Category Archives: 5 Stars

Class Review: Lynne Ann Schwarzenberg

Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

I took a 2-day intensive “hybrid” class from Lynne Ann Schwarzenberg (River Poet Design) this weekend through the South Bay Polymer Clay Guild. This was the first time Lynne has taught this particular class–it is a hybrid of the 8 From 1 Flower Cane workshop and the Floral Tile Jewelry Construction and Design workshop. We made three floral canes, learned Lynne’s special tricks on composing and constructing the tiles as well as the finished piece. Lynne also demonstrated how to make one of her faux wood grains.

I really enjoyed this class. First, Lynne’s very laid back style made her approachable. She clearly demonstrated the techniques, but instead of having us sit for an hour demo, she broke the steps of the projects and processes down into manageable chunks to enable us to see the demo and immediately apply it. I think this approach enabled everyone to achieve the desired results AND have the opportunity to retain as much information as possible. I found the pacing to be a little slow due to these stops and starts and due to the various rates of speed in which people completed the steps, but the methodology was the best way to teach complex techniques.

For a small materials fee, Lynne provided us with a number of tools and materials to use as well as an extremely detailed hand-out complete with color copies of examples of finished canes, and critical steps in creating the finished pieces. We also had the opportunity to buy some of her favorite tools she uses to make her distinctive and beautiful floral designs, and after she explained their function and value, we all were sold.

Aside from the obvious value of the class–making great canes, creating wonderful backgrounds and finished pieces–the tips and special techniques Lynne taught us were worth the price of admission. I now know how to create a smooth, finished composition using cane slices with little distortion of the slices. In the past, my slices would become ENORMOUS. I also know how to properly pack canes to minimize distortion while reducing, how to best slice VERY thin slices, and how to preserve my valuable assets in creating a finished piece.

I think that if you have the opportunity to take a class from Lynne, you should–even if you’re a caning pro. I think we all can learn something valuable from a class, and Lynne’s 17 years of experience with clay is something she readily and generously shares with her students.

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Product Discovery: JudiKins TranzIt Rinse-Away Paper

5 Stars Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

TranzIt Rinse Away Paper

There are TONS of ways to transfer images to polymer clay. Inkjet, waterslide decals, toner with alcohol, toner with gin, direct…and on and on.

I have discovered a NEW way to get extraordinary and fast transfer onto polymer clay–JudiKins TranzIt Rinse-Away Paper. Designed for use with TranzIt gel for image transfers, TranzIt Rinse-Away Paper is the perfect transfer medium for polymer clay. Retailing for $7.75 for 5 sheets, it’s not inexpensive. However, you will be thrilled with using this paper.

The paper is made from cellulose. When it comes into contact with water, it immediately breaks down. Thus, you can only use this paper with a laser printer or toner-based color or black-and-white copier. You cannot, I repeat cannot, use this paper with an inkjet printer–it will forever gum up your printer and render it useless. Now for the good news. You can have an image transfer in five minutes. Yes, you read correctly. Five minutes.

Here’s how:

  1. Print your images onto the paper using a laser printer or laser/toner copier (color or black-and-white). Most likely, a copy center will be reluctant to put this paper into their machines, but you could give it a try. I have a color laser printer, and it worked well. The paper buckled and curled a bit with the heat from the printer, but the images transferred easily and well.
  2. Cut out your image, leaving NO white space.
  3. Roll out a sheet of conditioned, light-colored polymer clay on your desired thickness setting. Place it either on your work surface, a baking surface like a tile, or on a deli sheet or waxed paper–depending upon how you’ll be using the transfer. I use light colors of clay (white, pearl, translucent, ecru or even silver or gold for a different look) since the transfer is translucent, and any backing clay color will show through the image.
  4. Place your printed image face-down on your conditioned clay. Cover it with a sheet of deli paper, plain paper, etc. Burnish the image through the paper using a bone folder or other burnishing tool. I do this so the tool doesn’t drag across the raw clay as I go past the edges of the conditioned clay. Burnish from the center of the image out towards the edges to ensure that you do not trap any air between the image and the clay. Remove the cover paper.
  5. Wait at least 5 minutes. DO NOT WAIT MORE THAN 20 or 30 MINUTES. I let a piece wait for too long (an hour or so), and the image smeared.  15 minutes was fine.  I haven’t ventured past 20 minutes since the smear incident. :-(
  6. Take your image to the sink and run water over it. You will see the paper dissolve and rinse away.
  7. Make sure all of the cellulose material has rinsed away. You may find remnants sticking to the dark areas of your image. Gently wash/wipe these away.
  8. Form your piece with your image and bake. You can also cover the image with a VERY thin layer of liquid polymer clay to protect it.

