Sunday, February 10, 2013

Revisiting Craft in America

While I've been working on gaining proficiency in peyote stitch and constructing my quilt top I have been watching the episodes of Craft in America online at the PBS Video site: .

There are nine full-length episodes at the website link above that have appeared on PBS and that can be watched over and over; this page  offers links to details of each episode with even more information about each artist's work. For instance, in the Threads episode Therese Agnew describes the process of making a quilt entirely of designer labels from clothing; the "Education" link leads to a photograph of the piece, Portrait of a Textile Worker (2005) .

Not only are these nine episodes of interviews with fine craftsmen educational but they are inspirational.  I find myself working more carefully on my current projects and grabbing my sketchbook more frequently to make notes about future projects.

Craft in America is documented on video and in a companion book; both resources are available directly from PBS: or, of course, at other online video and book sources.

Whether you want company in your studio while you work or want to take a break from working and want to enjoy other craftsmen's work, I highly recommend that you take a look at Craft in America.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Making a Quilt

The quilt on my bed is 20 years old and has been in constant use since it was made. The fabrics are faded slightly, but mainly I'm tired of it and ready for fresh colors and patterns.

I've been an admirer of Denyse Schmidt quilts and fabrics  for years, and found a complete set of her Flea Market Fancy fat quarters at Beth Louche's StashModernFabric on Etsy . I'm alternating squares of Schmidt's fabric with some PFD Kona Cotton that I bought for dyeing a couple of years ago.

The layout is made with one inch squares of 19 of the prints on white cotton and I like it so much I may stitch the squares to the background and quilt it as a wall piece.

I was inspired to use contemporary prints and a very simple block design by following Rita Hodge on her Australian website, Red Pepper Quilts . I love the clean, fresh fabrics that she uses with unexpected bindings. I also want to complete this bed covering as quickly as I can and get on to other projects.

I have cut all of the squares and triangles and I'm working for several hours a day piecing them, by machine, of course. I've located my sewing table halfway between the little tv and my computer so that I catch all the episodes of Downton Abbey and Bones or play Craft in America episodes on the PBS website.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jean Campbell At Arrowmont in 2013

I collected seed beads and books on beading for years and never completed a project. Sure, I would handle the bead containers and rearrange them, sorting by size or by color. Finally after maybe 15 years, I sold all of them and concentrated on other media, selling my chainmaille jewelry at small shows. This year I started adding beads to chainmaille and found myself purchasing beads once more. Then my hands started hurting from using pliers constantly and I looked to beads as a change of muscle movements.

Jean Campbell's books on beaded beads have always been my favorite books on the subject and they were the first ones I picked up to make a real attempt at learning to make jewelry from beads. Only a week after I received these two books in the mail Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts posted its 2013 course catalog on its website: and I found that of all people, Jean Campbell will be teaching a course there in July. The title of the one-week course is Geometric Beadwork, and peyote stitch will be used to create the geometric shapes. I registered for the class before the end of 2012, assuring myself of Arrowmont's early registration discount. I'll admit to saving money whenever I can, but I'll spend all of the money I saved on the class purchasing beads at the school's supply store.

You can find a course description and brief bio of Jean Campbell here: . Click on the link and scroll down to page 24 of the PDF catalog.

If you register for any one-week course, two-week course or weekend course at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, before February 8, 2013, you will receive a 10% discount on the price of your class. The geometric beading class price is $495, so the discount means a savings of $49.50. That's a lot of beads! Just make sure that you register by 5:00 PM on Thursday, February 7 and join me in Jean's class!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For Sale: Masters of Polymer Clay

Masters of Polymer Clay:  Major Works by Leading Artists
Major Editor:  Ray Hemachandra
Curated by Rachel Carren
 Excellent photographs of the work of 40 artists;  330 pages
$14.00 includes media mail postage in the US
For more information or to purchase this book, please email me at  I take PayPal cash and PayPal credit cards.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

King of Hearts - and a Giveaway!

The tricks are amazing, and the treats are even better. Many people who work with polymer clay know Dr. Ron Lehocky, a general pediatrician in Louisville, Kentucky, who makes polymer clay hearts to benefit the Cerebral Palsy Kids Center there. In 2005, when Ron became a board member of the Kids Center, he set a goal to make 10,000 hearts to sell at $10.00 each, with all monies from his sales to go to the Center for the children who are treated there. November, 2011, marks the sixth anniversary of the heart project and at this writing, Ron has made 16,840 hearts.

