My new website can be found at http://www.quernuscrafts.co.uk/

Wee Crystal and Wee Strawberry (b.30 January 2010)

Wee Strawberry and Wee Crystal
I'd like to introduce you to Wee Crystal and Wee Strawberry! A couple of weeks ago, I was approached through the website by a lovely lady who asked if I could possibly make her up a menagerie of wee creatures - her husband had bought a couple of my Christmas cats at the Made-It craft fair in Harrogate, and she had just seen my wee horses.

In addition to Crystal, her horse, she asked if I could make up a mini version of her friend's horse, Strawberry, who sadly died last year. She also wanted her cats, Timmie Tiptoes, Hamish McTavish and Oscar, immortalised in polymer clay, as well as a frog for her frog-mad friend. And last, but not least, could I possibly make a wee Hungarian Vizler?!

Well, never one to shrink from a challenge, I set to creating this wonderful collection of creatures. I was greatly assisted by some super photographs, as well as some very funny narrative for each animal, which really brought them to life! First up were the two horses.

Crystal is a gorgeous bay with a lovely blaze and wee pixie ears. She also has one white sock, and this was the mane, sorry, main challenge for me. I rolled out some dark grey clay for the hooves, some of the rich brown clay used for the body and head, placed one on top of the other, and cut out a small circle. Then I lightly marked a quarter segment and nibbled out a thin layer of the brown clay, replacing it with white. It works!

Wee Strawberry was a beautiful strawberry roan pony who lived a long and happy life. Her coat had a wonderful two-tone effect, and I created this by using the Starry Night cane technique. I recently bought myself a mini food processor - a small Kenwood which has the dubious honour of being a "Delia Cheat" - and this has revolutionised clay chopping. So I roughly cut up a number of different colours - beige, white, salmon pink, etc. - and then blasted them in the food processor so they were reduced to small lumps. I tipped this out on the work surface, chopped it up a little bit more (I can never resist the chance to meddle), and then rolled it out to form a rough slab. I rolled this through the pasta machine a couple of times, cutting it in half after each pass and laying one half on top of the other, which created a fine 'hatched' pattern.
Wee Strawberry
I reduced the cane down quite a bit so the pattern was even finer, and when I was happy with it, I covered a ball of scrap clay with thin slices from the cane and moulded it in the usual way. The Starry Night cane is such a useful technique for creating a flecked or two-toned effect.

I'll be posting more about the rest of the animals - I'm pleased to say that designs for Wee Dogs are coming along nicely, so expect to see a new addition to the Wee Beastie range very soon!

The End

And the winners of the Sunshine Award are...

Many thanks to Cinnamon Jewellery, Rachel Lucie Jewellery Designs, Glamourpuss News, Found on Folksy, Leigh Shepherd Designs and Black Cats Whiskers for awarding my blog a Sunshine Award. And here are my chosen award winners...

The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blog world. The rules for accepting the Sunshine award are:

  • Put the logo on your blog or within your post

  • Pass the award onto 12 bloggers

  • Link the nominees within your post

  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog

  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award

  • I'd also like to add that I very much want to give this award to those who have awarded me, but I guess things could all get a bit circular if I did that :) Let's just take it as read that I have awarded extra awards to them!

    Equally, I know that many of those I have nominated have already received Sunshine Awards. Whilst this is a lovely way to promote your favourite bloggers, it could get quite onerous to nominate 12 bloggers each time an award is given. This is the reason I'm nominating 12 instead of 72 blogs, and I would suggest that those award winners who have already passed on the award to 12 of their favourite blogs should feel under no obligation to do so again, unless they really, really want to... :)

    And so, in no particular order, the winners of the Sunshine Awards are...


    Six Sunshine Awards!

    I have a spare moment to draw breath after making lots and lots of Wee Horse commissions (more about the latest addition to the Quernus Stables shortly!), and I want to say a belated thank you for the six lovely Sunshine Awards my blog has received!

    When I came back from the States three weeks ago, I found that Tracy of Cinnamon Jewellery Bead and Wirework Designs had awarded me an Award. Tracy creates the most beautiful jewellery which combines beautiful stones with exquisite silver wirework. Her photography is extremely accomplished, and her Folksy shop is just lovely - visit it here.

