thoughts on process

Here’s what’s on my worktable right now. The two sets of earrings at the top of the picture are made of sculpey ultralight. The reason for making them with this clay is that they keep my earrings as light as possible. No one likes heavy earrings. They are armatures that will be covered with a thin layer of other clay and with a pattern, probably dots. The little fan shapes at the top may be cabochons that I’ll set in silver after I’ve covered them.

On the bottom row are pendants. Wherever you see holes will be bead mosaic. All of them have been wet sanded with 220 grit sandpaper. That’s just the first sanding step. To get a nice high gloss shine, I’ll go up in steps to a 1500 or even 2000 grit. I find those grits at automotive supply stores. The sanding will all be done before I do the mosaic work.

All of what you see here represents hours and hours of work, which leads me to the point of this post. Speaking as a business person, I naturally want to make the most amount of money for the least amount of time, right? That’s just economics 101. As an artist, however, what can I sacrifice in quality to gain quantity? My biggest issue right now is my production time. It’s something that I struggle with daily. I think I’ve worked out that I’m making about $2.00 or $3.00 an hour, and I’m working about 10 hours a day. Am I happy? Yes. I’m absolutely ecstatic doing what I’m doing! It beats the heck out of selling bras! Will it pay the bills? The jury’s still out on that one. My guess is that, unless I can increase production, the answer is no, even if I teach myself how to live and be happy with the barest minimum. (That’s another struggle!)

I’m a very detail oriented person. I know what I want the finished product to look like and I’m willing to work for hours and hours until I’m satisfied with the results. I can’t seem to work any faster. If I did, I wouldn’t be happy with the product. I’d like to come up with a design that I’m happy with that doesn’t involve so much sanding (the bane of my existence!) or several – sometimes ten to twelve – steps of curing. I like what I make or I wouldn’t make it. I like the finished product. But I don’t like how long it takes me to get there. That’s not good for business.

So, I’ll keep struggling. I’ll keep trying to develop a design that I can churn out like hotcakes (that sells like hotcakes too!). Or I’ll just wait until I become so famous that people are willing to pay what I’d like to be charging for my work – which would pay for the materials and for my time. As someone I know once told me, “If you charge a million dollars apiece for what you sell, you only have to sell ONE!”

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just call me “flower face”

Something I’ve discovered in recent years is that the older you get, the less you care about what you look like or what people think. When I asked Larry for a head shot and he said, and I quote, “Now, don’t faint, but what if you covered your face in polymer clay?”, at first I told him he was nuts. I still think he’s nuts, but then I decided to go with it, just for fun. I thought about mehndi, bindi and tribal face painting, and thought, why not? Some of that can be really beautiful and the whole process just may be a lot of fun. I also thought that it might be a photo I never wanted anyone to see – EVER, but I might as well go for it and see what happens. For people who were already convinced that I’m crazy (like my entire family), this just confirms it. But, even though I spent about four and a half hours at Larry’s studio (it took over an hour just to get all this stuff glued to my face), it was a lot of fun. The artist as her own canvas, so to speak.

I used “water soluble facial adhesive” (probably just your basic white glue in a different tube), and things slid a bit before the glue dried. But after it dried they stayed put, for the most part. Wherever I sweat the most on my face, like my upper lip, those things fell off right after the photos were taken.  I actually drove home from the studio with all this on my face!  I’m really glad I didn’t run out of gas or have to stop at the grocery store!!

This is the tray full of the bits and pieces after I’d removed them from my face (which is why some of them are stuck together). I made sure I brought enough with me so that I had some extra (in the plastic containers) just in case. The tiniest components had to be applied with a tweezers! I cut some components from some of my canes just for this photo since I knew I’d probably not be able to reuse them. I’m glad Larry was so patient (hey, it was his idea after all!) and is also such a good photographer. I think I look only mildly insane.

P.S. Just so you know, Larry also took a “normal” photo of me.

out of the oven

It’s so much nicer weather now than it’s been for the majority of this summer.  And this is perfect weather for working with clay.  In the high temperatures we’ve all been dealing with recently, my clay felt like it was becoming liquid!  It’s hard to work with gooey clay.  Of course, the cold of winter presents its own problems.  But right now?  Perfect.

These beads, fresh out of the oven and now cool (just like us and the weather!), were all made from the same green striped cane.  I like to work on components and get lots of them made before I start assembling the actual pieces of jewelry.  I’ll work in a particular colorway for several days, making lots of different types of beads and component parts.  Then when I’ve amassed a fair amount, sometimes hundreds of components in several different colorways, I’ll start designing things like necklaces, bracelets and earrings using what I have.

This necklace is a good example of the way I use separate components in a piece.  By making and curing separate beads, components and small pieces of clay, rather than adhering them together to be cured, I have more options when it comes to designing my jewelry.  I can go to my polymer clay component “stash”, just like a bead stash, to find just the right color and size of bead or bead “finding” (like bead caps or head pins) that I want.