Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Painting By Numbers

Maybe you're not into sewing. Or polyfill or fabric. (Although I'm not really sure how we managed to become friends.) So here's something different for you: pottery painting.

In DC there are a few places where you can do this, such as All Fired Up, and Color Me Mine. They're always full of kids and families, which is fun to see. But there are also plenty of adults - couples and groups of friends of various ages. I like to go at night - it's quiet, and you can concentrate. Over a year ago I went with some friends and started this bowl.

I got a little waylaid, and eventually finished it a few months later. That's the great thing about these pottery painting stores - you can go back as often as you want, and take as long as you want. You pay up front, and after you turn it in to them, it takes a week to be glazed, fired, and ready for you.

The more layers of paint you put on, the more opaque it looks, and I definitely prefer this - I'm not a huge fan of streaks.

On the bottom are my initials and the date, etched with the end of a paperclip - they have a wide variety of tools to use to make varying effects.

I used a stencil from the store for this tropical flower, but altered it quite a bit. It's off-center and the stem starts from the the curve in the bowl, so I think it has some movement to it. I like that it's fairly minimalist, and the colors are very complementary. I especially love green and blue together. The flower's petals are slightly raised in some places, simply because I kept touching up little bits, not satisfied with the outer border of each orange piece. 

Another piece I put a lot of work into last year was a large serving plate, done in stripes:

I used masking tape to make the lines accurate (it's ridiculous how much of a perfectionist I am), and made stripes of random widths, doing one color at a time. I left parts of it unpainted, so the natural white color of the clay could show through. Because the plate curves up towards the edges, it gives the appearance that the lines are curved, depending on where you are standing.

I also etched a simple loop-de-loop on the light yellow strips, again using the end of a paper clip. Really you can only see the design if you are up close - which is nice, it's a little surprise.

I really like how the two goldy (goldey? goldie?) yellows, greeny blues, and purply blues coordinate. And I enjoy the random placement of the stripes.

As with the bowl, I used a wet sponge to clean the edge. It creates a clear separation between the front and back glaze, and adds another design feature.

On the underside, I used a blue and a yellow from the front, and a really pretty dark gray.

I use this plate and bowl a lot for serving food. They are supposedly microwave and dishwasher safe, but I'm not taking any chances, so it's careful hand washing every time. They were inexpensive, and definitely have more meaning than something bought from the store. I can't say enough about how relaxing this whole activity is, I totally recommend it.

Both these pieces were fairly minimalist, with plenty of solid coloring. I like it, but I'd also like to deviate from that in the future, and try more complex hand drawn designs and techniques. I'd like to try a technique I saw in one of the store examples - you paint a design in various colors, then cover it all in black. You then use different tools to remove parts of the black, to reveal the color underneath. I remember doing something similar in elementary school art class - we drew in color with crayons, and then painted over it with black paint. The wax resisted the paint, so that the color showed through. Different technique, similar effect. I'm also dreaming of taking a class someday to relearn how throw clay on the wheel, and then paint it. 

A few months ago I started a mug, and really only got as far as painting the whole thing plum purple. It's been sitting, wrapped up in paper, waiting for inspiration to strike. I'll share with you how it turns out...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Infusing Meaning

How can I get away with writing about Christmas ornaments (again) in mid-February? Well, someone said Happy New Year to me last week, so I'm hoping I have a little leeway here.

I do a secret santa exchange with a few friends every year. This year I ordered some earrings for my giftee from Etsy. I waited and waited, and began to wonder where the hell they were - our exchange was in only a few days! So I went to my account, and it said my order had shipped the day after I ordered it (yay!) - from Tel Aviv (not yay). I'm not sure if you know this, but Israel is really far away. So that's why it was taking so long...

I didn't want to be the girl who wraps up a picture of her gift, with an apologetic promise of its impending arrival. So I decided that something handmade might be better anyways, and the earrings could follow, whenever.  I used a pattern that I bought about a year ago (again, from Etsy, I'm so original) for a pear ornament.

JZG are the initial's of my friend's 17 month old son, Jackson. I embroidered the letters on, with a simple backstitch in thread. I think the colors go nicely together, and I enjoy the irony (if that's the right word) of having a citrus print on a pear.

The stem and leaf are felt, with some embroidery - the stem rolled in on itself and closed with a blind stitch. I learned how to do a blanket stitch for the edge of the leaf. I'm particularly pleased with how the leaf turned out - it curled like that all on its own.

Here it is on my tree before it went to it's forever home.

That's a heart, if you can't tell.

A week later the earrings came (with some fun Israeli stamps), and those went to my friend. She and her husband enjoyed the ornament so much (and I had such fun making it) that I made another. This time it was for a friend of mine who has a 6 month old son named Harper.

The two reds are alllllmost the same  - I like that if you squint, it "reads" as all red.

This time I had begun to think about starting this blog, so I took a few pictures of the process, with a post in mind. Not enough for a tutorial though (and anyway I don't feel comfortable doing that, since somebody worked hard to make the pattern and very much deserved to get paid for it). One day when I'm fancy, make my own patterns, and sew blindfolded or whatever I'll totally put that up here.

Marking with pencil where the embroidery will go, and cutting out all six segments.
Pinning printed sides together.
One of my discoveries during this project was the true joy of making something completely unique, by hand, and giving it to people I love. These little pears will hang on the Christmas trees of my friends for years to come. It's this kind of project that keeps me motivated to continue crafting, and to make it not only fun, but meaningful. 

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Puzzle Ball, Part 1

Oh, hi. Not posting for 11 days is just terrible, and only the first four days can be excused by the fact that my house had no power and I was walking around in the dark, wearing gloves and seeing my breath. The other seven days are just, well, lost momentum.

If you're friends with me on Facebook (and I'm pretty sure that's my entire readership), you may remember seeing photos of a puzzle ball I made a while back.

I found the pattern in Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts, a fabulous book from the library. Apparently they are Amish in origin, and are good developmental toys for babies. Um, I made one for myself. Because they're pretty. And, being made out of half circles and ellipses, the math that's hiding in there fascinates me.

When a friend of mine saw it, he immediately started flipping the segments around, like it was a rubix cube (nothing is attached in the middle). This had never occurred to me - it would be amazing to put something with four rotating bits at the points where the blue embroidery floss is, and you could turn it all around and make it look many different ways. If you were so inclined. Which I am. But thinking about how that would work makes my head spin a little, so I'm going to go with the more doable idea, which is: there should totally be a bell inside it.

For the babies, I mean. For the babies.

A close family friend's niece had a beautiful baby boy in mid August, and I think it's about high time that baby had a handmade gift from me. So, fortified with these:

I don't know what nibs are, but I know I like them. Nom.
I used a very sophisticated template to make 3 orange and 6 purple circles.

I cut the purple circles in half, and made ellipses out of the orange. I marked a "scant" 1/4 of an inch seam allowance:

Then I used the sewing machine to do the first seam for each of the 12 segments.

It takes a while to hand sew the remaining seams on all twelve segments, so that's all you get for now. Part 2 coming up in a few days!