    Rachel of Rachel Lucie Jewellery Designs also gave me a Sunshine Award. Rachel's blog is a font of fantastic information (particularly on Etsy matters) and a feast for the eyes! I met Rachel in Ilkley at one of my first ever craft fairs in October - such a lovely person, and boy, does she know how to dress a stall!

    My thanks also go to Kate of Glamourpuss News! I met Kate back in November at the Bruntcliffe School Christmas Fayre. Kate commissioned me to make Glamourpuss, and since then she has been coming up with wonderful ideas for more creations, usually whilst hoovering! Kate has some very exciting plans on the go - follow her blog to find out more as it happens!

    On 21 January, Found on Folksy gave me a Sunshine award too. Found on Folksy is a blog dedicated to promoting handmade items on Folksy. Run by the peerless Glassprimitif and the delightfully named Aleximo Croissant, this is a great website for all things to be found on Folksy (and hence the name), and we owe a great deal to Jo and Alex for tirelessly creating such lovely inspirational collections!

    On 26 January, I was delighted to find another award from Leigh Shepherd Designs. I've met Leigh a couple of times now (and she won't remember the first time because I was a customer at The Stalls market in Saltaire last year, before Quernus Crafts was ever dreamed up!) - she's a lovely person who makes the most unusual creative works with paper and resin. If you're looking for a unique gift, it's definitely worth visiting her Folksy shop!

    Last, but by no means least, Claire of Black Cats Whiskers gave my blog a Sunshine Award just a few days ago, on 5 February. Claire only started up her blog this year and she works full-time, but she has still managed to create a lovely blog, and she's started a weekly interview series with fellow Folksy sellers! She is dedicated to celebrating the Folksy community, and I so appreciated her recent discussion thread in asking people to name a great shop on Folksy. Not only was it a lovely way to celebrate the amazing talent on Folksy, but Claire also sent a message to each seller telling them when their shop had been mentioned!

    As this post is rather lengthy, I'll write a separate one for my 12 Sunshine Award winners!

    Wee Flora and Wee Marley (b.23 January 2010)

    One of the commission orders waiting for me when I got back from the States was from Lauren, who wanted me to make up two wee horses for her - Flora, a grey Arab mare, and Marley, a grey cob cross gelding. The are both beautiful horses, and I hadn't really tackled grey horses before, so I was definitely up for the challenge.

    Flora is such a wonderful elegant horse, with a beautiful flowing mane and tail, and delicate dappled markings on her hind quarters. I wasn't quite sure how to recreate those markings in clay, and so I looked at a couple of ideas. Firstly, I made up the body using a Skinner blend of two similar shades of grey. I rolled the sheet into a plug and rolled it into a ball, shaping it so the darker gray was towards the rear of the horse. To make the dappled grey effect, I took tiny specks of the pale grey used for the front of the horse, and placed them randomly on the hind quarters.

    This created quite a nice effect, particular in conjunction with the Skinner blend body, and I was pleased to be able to replicate some of the wonderfully subtle markings on Flora. Flora's mane was a wonderful blend of greys and browns, and I achieved this by roughly mixing those colours before extruding them with the thinnest extruder disc I have, and carefully selecting the blend of colours, as well as placing them more randomly to reflect the fineness of the hair. (You can tell the difference in thicknes between Flora's and Marley's manes in the top picture.) Flora's tail was made up for cream and tan mixed clay, extruded thinly and then placed more fluidly, keeping it narrow at the top and splayed out towards the end - I just love this horse!
    With Marley, I used another new technique to create the grey coat flecked with dark grey and brown. I based this loosely on the Starry Night millefiori technique (see Starry Night Cats for more info), but instead of mixing several different colours together in equal proportions, I finally chopped up lots of pale gray, and then grated in a few spots of brown and dark grey. I chopped the mixture up very finely with a tissue blade so that the darker colours never had a chance to blend, but where instead dispersed in tiny particles throughout the grey mix. I reformed the chopped clay into a cane and then covered a ball of scrap clay with thin slices from the cane. I then carefully rolled the ball in my hands to blend the slices together to minimise blending the colours, and repeated the procedure with a smaller piece of clay for the head.

