on the desktop and send it to the shared folder on his desktop.
Using his PC laptop, I could open the website and work on any page that he was not working on.
If I needed an already made image on the desktop, I could pull it from the Mac Desktop with my laptop and put it in the image folder on the PC desktop machine and use it on the PC laptop to insert onto a page.
Hmmm sounds a bit odd but it worked great. Ain't technology grand???

This is a sample of a pic for the site, showing flexing and removing a perfectly molded part.

Since we are not pros at website construction, if you have a chance to look it over and find something, please feel free to send me and email. We'd greatly appreciate it.

Here's hoping you all are having a wonderful spring. Weather is finally nice here in Oklahoma and we are back on the bikes. It's good to be blogging again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Biking in Mexico!

Well, we did it and survived!!!!!! What, you may ask, did you do??? We signed up for a very physical trip. We would drive to the hand drawn ferry in the US and take the ferry into Mexico and bike to the nearest town. 22 of us gathered at the rec. center for the trip. The morning had been overcast and chilly but the forecast for the day was for warm and sunny weather.

People and bikes were loaded into pickup trucks. Half of the group would be riding bikes, the other half would ride to the ferry and cross with us and take a cab to town. We were headed to Los Ebanos ferry, located at the obscure Texas border crossing of Los Ebanos, a tiny town in Texas on the Rio Grande river. It is also a historical site.
The pickups were parked at the ferry and the bikes were unloaded. Leaving the pickups in the parking lot, we walked down the ramp onto the ferry after paying our fee. Fifty cents for a person, fifty cents for a bike. One dollar each for Joe and I to ride a ferry. Just before we got to the ferry, the clouds disappeared giving way to a beautiful, summery day.

This is such a small, little traveled link to Mexico that there is only a tiny customs station. It is the smallest of eight official ports of entry into southeast Texas from Mexico. On the United States side of the river there is one lane for the three cars that come off the ferry each trip and, on the other side of the tiny kiosk, a window for the people who are on foot coming into the US. No commercialism, just this little station and some old buildings. On the Mexican side there is a building and customs station, also very small. One serious warning sign, If you bring a gun, you will go to prison!! There is no town at the landing in Mexico. The first town is over a mile from the border.

The ferry is tiny and the river is not wide, only about 90 feet, where it crosses. There is no motor on the boat, just a heavy rope stretched from shore to shore with a metal circle guide on each end of the ferry. Six men pull the heavy rope, drawing the ferry from one side to the other. A second rope was stretched about 10 feet up stream with two pulleys with ropes that were fastened to the boat and preventing it from sliding downstream while crossing. This method is hundreds of years old but amazingly efficient. There's been a ferry here since the 1700's. There is room for three vehicles. The sides are filled with riders and bikers. Before we knew it, the boat had left so smoothly, we never noticed it was moving until, glancing at the rope, we noticed it was moving! Joe grabbed it and started pulling too. I pulled too but I imagine it made no difference at all. In less than a minute, there was a bump. We were in Mexico.

On the Mexican side of the river there was a very steep ramp going up the hill. I was pushing the trike up the hill but it was a real chore as it's heavy. Joe left his bike halfway to the top and rushed back to roll the trike the rest of the way up. At the top, we bikers took off down the road to town and the rest of them got into cabs. We were off and pedaling to Diaz Ordaz.

I figured I might have trouble biking that far but six weeks of serious biking here in the park paid off big time. Believe it or not, I was not at the tail end, but in the middle of the pack all the way. True, I had to pedal constantly as I only have one speed, but it was, by and large, an easy ride. The road is paved and relatively flat. It went by so quickly that I was surprised when, all of a sudden, we were entering the outskirts of town. There was one big hill entering town where I had to get off and walk the trike up the top. After that, the town was as flat as the surrounding land and riding was easy.

All the bikers stopped at a tiny park just inside of town to take a short break. One of the bikers had been there before and led the way to a restaurant where the travelers from our park always eat. When we got there, the small parking lot was half full of bikes. We were not the only American's enjoying the fabulous weather and good food. I'd forgotten my newly purchased bike lock but parked next to the building and went inside encouraged by the fact that only a few of the bikes in the lot were locked.