Ron's craftsmanship astonishes the person who picks up one of his pins for the first time. His construction is impeccable and his techniques and finishing details are those of pieces made for gallery exhibition. Each heart is made as if it were one of a kind. Buyers and gift recipients always feel as if they have gotten the better part of the deal, and when we displayed several hundred hearts in a class at Arrowmont recently, otherwise courteous and pleasant adult polymer clay students became aggressive and grabby in an effort to purchase just the right one.

Ron is a master of techniques that are appropriate for covering his plump, rounded hearts, and is generous with his knowledge and demonstrations on accomplishing specific techniques. Attend a class with him and he'll have everyone there howling with laughter - everyone knows how nice Ron is, but they forget to tell you about his sense of humor.  Not only do his Halloween hearts wear ghost and mummy costumes, but those costumes glow in the dark!
Ron has seven Louisville retail outlets selling hearts for him, including the prestigious Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft; each merchant writes a check to the Kids Center and then sells each heart for $10.00. No one profits from this project except the kids and the Center.

Maybe you need a glow-in-the-dark mummy heart to wear for Halloween or perhaps you need special gifts for favorite friends for the holidays. If you are nowhere near Louisville, Kentucky, you are as close to Dr. Ron Lehocky as the internet;  his email is and you can order hearts directly from him. Every heart that is purchased from him is really a double gift: you get a heart for yourself or a friend and you give help to the children who are treated at the Cerebral Palsy Kids Center. Don't tell 'em, but Ron's hearts are what my friends are getting for Christmas!
Oh, yeah! Ron's hearts will be appearing one more place this fall: you will be able to see them at Arrowmont the weekend of November 3 - 6, 2011, in Judy Belcher's classroom. Judy will be teaching Op Art in Polymer Clay that weekend, and there are still openings for the class. To register for Judy's class, phone 865-436-5860;  for more information about the class, click here.
Now, the Giveaway!
I have a gently-read copy of the February, 2009, issue of Polymer Cafe, which contains a six-page article written and photographed by Dr. Ron Lehocky.  He presents two heart tutorials and I tell you, there are more pictures than words. There are also other articles by artists you know, and I think altogether this is one of the best issues of Polymer Cafe ever. If you would like to have this magazine, leave me a comment below and your name will go into the Goat-A-Rama cap for a drawing on Friday. I will announce the winner of the drawing on this blog on Friday and we can get together about mailing it at that time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The name randomizer at work

My husband does not read my blog so he's as objective as it gets to drawing a name for the Helen Breil rigid, discontinued, hard-to-find texture plates.  Congratulations to Susan, whose name he drew! He looked at me in a very funny way and said to me, "You won your own drawing???" No, this is another Susan and I'll email her right away to let her know the plates will be on their way.

Lizzie does read my blog but would prefer to shop on Amazon (you don't need thumbs to shop online) and has picked out the giveaway for next Friday.  She has hidden the item, however, so I'll have to find it and show it to you, say, on Monday. Just leave a comment below or on any polymer clay post between now and Monday morning and your name goes into the hat, along with all  of the others still in the hat.

I am working on another post of some pretty cool items - got to photograph while the sun shines!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I did with my texture sheets

In 2008 I started collecting Victoria James Real Textures sheets directly from her website: 
At about the same time I was looking for a way to contribute to Arrowmont and thought of making arrow pins to be sold in the supply store on campus. I made some small arrow cutters out of strips of lightweight brass sheet and epoxy, and I barely looked up for days! I rolled out sheets of clay with the pasta machine and on the final pass I inserted one of the Real Texture sheets to make an impression on the clay. I cut the impressed clay with an arrow cutter, very lightly dabbed the raised portions of the design with liquid clay and sprinkled the surface with embossing powder. When I tapped off the excess powder it fell out of the crevices and stuck to the high areas, defining the impressed design. I baked the arrows normally, attached a pinback with clay and baked again. I had about a 90 percent success rate and learned from the other ten percent.
That year, for my holiday shows, I made tree pins using the same techniques, sometimes substituting mica powders for a metallic sparkle, sometimes using metallic paint. I really went wild with the metallic paint and ordered more metallic embossing powder than I could ever use.
I started using Donna Kato's patterns and finally purchased several of Helen Breil's rigid texture plates.

I tried an ivory-colored clay with Golden's Fluid Acrylic in Micaceous Iron Oxide or Metallic Bronze rubbed into the crevices and wiped off the ridges.

I know I'm just prejudiced, but I think my favorites have a polymer clay base the color of Georgia clay.

Please don't forget to leave a comment any day through Thursday to be included in the drawing for three of Helen Breil's rigid texture plates.