    This was the first time I've used millefiori techniques for the wee horses - the success of using a Skinner Blend for Wee Donk showed me how effective having blended colours can be, even on such a small scale. I much prefer 'painting' with clay, rather than applying paints - creates much more depth and warmth, and a more natural effect.

    Wee Hugo, Wee Rosie and Wee Nugget (b.23 January 2010)

    Wee Hugo, Wee Rosie and Wee Nugget
    Orders for Custom Wee Horses have been coming through thick and fast, either by requests direct from the website (using the contact form), or through my Folksy shop). And it was through Folksy that I received an order from Elly a few days after I came back from the States for three Custom Wee Horses!

    Elly is just lovely, and owns three beautiful horses - (from left to right) Hugo, Rosie and Nugget. (The horse on the far right is a second Rosie, ordered as an extra present for Elly's dad.) Elly introduced me to each of them in a way that brought them to life for me, and I'd like to share that with you.
    Wee HugoHugo is a smokey dun Criollo horse, who comes from Argentina and was rescued from the meat wagon in Italy before finding his way to Elly. He's shy, but loves his food, having just found out that apples, carrots and polos aren't poisonous! He's a rich, earthy colour and I made him up by mixing mostly black with some chocolate brown clay. He has a white star under his forelock. A very swarthy Argentinian boy!

    Wee Rosie
    Rosie, the chestnut, is a young-at-heart 23 year old derby day horse with a cynical view on life. Apparently she loves anything that comes out of your pocket, even snotty hankies! I love her rich, russet glossy coat, and for that I added some metallic copper clay to chocolate brown, with a touch of ecru to add a creamy touch. Rosie has the whitest legs I've seen, which contrasted beautifully with her coat, and I added a disc of creamy white clay on top of the brown for her hooves. Her mane and tale were a darker reddish brown than her body, so I took some of the body clay and added brown and black to keep the same tonal range. The white star I cut out freehand from very thinly rolled white clay, and then lightly pressed it to the head with a thin knitting needle.

    Wee Nugget
    Nugget is just lovely! He's a four year old Haflinger with a cheeky personality who loves to be around people! His coat is this amazing deep tan with rich, reddish overtones, and which contrasts amazingly with his creamy white mane and tail. I love experimenting with colours to see what gives the most accurate result, and for Nugget, I also used a pinch of the copper to get that rich earthy colour. His muzzle is grey, blending into his white blaze, and I cut an oval of pay grey clay and cut it to a kidney shape before placing it at the bottom of his muzzle over the white blaze. I then rolled up small balls of darker gray and pressed them in with a ball shaper to create the nostrils. Because there was quite a lot of extra clay added to the face, I had to make sure that the head shape was slightly smaller than usual to keep the proportions right. Nugget also has white legs, so again I laid a thin sheet of white clay over and sheet of darker clay and cut out a circle for the legs and hooves. The mane and tail were made by mixing mostly white with a touch of ecru to get that creamy colour.

    I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to my Custom Wee Horses! This has been mostly due to the recipients writing about them on a horsey forum, TrotOnline - thanks to all who have spread the word! The horse community is very similar to the crafting community in many ways - it's so friendly, everyone really wants to help everyone else out, and there's a lovely feeling of family which is just so compelling. I'm chuffed to bits that my Wee Horses are being welcomed so readily into the fold!

    The end!

    Wee Mickey (b.23 January 2010)

    I'd like to introduce the wonderfully idiosyncratic horse, Wee Mickey! Commissioned by Holly, who contacted me through the website while I was away on holiday, Mickey has a blue eye (he was going to called Ziggy, but Mickey suited him better!), brown patches and spots, and a white mane and tail with black lurking underneath.

    Holly sent me through loads of pictures of her lad, which made it very easy to see where his markings should go. I love the brown patch on his head - he looks like he's wearing a hat!

    I started by making the body out of white clay with a tiny pinch of ochre to take the edge off the starkness of the white. I then mixed up a rich brown colour with a touch of metallic copper clay, and rolled it out on the thinnest setting of the pasta machine that I could without tearing the clay. I then cut the approximate shapes of Wee Mickey's markings freehand with a scalpel, and applied them lightly to the clay body. By rolling the body carefully in my hands, I blended the patches onto the body without distorting the patches or smearing the brown.

