The hardest thing I have to do as an artist is coming up with new designs and color ways. I use my Pinterest page to tag all kinds of beautiful things that I see during my hours of surfing the web. A weekElspeth rocks 2 or so ago someone posted a picture on Facebook of the painted rocks that artist Elspeth McLean creates. She is an Australian artist who is currently living in Canada. The vivid colors and dot designs really spoke to me. I tagged the post knowing that someday that image would be helpful. But it stayed in my mind for days. I went to her website and just sat back and took in the colors and designs. I knew that I just had to do something with what I was seeing.

I picked one image that I really liked a lot. I blended colors to replicate the vividness of her painting. I love blending colors. Figuring out recipes is fuElspeth rockn for me. I seem to have a knack for figuring out what colors are needed to create a certain shade. I don’t have any art training but I did work for a catalog company as a merchandiser in my previous life. I had to check the first print runs to make sure colors were true to the actual product. I learned a lot about correcting colors from the people who were in charge of making the necessary changes. I think that has been a great help for me as an artist. But I digress…

…I mixed up all the colors and used my PCE extruder to spit out the snakes of color to be wrapped by black or other colors. (More on that part in a later post.) I had a lot of the chosen colors left over and decided to play with some extruded canes. Some call them Klimt or Retro canes. Almost every clayer does these at some point in their journey with polymer. They are so easy to do and can create canes that look very complex. The key is to make sure there is good contrast in the colors that you select. I wanted to test how arranging the colors in different combinations would effect the outcome.

20150416_170130For the first test I arranged the colors in a rainbow with the pink in the middle. Each color family is separated with black and white layers for heavy contrast. And that’s what I got. Good separation of colors with a nice mix of black and white .


For test number two I doubled up the colors and separated them with black and white again. I thought this line up would give me more tone on tone circles…but it didn’t. Still, I like the result but has a bit more green than I had hoped for.

test2a test2b

For test numero tres I decided to get rid of the black and white to see if I could get the tone on tone look of the painted rock.  And I did get some of that, but not as much as I hoped. However, that’s OK with me. I like how it looks anyway.


Next challenge is to decide what to make with them…..

Here’s some more links to Elspeth McLean’s wonderful work:!gallery/c203e

AND some links to some sites to help with color inspiration:


Sanding Alternatives for Polymer Clay – Part 1


tumbled beads 01

Like so many of you, I LOVE the look of sanded polymer clay pieces. But, also like pretty much everybody – I HATE sanding polymer. It’s messy, it hurts – especially when you sand your fingertips…yes, I have – and it’s boring. AND….if like me….you have issues with chronic pain it is very painful to do the amount of sanding needed for production work. Over the years I have tried several techniques to get the look I want without putting myself into a heightened state of pain.

Many years ago I stumbled across Desiree McCory’s site that described how to use a rotary tumbler and sandpaper to sand beads. I used her techniques for several years but found the process very labor intensive. There HAD to be a better way. I think I have finally found that better way.

I use a rotary tumbler with plastic media cones from Rio Grande followed by rotary buffing using jean scraps. The media that I been using is the “Standard Plastic Pyramid Media” in Blue, Medium and Green, Fine Cut along with the “Standard Plastic Cone Media, Extra Fine Cut”. I find that this process makes sanding beads a breeze. If I want a bit more gloss to the bead I ‘paint’ on Armor-All Car Finish. I really like the finish I get and it is easy-peasy and pain-free.

I have cheapo tumblers from Harbor Freight, but I’m sure that this process will also work with Lortone tumblers. The black rubber drums can stain/yellow polymer so they must be lined.
Tall yogurt/sFinishing 05our cream/ricotta containers work well. Liners may need to be cut down the sides to fit the tumbler container. Cut a circle out of the liner’s lid to fit on top. You don’t want any of the black rubber touching the clay. Load the tumbler starting with a handful of plastic media, then beads, then more media, more beads until it the contents are about an inch below the top of the container.

Fill with water leaving about half an inch free to allow for media and beads to move around the container.Finishing 04
You can start with either the blue or the green media depending on the smoothness of pieces.

I usually let the tumbler run for 12 – 24 hours on each media grit. I have not found that a longer time does any damage to the pieces. After the tumbler has been run pour the contents into a colander and rinse. Make sure to clean the liner and barrel between grits.

Finishing 07

To buff by tumbler you need to cut up a pair of old jeans or purchase denim – some suggest using white denim – into 1 – 2 inch square pieces. Layer the jeans and the beads as before but you will be tumbling these dry. I allow this stage to run for between 12 – 18 hours. Again, it doesn’t hurt to run it longer and you can probably run it for as little as 8 hours.

I have seen some post recently that people are using polished rocks. I haven’t tried this yet and would be interested if anyone can share some before and after shots.

I’ll post some other alternatives to hand sanding in my next post.