Now, wasn’t that easy? I thought so. I’ve been experimenting with this paper a bit, and if I find different issues with it, I’ll report back here. However, I do have to say that this is the EASIEST image transfer I’ve ever created on polymer clay.

I’ve linked to JudiKins’ retail store so you can get your own (no, I don’t get commission for this…I just don’t know who is stocking this stuff, and I thought it would be easiest for you got get it from the source).

Have fun!

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Book Review: The Art of Polymer Clay – Creative Surface Effects

5 StarsRating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Buy from Amazon Surface Effects Book

Yes, another 5-star book. Are there books I don’t like as much? Yes. Have those been published lately? No.

It has been a decade–yes, a decade–since Donna published her first book, The Art of Polymer Clay. This second book takes us to Donna today. Her style is elegant, her techniques are innovative, and her instruction makes her projects accessible. I’ve taken two classes from Donna. In fact, I joined my local clay guild when I first started claying just to take Donna’s class–and I haven’t looked back.

Donna’s book is like a portable Kato class. Donna taught many of these techniques in the classes I took from her. However, having this indispensable reference book enables me to review the class at my leisure and further experiment with her techniques. She approaches each technique in a straightforward manner–teach techniques, then apply them to a project. This enables us not only to complete a sample that masters the technique, but also a very beautiful finished piece that will get people talking.

Donna splits the book into seven different sections:

  • Polymer Clay Basics
  • Mica Shift Techniques
  • Transferring Images Onto Polymer Clay
  • Creating Texture
  • Paints, Inks and Pigment Powders
  • Special Effects with Liquid Polymer Clays
  • Sculpture and Mold Making

I love Donna’s techniques. They are the result of hours of experimentation and development on her part. The book details both how to do something–and why. For instance, Donna makes a mold from her rubber stamps using polymer clay and THEN uses that mold to create her pieces. She goes into detail about why she does this, and what the results are molding directly from a stamp versus taking an impression from a polymer clay mold made from a rubber stamp. It’s something I never considered, but it makes great sense.

The twelve beautiful projects are accompanied by step-by-step instructions and photographs that walk you through each major component. While some projects are simple, others teach you techniques in constructing complex pieces like her coveted Japanese Inro boxes.

Peppered throughout the book are awe-inspiring inspirational pieces, including the pieces submitted for two of Kato Polyclay’s artists contests/exhibitions–one focused on shoes (Feat of Clay) and one focused on boxes. I was honored to be the 2nd-place winner in the box contest, and my “Donnelly’s Sampler” is included in the book.

The only small issue I had was that one of the products Donna uses in the book, Kato Clay Concentrates, is not available yet. However, given the beautiful colors of mica shift clay she’s achieved, I don’t mind waiting–much.

Aug 3, 2007 UPDATE: Kato PolyClay Color Concentrates are HERE! I spoke too soon!!! They are now on the Prairie Craft website and other Internet stores! Yay!!!

This is yet another book that will stay in my permanent library. I love having a Donna class on my shelf, ready for me at any time.