    For the head, I again rolled out a smaller ball of white-ish clay, and once I was happy with the shape, I cut out a thin patch of brown clay for his skull cap, and carefully blended it using a thin knitting needle (an excellent tool I wouldn't be without). I then cut out an oval shape of flesh coloured clay for the muzzle, and applied a patch a dark grey clay to the lower left side to match his marking. There's even a wee brown spot underneath his muzzle!

    For Mickey's blue eye, I used a blue seed bead and placed it so the hole was visible. I usually place the round black onyx beads so the hole doesn't show, but with Mickey's lovely blue eye, you can clearly see the pupil, and placing the blue bead in that position emulates that.

    Mickey's tail is quite unusual in that it it is essentially pale cream/white but with a core of black hair (I'm sure there's a technical name for that, but I don't know what it is!) And although most of his mane is that same pale colour, Mickey has a some strands of black lurking under his forelock.

    I extruded both a rich black/brown clay and some pale cream clay. I worked on the mane and forelock first and applied the pale strands. When I was happy with the result, I lifted the forelock and added a couple of short black strands. There is limited space between the ears (no disrespect intended), so this was the only way to create the effect I was looking for. For the tail, I worked in reverse, attaching the black strands first, and then placing the white strands on top so the black still showed through.

    I had lots of fun making up Wee Mickey - it really is such a joy to get to know new horsey models. And what's even nicer is getting to know the owners - Holly has been lovely to speak to, and she's clearly devoted to Mickey. Mickey's a lucky horse!

    Wee Donk (b.23 January 2010)

    Hot on the heels of her request for Wee Dan and Wee Cuillin, Pamela asked if, by any chance, I also did donkeys. "Not until now!" I replied, and once I again I relished the challenge of trying out a new design!

    Donk, a 5 year old stallon, is one of those gorgeous donkeys with a fuzzy grey coat that just looks so soft and cuddly. The challenge for me was getting that soft, almost airbrushed effect, which I think is very different from a horse's coat. And so I decided to use a Skinner blend. (I had used this technique for the Antelope, and knew that it could work well if done in the right proportions.)

    For the body I made up a pale grey clay with a pinch of brown to soften it, and then an off-white grey. I then made up the Skinner blend (click here for more info about Skinner blends). I rolled the resultant blended sheet in a short plug and then shaped that into a ball. You can see the way the two colours are blended quite clearly in the picture.

    I repeated the process for the face, only this time I made a smaller three way Skinner blend with two triangles of grey sandwiching a triangle of white to create a white stripe framed by grey. It took a bit of work to keep the white strip central, but in the end, I like the way it turned out.

    The trickiest part of Wee Donk was getting the ears right. I've now seen a lot of donkey ears courtesy of Google searches! The main issue wasn't so much the shape, it was finding a way of making them robust enough, because the ears are the most fragile part of all Wee Horses - and being that much bigger, Wee Donk's ears would be that much more vulnerable. So in the end, I decided to use two short lengths of thick silver-plated wire and embedded them in the ears, attached the ears to the head, and cemented them in with liquid polymer clay. They now feel pretty secure!

    The mane was another interesting challenge for me - rather than the flowing strands of a horse's mane, Donk has a short stubby main, as well as an adorable wee tuft between his ears. I extruded two colours - dark grey and off-white - and then made up a mini-Mohican tuft with short lengths of clay, and then made the mane by cutting even shorter lengths and placing them on their ends where the mane would be. I used a similar technique with the Wee Zebras, although with Wee Donk, I 'fluffed' up the mane with a scalpel. As you do. I also 'fluffed' up the white clay within Wee Donk's ears - overall, I think I've managed to achieve a 'fluffy' look all round! His tail was made with a few strands of dark grey clay.

    I think Wee Donk looks rather fine with his two chums, Wee Dan and Wee Cuillin - thanks again to Pamela for commissioning the three of them!

    Wee Dan and Wee Cuillin (b.21 January 2010)

    Just before I went off to California (more on that story later!), I received an order from Pamela through my Folksy shop. I had recently made up a listing for Custom Wee Horses, and she ordered two to look like her gorgeous horses, Dan and Cuillin.

