Saturday, September 26, 2015

How To - Experimenting with Decals

Ceramic Decals... for the first few years I was learning about my craft/art (ceramics)...I had my head set on being a "purist".  No decals, no alternative firing or finishing techniques...everything would be stoneware and glazes.  That's it.  Well, as I've evolved as an artist and learned more...I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with using tools of the trade, as well as alternative finishing techniques.  At least for me since my items are sculptural and very rarely do I make functional ware anymore.  It's just not my passion...sculpting is.  Where this has me acquiring lots of different ceramic decals for a sculpture idea I had (as well as some limited edition ceramic ornaments!...stay tuned for those..).  But I wanted to still be able to fire my ceramics to their maturity temperature of ^6 (cone 6, which is roughly 2200*F).  But all the literature I'd read on ceramic decals said that they had to be applied on already glazed/finished ware, and fired to a much lower temperature.  So I took this as a challenge.  I searched for an additive I could add to either the greenware piece of pottery in an effort to raise the maturing temperature of the colorants used on the decals.  I discovered that silica is a product used to raise the melting temperature in certain glazes.  Luckily, I had some on experimenting I went!  These are my results of my first tests.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Creative Space

I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but several months ago, I signed up to participate in the Art Business Academy that was created and is run by Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery.  I knew of this opportunity because I've been following Jason and Xanadu Gallery for nearly 2 years.  When I really got serious about my sculpting, I started checking out various galleries for where my work *might* be a good fit.  Xanadu Gallery was one of those that I put on my radar.  So when Jason said he was starting this online art academy, I jumped at the opportunity.  Which leads me to today's blog post, my creative space.  During one of the question and answer discussions, the topic of our studio and/or creative spaces came up.  Which of course inspired me to share my space with y'all.
So first, I figured I'd show ya what my studio space looked like at the very beginning...Before it became my studio.
And this is my view...

 This is the crazyness that was my studio about a year ago...
This was before the snow flew last year when the hubby took my studio apart so we could insulate it.  Tell ya what...made a HUGE difference in how much I had to use the pellet stove!

 And this was my studio before I cleaned it does tend to get kinda crazy chaotic when I'm in the middle of a making session.  :)  Then I inevitably take a day...or two or get it all cleaned up and organized before my next big project/sculpture. 

And this is how it looks today.  Still seems a tad cluttered..but it's organized chaos... (is there really such a thing?!?  haha)

So there ya have it.  My creative space.  It's long and narrow..and not ideal.  But it's mine.  And I have an amazing hubby that is supportive enough to allow me to carve out my own personal creative space within our home.  

How about you?  Are you an artist or crafter?  What does YOUR studio look like??  I'd love to see it!  You can post it to my Facebook page, or email me the picture to  I will post a follow up blog and would love to be able to include pictures of other artist's spaces. :)


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tutorial Time - Making Copper Wire Ornament Hangers

Been a while since I've written a this is LONG OVER DUE!  I was looking for an alternative to the plain ole ribbon or hemp I was using to string up my ceramic ornaments.  So I started playing around with some 18g copper wire I had laying around and VOILA!  I think the end result turned out rather nicely. This tutorial will be VERY photo centric with captions.   ENJOY

Materials: 18g copper wire, ruler, round nose pliers, flat needle nose pliers, wire cutters, and an object to wrap the wire around.  I used a pottery tool I had available to get the right size I wanted for the hanger. 
STEP 1 (not pictured) - Cut the wire into approximately 6" lengths.  This size worked well for my purposes.  Adjust the length based on your needs and trial and error.

STEP 2 - Ensure the end of the wire is flush cut, not beveled.  Grasp the end of the wire at the very tip of the round nose pliers and make a small loop.  To get a nice even loop, grasp the wire at the very end (so it's not hanging over the top of the pliers.)  Rotate your hand/wrist towards you a quarter of a turn, release the wire being careful not to move the position on the shaft of the pliers, rotate the pliers back towards the wire, grasp again and rotate towards you another quarter turn.  Repeat this process until the end of the wire meets the tail.

STEP 3 - Grab the tool you will be using to make the hanging portion of your ornament hanger.  In my case, I used a tool often used to hollow out solid lumps of clay.  Hold the end of the wire against the tool with the edge of the loop you just made facing the tool.  Wrap the wire around the object until you have about a finger's width of space left between the tail of the wire and where the loop is.  When you pull the tool out of the wire loop, it will widen the larger loop you just made, which makes it "just right" for what we're going for.
STEP 4 - Grasp the tail of the wire in your fingers approximately parallel with where the smaller loop is now positioned.  Gently bend the wire down so that it makes a sharp bend in the wire.  It should look like a question mark at this point.
STEP 5 - I used my thumb to gauge this next distance.  Place your thumb at the edge of the bend you just made.  On the opposite end of your thumb, grasp the wire with your round nose pliers at the largest part of the pliers.  Bend the wire around until it makes a full "U", or so that the two ends of the wire are now parallel to one another.
STEP 6 - Grasp the end of the wire you just bent up with the flat needle nose pliers slightly above the round needle nose pliers and bend the wire back down.  In the pictures, I had grabbed the wire right above the pliers but ended up needing a tad more space.
STEP 7 - Now that the wire is bent on top of itself, use the flat nose pliers to tighten up the bend and flatten it out.  In the images the wire is on top of itself.  In subsequent renditions, I rotated the wire so the bend ends up being side by side.  It makes the spiral we make later on sit more flat on ornament hanger.
STEP 8 - Now grasp the end of the tale of the wire.  Remember that loop we made at the beginning?  Do it again. :)  Then we're just going to keep on winding until we make a spiral.  Once you've made the small loop, use your finger to guide the wire as you wrap.  Once you get 1.5 loops, you will need to grasp the wire with the flat needle nose pliers to keep wrapping (continue guiding the wire with your finger).
STEP 9 - Once you spiral the wire all the way up to the bend, it gets a tad tricky.  You want to continue the spiral, but putting the spiral over this bend.  The spiral hides the bend in the wire and adds just that little extra "something" when you put the ornament on.  Once you get the spiral over this bend in the wire, use the flat needle nose pliers to compress everything.  It makes it nice and tight and pretty.  It also hides the pierced hole in the ornament.  Win-Win

STEP 10 - String on your ornament!  
BONUS - For a little extra flair, I added a cute reindeer charm to this Santa Boot ornament.  Take your flat nose pliers and turn the small loop at the top perpendicular to the rest of the hanger.  Gently open it up and slide on your charm.

Want one of these?  I have 10 available in my Etsy Shop. :)
It will take some time and fidgeting to the spiral to look the way you want.  With subsequent ornament hangers, I was able to get the spiral to completely hide the pierced hole in the ornament.  Just takes a little bit of fiddling with the wire spiral, and how much wire you actually need for that *U* where the ornament sits.

Have fun!  Let me know how yours turn out in the comments below!  Looking forward to seeing your own renditions of this simple ornament hanger. :)