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Book Review: Making Polymer Clay Beads

5 Stars Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Buy from Amazon Making Polymer Clay Beads

Why do I love polymer clay books? I learn well from written instruction. In fact, most of what I’ve learned has been through a combination of books, experimentation and discussion. I have only taken a few classes over the years, and while each class has given me a huge infusion of techniques and ideas, books fill in the gaps on a daily basis–inexpensively, and at my own pace.

Carol Blackburn has authored a real winner here. It’s another book in my library that I will go back to over and over again.

Why do I like this book? Part of it is the actual design of the book. The subtitle to this book is “Step-by-step techniques for creating beautiful ornamental beads.” This is a true and accurate description of the book. From the basic information that we see in all polymer clay books (clays, equipment, conditioning, etc.) to the techniques, the exceptional photography and clear, concise instructions make this book both a visual feast and an excellent primer for both people who learn best by visual stimuli as well as those who learn best by detailed instruction.

This is a technique-oriented book. If you’re looking for a book that focuses on finish pieces complete with design ideas, this is not the book for you. While there are finishing ideas and instructions in the back of the book, the core of the book is about learning and using a variety of techniques to make polymer clay beads. Techniques are laid out in a single- or double-page spread. On the top of each page, photographs of the beads made using the techniques are artfully presented. Below, descriptions of the technique, a tools and materials list and then the step-outs of the process used to make the beautiful beads are presented in a flowing, easy-to-follow manner. Each step is chronicled using clear, professional close-up photography, and is accompanied with detailed instructions to complete the step. If warranted, tips are presented with a specific step; for instance, when a tip about sealing silver leaf to prevent tarnishing accompanies the finishing step for a mokume-gane bead. On the bottom of the page, references to other useful information are cited, including page numbers for the helpful techniques.

What I also like about this book is that the techniques and accompanying beads are approachable by beginning clayers as well as inspirational for experienced clayers. It’s an excellent reference book for techniques, and inspirational book for jewelry artists, and a visual feast for all.

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Book Review: Polymer Pizzazz: 27 Great Polymer Clay Projects

5 Stars Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Buy from AmazonBuy Polymer Pizzaz at Amazon.com

Polymer Pizzaz is a new publication from Bead & Button magazine that compiles 27 (not 25 as the picture posted on Amazon shows) projects that were published throughout the years in Beat & Button magazine. For those of you who are long-time subscribers of the magazine, you already have these projects in your back issues and can easily access them from your collection. However, those who don’t have access to these back issues are lucky to have this compilation of excellent projects from superb artists.

If you’re familiar with Bead & Button magazine, you know that the articles are well written, the project instructions are highly detailed, and the photography is professional and beautiful. The wonderful thing about this book is that even though some of the articles may be older, the unique techniques detailed in the projects and resulting pieces of jewelry are timeless. For instance, Mike Buesseler has moved on from polymer clay to other arts, but his impact on the creation of metallic Skinner blends and his locket construction live on.

The book’s projects are placed into four categories: Beads, Canes and Chains, Pendants and Faux Techniques. Each of the categories has four to nine projects created by nationally recognized polymer clay artists including Donna Kato, Nan Roche, Sarah Shriver, ChristieFriesen, Deborah Anderson, Grant Diffendaffer, Patricia Kimle, Dotty McMillan and Karen and Ann Mitchell. There is a brief introduction to clays, tools and techniques in the front of the book, but it’s clear that this book focuses on projects for intermediate clayers–not for novices. However, the projects are infinitely approachable and the results are achievable. I took Dotty McMillan’s “Painterly Polymer” painted lentil bead and combined it with Mike Buesseler’s locket construction techniques to create a lovely locket. I still have wonderful left-over painted polymer for use with another project thanks to Dotty’s clear instructions and really simple but effective technique.

Polymer Clay Locket

I am going on vacation soon, and I think I’ll bring this book with me for inspiration. Every time I look at it, I see more that I can apply to my own work–and that’s one of my hallmarks for a great polymer clay book!

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