    An exchange of emails and photographs followed, and I got started on then when I came back. These are beautiful horses - Dan is the bay and is a 17 year old retired race horse. The chestnut is Cuillin (I think called after the Cuillin ridge in Skye), a 5 year old Welsh Cob with beautiful markings.

    Dan was fairly straight forward to make - I spent a bit of time getting the colour right, and mixed up a lovely blend of browns, black and a touch of red. For Cuillin, I wanted to capture the gorgous, rich russet red of his coat, and for that I brought in a metallic copper clay, as well as some browns, oranges and a touch of black.

    For Cuillin, I also introduced the concept of white socks - the first time I've done that on a custom Wee Horse. The real horse has such gorgeous socks, it seemed such a shame to leave them out! And I'm really happy with the results - who would have thought that a small disc of white clay could actually convey the impression of white legs?!

    Cuillin's white narrow blaze was made from a very thin hand-cut strip of white clay, which I then carefully blended by rolling a thin knitting needle over it. This can be a bit trial and error, as by blending the clay in, it increase the overall area of the white, so it's important to keep the white clay as thin as possible to avoid significant distortion. Cuillin's muzzle was cut from a dark gray clay, and I created the nostrils by putting a circle of the same clay onto the face and pressing it in with a ball clay shaper.

    For the manes and tails for both horses, I added some chocolate brown to black to make it a more natural 'black'. Both horses are about 3cm all round. And here are the original models, which are a little bit larger than that!

    Custom Wee Horses (b.10 January 2010)

    Meet the new additions to the Quernus Custom Stables - from left to right, Keona, Chelsea and Oscar. These beautiful horses are owned by Liz, who lives in York, and who sent me a message through the website on Friday. She then emailed me some photographs, and I had lots of fun making them up. I haven't made up a white horse before, and I spent some time working out the best way to get the colour right. That might sound strange for a white horse, but white horses are never truly white...

    In the end, I did make the white horse out of white clay, but I made the mane out of ivory, and added grey to the inside of his ears. I also gave him a grey muzzle and nostrils, ensuring that the blaze went down to the end of his nose. Overall, I think the end result works well.

    Keona, on the left, is a Haflinger, a breed of horse I hadn't heard of before. Similar to a palomino, her coat is a richer, slightly darker, honeyed colour, but still with the pale mane and tail. She has a grey-ish muzzle and dark hooves. I took my time mixing the right colour for her coat, and in the end, this was a mix of tan and white, with a couple of pinches of orange and brown.

    From the photographs, Chelsea looks like a right character! He is a dark bay, and hasn't actually turned out quite as dark as he looks in the photographs. He has a lovely white star on his forehead, and again I spent a bit of time mixing the right colour for his coat, going for chocolate brown with pinches of black and red.

    Working with colour is something which really interests me, and I recently bought a new book on the subject - Polymer Clay Colour Inspirations by Haunani and Maggio. It looks indepth at the science of colour, with lots of exercises to experiment yourself. I can't wait to get stuck in - I really want to understand how colours work together, and up until now, I've been going more on instinct than theory. Ideally, I'd like to use both.

    Anyway, I am really enjoying making up Custom Wee Horses - I now have a listing for these on my Folksy shop - and already I've been contacted by Pam in Brechin asking for a couple of Wee Horses and a Donkey! I have to say I'm really looking forward to having a go at the latter, and I'll get started when I get back from the States.

    Off on my hols

    10 January 2010

    Well, I'm heading off to California for a week - the plan is to travel down to London tomorrow and fly out on Tuesday. Fingers crossed the weather and/or extra security checks don't throw a spanner in the works!

    I get back on 19 January, but feel free to get in touch if you have any questions before then. I've closed my Folksy and Etsy stores for the week, but I've been making lots of Valentine Kittens in preparation for coming back (I sold my first one on 10 January!)

    Over the past few weeks I have been working on a very special series of small abstract panels, and I'll be posting more information about them when I get back. Suffice it to say I'm very excited by them, and I've got all sorts of plans going forward. As I seem to be fond of saying, watch this space!

    Goodbye y'all - see you in a week's time!