The tables had bowls of fresh pico de guillo and fresh chips. The menu was simple. A single sheet of paper with a brief description of the food in English and a number. You order by number and pointing as the staff does not speak English. This town is NOT a tourist town. The citizens are friendly and helpful, the food was great.

After lunch we spent about two hours biking around town collecting adventures and memories pedaling down the street to city center where the group broke up into couples or individuals wishing to find something or take photos. It is a nice Mexican town. There were statues and obelisks in the median strips honoring people. The benches in the park were inscribed too.

Cars, trucks and buses were everywhere. There seemed to be a sort of unplanned chaos that worked to keep traffic and Americans on bikes and trike flowing with no injury to anyone in spite of the fact that the traffic was CRAZY!! Cars would roar around us, but always missing us. Children hung out of car windows smiling and waving to us. Everyone was helpful and kind. Men in big trucks would slow down and wave me across the road when I would be waiting to cross. Maybe the sight of an old fat gal, the color of mayonnaise, on a big trike was just too good to pass up. Joe and I made sure to stop at every stop sign and obeyed all traffic directions so as not to end up in the hoosegow.

As I had not bought enough bottles of cooking Vanilla for friends and family, Joe and I went on a hunt for Vanilla. While Joe waited at the curb, I went into a number of stores, putting on a big smile and asking for "Vanilla Por favor". One non english speaking sales person after another looked distressed and did not understand but smiled back. Finally I took to showing my spanish to english book to them to which they all said no, no Vanillia. Because I took their time and they were always so nice, I bought a little something in each store like a Pepsi or cleaning supplies.

Back out on the main street we were looking again when a young man asked in broken English if they could help. I showed him the book and pointed to the word Vanilla. Ah.. YES! Vaneeila and both of them began talk to each other then began to point down the street in the direction we were headed. We started down the street but it was obvious we did not know for what we were looking. Finally they signaled to follow them and we all went down the street for three or four blocks. Finally they gestured and pointed to a small store across the street. It was an ice cream store. With vanilla ice cream. In order to avoid being an ugly American we thanked them profusely with many smiles. I went inside and bought a vanilla ice cream cone.

We biked a bit more and headed back to the road to the park in time to meet the rest of the bikers. When we got to the corner to turn, the two young men who walked us to the ice cream store were just rounding the corner, walking up the same road we would be going! They had walked BLOCKS out of the way to help some American lady on a trike buy a vanilla ice cream cone. What nice guys!!!!!

Arriving at the park early, we loafed few minutes, then three of us took off again, looking for the elusive vanilla. Two grocery stores later, still no vanilla but a good bar of laundry soap and some scrubbing pads.

On one street corner we met an elderly gentleman who wanted to speak English with us. He grinned and shook our hands over and over telling us all "I like you!" in nearly perfect English. I'm sure he used all of his English with us and both of us walked away smiling at his enthusiasm for Americans and the English language. What a great city with many kind citizens.

The ride back to the ferry was harder. After nearly two hours of biking around town meeting the citizens and searching for vanilla we headed back down the highway to the ferry. However, it was slightly up hill the whole way. Tired and thirsty, I stopped once for a big drink of water then back on the trike and took off down the highway to the border. "I think I can", "I think I can", "I think I can", "I think I can", "I think I can", ran through my mind like the Little Engine that Could. I just HAD to succeed under my own steam. Once again I was surprised when the customs building was there before I expected it.

Note to self: next time, rest at the park a bit before start pedaling back to the ferry.

The ferry ride back was as much fun as the first time only this time someone saw Joe pulling the rope and then everyone was pulling the rope and one guy started singing the song "Michel Row the Boat Ashore". What fun.

Joe wrestled the trike up the ramp on the US side while I pushed his bike. We stood in line at the entry and presented our passports to the man in the kiosk. He ran them through the scanner, asked if we had any liquor (no) and gave them back and welcomed us to America.

All in all, this trip was one of the most memorable in my life. When we got back to the rig we both took a much needed two hour nap.

We had a great time and are more fit than we knew.

Check out my big grin at the end of the ride.

Can't wait to go back again.