25 October 2014

Turquoise birdies


Turquoise is a stone that I saw a lot of in Peruvian jewellery, so today I'm showing you how I made some faux turquoise birdies.

To make faux turquoise from polymer clay, I first needed to look at some recipes. Luckily I had three, in the books Faux Surfaces in Polymer Clay by Irene Semanchuk Dean, The Polymer Clay Techniques Book by Sue Heaser, and Polymer: The Chameleon Clay by Victoria Hughes. I also found many more recipes online. They were all slightly different, but all had a similar principle: creating chunks of clay with fissures in-between filled by paint or dirt.

I wanted my turquoise to have quite a lot of variation of colour, so I mixed up various colours of turquoise as well as some other colours. I then placed them all in the fridge to harden for a few hours.
Meanwhile I got a little soil from the garden, and mixed in a little copper-coloured eyeshadow powder, and gold-coloured metal leaf. I also formed a couple of bird shapes from plain turquoise coloured clay.
I chopped up all the colours using a wavy cutter. Then I mixed in a little of the earth mixture, and covered the bird shapes with this, squeezing a little so it would stick, but not so much that the definition between the different lumps would be lost. I pierced holes for the eyes, and from top to bottom. From the remaining clay mixture I made two cube shaped beads.
After baking the beads, I rubbed them with brown acrylic paint and rubbed off what I could, then when this was dry I buffed them with the buffer attachment on my drill. Then I varnished them with a high gloss varnish. 

Buffed on the left and unbuffed on the right
Finally I put them together with some other beads to make a pair of earrings.




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24 October 2014

Turquoise clay mosaic


This project was inspired by a couple of postcards that I bought at a museum in Peru, showing beautiful jewellery in gold, turquoise and other stones.

This was a really experimental piece, and, although it's not one of my best, I learned a lot by doing it.
First I got together the polymer clay colours I needed. I used gold clay, and mixtures of green, red and blue with translucent clay. 
I rolled out some gold clay and cut a circle of it, and cut a circle of the pale green mixture which I laid on top. 
I rolled lots of tiny balls of gold clay, painted a line of liquid clay around the circle, and pressed the tiny balls to this. 
I cut a shape from the blue and pink mixtures and placed this on top of the green clay. Unfortunately it turned out looking a bit more like a goat than the bird that I'd intended! 
I used a needle tool to create grooves, then applied some liquid clay and added metal leaf on top.
After baking, I applied antiquing medium then rubbed it off. 
When this had dried, I used a buffing attachment on my Dremel. 
I applied some gold wax to the balls, and gave it a coat of varnish. If I'd been a bit happier with how it turned out, I'd probably have turned it into a brooch. But it has been a great learning experience, and maybe I'll try to make a better version of this sometime!

The lessons I have learned:
1. Make the clay colours paler - translucent clays can go darker when baked.
2. Cut and bake the mosaic pieces individually - they would have looked more realistic.
3. Make a template so that a bird does not turn out looking like a goat!
4. Do not buff metal leaf too hard or it will rub off.
5. Use a gold powder - this would have a stronger colour than the gold wax, I think.

22 October 2014

Felt llama


I couldn't have a month of Peru related crafts without a few llama inspired items! I've already made a carved llama pendant, and today I'm showing you how to make a cute, soft, llama ornament from felt!

To make the felt llama, all you'll need is felt, thread, stuffing material, and a small length of ribbon. Good colours of felt to use are beige, cream or dark brown, anything on the brown spectrum really!

1. Draw your llama design, or print out the one I've drawn. Cut this out and use it as a pattern to cut out two llama shapes, and two layers of saddle that use the top of the saddle as a fold line.


2. Sew the layers of saddle together, and add any embroidery you desire to them. Embroider the mouth and eye on the llama pieces (remember to make them a mirror image of each other!). 


3. To add the ear tassels, thread your needle with 6 strands of embroidery thread, tie a knot about half a centimetre from the end, and pull this through from the front to the back of the fabric, fastening off at the back.

4. Sew the saddle onto the two llama pieces, and sew the ribbon just in front of the saddle.
5. Sew around the llama, leaving an inch or two open so that you can stuff it.

6. Using soft toy stuffing or similar, stuff the llama. Use long tweezers to get it into the head, neck and legs.

You can use your llama as an unusual Christmas tree ornament, as a pet for a doll, for hanging from a handbag, or simply for hanging around your home wherever you choose.

21 October 2014

Santa Catalina Monastery


Today I'd like to share with you some of my pictures of a place that I particularly loved in Peru - Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa. I say monastery, but it's actually a place for nuns rather than monks, so perhaps convent is the right word!
Santa Catalina is located in the centre of Arequipa, and it is like a little town of its own, with streets and houses (the nuns used to have their own individual living quarters, and servants). The colours the buildings are painted are absolutely stunning - terracotta red, bright white, and vivid blue, with orange geranium flowers and bright green limes providing even more colour.
There are still nuns there, but not as many, and they stay in a part of the complex that is not open to the public.
It was fascinating to see the pool in which the nuns used to bathe (fully clothed of course!), and the laundry troughs.
There are stairs to the roof of one of the buildings, and there are stunning views from there. And below this is a fountain with goldfish in the pool.
I was reading a novel at the time, The Book of Human Skin, by Michelle Lovric, which is partly set in Santa Catalina, and I think this made it come vividly to life for me.
Our group was taken round the convent by a guide, and, while she told us a lot about the history of the place, I felt that she did not allow us enough time to just soak up the atmosphere.
I thought about going back later in the afternoon, because it was a day ticket, but there was so much else I wanted to see in the town that I didn't. I have really regretted that since, as it is one of the places that has really stuck in my mind ever since, and I even had recurring dreams for months afterwards in which I went back there!
I took so many photos at Santa Catalina that they filled a whole album, and I'd really like to do some art based on them at some point.

20 October 2014

Owl magnets


Welcome to another post in my Peru-inspired month!

The owl is a bird that I saw represented in a lot of crafts in Peru. I bought myself a red and black owl ornament, and I bought a gourd carved as an owl for my mum. Animal symbolism is a big thing in Peru - each area is represented by a bird (which flies above the earth), a mammal (which lives on it), and a reptile (which slithers through it).

So here's an owl craft that's cheap and easy!

As well as being inspired by Peru's owl-related items, I also took inspiration from (OK, I outright copied!) a set of four small owl magnets that are treasured nostalgic items from my childhood. I've got the blue and green ones on my fridge, and Mum and Dad have the red and orange ones!

Here's what I did to make my (larger) version of them:
1. Clean some jar lids and spray paint them a bright colour.
2. Draw a design in pencil (I used a stencil to draw the circle shapes).
3. Using acrylic or household paint fill in the design.
4. Glue a magnet or magnets to the back. I stacked two magnets to get the right depth, and in fact I didn't even glue them, as they will be attracted to the metal lid anyway (that way I can use the magnets for another project if I get bored of these! You could add a coat of clear varnish to protect the design too, if you want.

I think this would be a fun project for children if you spray painted them and glued the magnets in place, then got the children to add their own design. I'm thinking Angry Birds could be an idea! I also think it would be nice to use the decorated lids on the original jars, as a fun way of storing craft supplies.

These magnets were made from quite small lids (like the ones you'd get on Lazy Ginger or Garlic jars). I'm tempted to make an even bigger version, from a jam jar lid!