    Valentine Kitten (b.6 January 2010)

    The other day I found out that UK Handmade were planning a new gift guide for Valentine's Day. Now, some of you may remember that Wee Horses were featured in the UK Handmade Gift Guide, released just before Christmas, and I have been keen to repeat the experience because it was such a well-made publication.

    And so I thought about what sort of Valentine's gift I could make, and Valentine Kitten was born!

    Valentine Kitten has four paws, rather than the normal (for me) two paws. I think the precedent for this was set when I made Hurty Paw Cat, who had three paws on show and a very plaintive expression. I wanted to incorporate a heart in the Valentine design, and then it came to me - a wee kitten holding or offering a large heart!

    I made the heart first by cutting a double thickness of red metallic clay with a heart cutter. Then I had to decide on what colour the cats should be, and I took my lead from Santa Cats - because of the red hat, more natural colours worked best, and I adopted the same principle with these Kittens.

    As with all my wee creatures, I have used liquid polymer clay to fix the paws and the heart to the body, which creates a very strong bond. A coat of satin varnish really brings out the metallic sheen of the heart. He stands 4cm tall.

    I'll be listing these on Folksy and Etsy soon for £5 ($8) plus postage - I'll let you know as soon as they're up there! And if you'd like to order any in the meantime, just drop me a line!

    Governor, Bob and Runty (b.6 January 2010)

    Hot on the heels of Oliver and Nell, I made up three more cats at the request of Beth (who also commissioned the Antelope). From left to right, meet Runty, Bob and Governor.

    I was looking forward to trying out the same feather cane technique for Bob,who has a white bib and a white diamond on his head, and it really does work well for blending in large patches of colour.

    I made Governor and Runty by the same cane technique as Oliver, ie by chopping up a number of different colours (and for both cats, I used a silver effect clay to get an extra sparkle in their coats). After making them, I wondered whether the feathering technique would work for stripes.

    So meet Governor and Runty Mk II! For these two kittens, I made up two feathered canes, interlacing the body colour with a lighter and darker colour for each cat. Runty (the darker gray one) has longer fur, and so I tried to convey this with the feathered cane. However, I think the contrasting clay was just a bit too contrast-y in the end.

    The technique worked a little better with Governer, the paler grey cat, and you are can see the stripes better from this shot:

    I will work on this technique more because I do feel this is the way to get a more realistic fur effect. More to follow once I'm back in the country from California (I'm going out there next week - yay!)

    Oliver and Nell (b.6 January 2010)

    Andrea Holloway, aka MyBeadyEye on Folksy (fab shop - definitely worth a visit!), got in touch on Hogmanay and asked if I could make a couple of cats to look like her friend's cats. "Absolutely", I said, relishing the prospect of a new challenge. And so pictures of Oliver and Nell were duly sent, and I got to work!

    Meet Oliver. He's a very sweet ginger tabby. To get the stripy fur effect, I used a  millefiori cane technique. I took a range of colours (white, orange, pumpkin, tan) and then chopped them up very finely and mixed them well. Then I reformed the clay and rolled it out with an acrylic roller. I passed it through the thickest setting of the pasta machine a couple of times, cutting the resultant sheet in half each time and putting both halves together again, being careful to keep the 'grain' running in the same direction. After a few passes, I took the sheet of clay and cut it into strips of approximately 2cm wide and stacked them on top of each other. I then cut thin slices from this cane and applied them to a clay core, being careful to match up the stripes as much as possible. Once all the slices were applied, I lightly rolled the clay body in my hands, which served both to blend the slices and slightly distort them. Ears, eyes, chops, paws and tail were applied in the usual way.

    Next I worked on Nell, small black cat with white markings over her cheek, chin and chest. (I found out afterwards that Nell is much smaller than Oliver, something I didn't know when I made her, although somehow she ended up quite a bit smaller than Oliver anyway :)  With Nell, I used Sculpey Premo clay for the first time (that clay is amazing! It cuts like hard cheese and is really easy to condition. And it doesn't get sticky, and holds its shape well. I'm a convert!), and rolled out a core of clay for the body.

    I then tried a new technique for the white patch on her chest. I cut a rough diamond shape from white clay (did I mention how much I love Sculpey Premo?!), and then made up an interlaced cane using black and white clay. I made this by rolling two thick logs of clay, one white and one black, which I then stood on their ends and cut into quarters. I laid the black segments in a row next to each other, and placed the white segments in between them, point first, like teeth. Then I reduced this quite substantially to create a feathered effect, and cut very thin slices from this cane and attached them round the edge of the white patch. I think the final effect works pretty well!

    Oliver and Bob are winging their way to their new home, and I hope they settle in well - at least they're already house-trained!

    Antelope (b.4 January 2010)

    Never thought I'd be doing an Antelope, let alone an Antelope with glasses, but here he is! Commissioned by a good friend of mine for her other half (who is the best boyfriend in the world), I wasn't entirely sure how he would turn out, so I decided to give my brain a rest and let my hands figure it out.

    I knew I would follow broadly the same shape as the Wee Horses, etc, but beyond that, I didn't have a clue. I started with the antlers (horns?) and cut two short lengths of 1.2mm silver plated wire which I covered with thin strips of striped black and white clay, leaving a short length of wire to embed into the head.  Next, I worked on the colour for the body and head, and made up a Skinner blend of reddish-brown and tan. Once these colours were nicely blended, I squished the resultant sheet into a plug, and then began to shape the body. Somehow a rounded body didn't feel right, particularly as antelopes are so long-legged and graceful.  So I made a tear-drop shape with the reddish brown on top, fading to tan for the legs. This shape felt intuitively right, and also allowed for a more elongated head. 

    The head took a bit of thought, particularly with regard to the markings. I hadn't realised there were so many different types of antelopes in the world, so I decided to go for a generic antelope 'look' (if there is such a thing) with a white stripe down the nose and across the eyes. I used 4mm black onyx beads for the eyes and spaced them quite far apart.  Antelope ears are quite large, and I lined these with a scrap of white clay.

    Next I embedded the antlers by applying liquid polymer clay to the metal ends and pressing them firmly into the head, and I finished off the look with a white tail and a thin disc of black clay for the hoofs.

    Antelope stands 4.5cm to the tip of his antlers, and measures 3cm from ear to ear. The stylised look works well for this Wild Beastie, and I've got some ideas about making more in the Wild Beastie range - elephants and hippos will be next up!

    Rainbow Millefiori Cats (b.31 December 2009)

    On Hogmanay, I decided to have another go at some millefiori techniques. Here, I took a simple checkerboard pattern and turned it into a rainbow patchwork quilt pattern.

    I selected six bright rainbow colours (I decided to leave indigo out to keep more of a distinction between blue and violet), and then after conditioning, I rolled out each on the thickest setting of the pasta machine. After trimming each sheet to the same dimensions, I cut the first sheet in half and stacked it on top of the other half, to made a double thickness (5mm) of the same colour. I repeated this for the remaining colours.

    Then I marked off 5mm blocks for each sheet, so that when cut, I would be left with six small square logs of each colour. Then I followed an idea I saw in Kato's book - I started by putting a log of each colour in a row. Then for the next row, I started with the next colour along (ie orange), and finished the row with red. I repeated this until I had used up all the logs, and it created a diagonal chequerboard rainbow pattern. I forgot to take a picture of the finished cane, but here's a picture of a similar cane pictured in Kato's book.

    The finished cane was 3cm square, and I then reduced this down to about 2cm by lightly rolling each side with a brayer. It was a little difficult to keep the outside blocks completely square. Once reduced, I cut thin slices from it and applied them to a core of scrap clay. I made the smaller cat first and you can see on the that I placed the slices in such a way as to create a larger rainbow diamond effect, rather than keep the straight diagonal pattern. I placed the cane slices more randomly on the larger cat.

    Because the slicese square and quite large, placing them so that they covered a cylindrical clay core neatly and completely was a little challenging. So I decided to introduce an element of randomness to the procedure by lighting rolling each covered core of clay in my hands, which both distorted the cane slices and blended them together. I love the effect this achieved, as it moved away from the precise geometric pattern into some much more fluid and funky.

    The tall cat stands 5.5cm tall and the smaller cat is just under 4.5cm. One of my tasks before going back to work is to sort out my Folksy shop, so these may well make an appearance there!