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Great show!

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I had reluctantly accepted that our family calendar was just too rammed full for me to indulge myself with a visit to the Hobbycraft Show at the NEC, despite reeeeeeaally wanting to go.  And then as if a crafty-fairy God mother was granting me a wish a lady at my work had some spare tickets going cheap decided to sod the to-do-list and go and join the fun.

Anyone who’s been to an exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham will know how exciting…and tiring…that long walk is.  From the train station to the exhibition hall takes about 15 minutes to walk, anticipation building all the way.  You see others speeding ahead of you, eager feet propelling them towards the joys that lie ahead.  The mutual understanding with complete strangers, a kind of geeky obsessive urge to get right in the thick of it.  Just the joy of feeling that atmosphere of being among like minded people, creatives, crafters, addicts.

There was so much to see, so much to get sucked into, card making demos, sculpturing and painting, cross stitch (which I had to try and stay away from for fear of being wooed!)……but most importantly of all, jewellery making and polymer clay.  The main draw for me was visiting the British Polymer Clay Guild stand.  I’d already checked out their website, already knew I wanted to join their website members list but I wondered what kind of people they were, are they welcoming to new members? would they snigger at my feeble attempts at clay work compared to their professional looking pieces of art?

The Guild members I met were lovely.  Friendly and open, willing to share their techniques and tips and most inspiring of all….they had that same geeky excitement about polymer clay that I have.  So that settled that, I’m definitely going to become a member of the British Polymer Clay Guild………..can I get a whoop whoop!?!?

The rest of the Hobbycrafts show was good too, I visited two other clay related stands.  Which gave us two very different experiences.  The first were the new and only UK distributors of a make of polymer clay called Cernit.  The ‘Guild’ ladies had said that since Cernit changed their formula they have started to  recommend the Cernit brand for the type of ‘cane work’ I do, so I was intrigued.  I had a really long chat with the lovely couple and bought some Cernit clay to try out and I treated myself to a new pasta machine for my clay work as the one they were selling had extra wide rollers, something I’ve been looking for for a long time!

The other polymer clay stand we visited was run by a couple of clay artists who sold their jewellery and ran demos and workshops on various clay techniques.  Some of their work was lovely, I was interested in the high gloss resin finish they were using on their pendants.  But I found myself in a very strange situation standing at their table.  Some of their work didn’t seem to be as good as my own.  I couldn’t quite believe it, and looked very carefully at their work.  How can they be at this huge exhibition, visited by thousands of craft enthusiasts yet some of their pieces were, in my humble opinion, of fairly low quality.  The cane work was not very sophisticated, there didn’t seem to be much thought put into the design of the canes themselves, and the finish of some of the jewellery wasn’t as ‘fine’ as I would have expected.  Perhaps I am a perfectionist in my clay and jewellery work, perhaps that’s why I sometimes feel frustration and disappointing.  But having seen the fantastic quality if the work on display at the British Polymer Clay Guild, compared to the other pieces displayed….I know where I would rather be heading.

Writing my Christmas list

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  • Get brain in gear…….find a pen.
  • Look at craft fair opportunities in Birmingham
  • Plan other sale events e.g. my workplace, jewellery party with friends, online sales
  • Check through existing stock, allocate to market/sales/online stock
  • Complete all jewellery projects already in progress
  • Work on new jewellery designs for Christmas
  • Think about new products
  • Order supplies and materials early
  • Look at diary and schedule workbench sessions
  • All systems go!

Cufflinks and family ties.

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Handmade in polymer clay, these wedding cufflinks are personalised for the Groom with his wedding date in Roman numerals.

Step 1: Plan it out on paper.  Making Roman Numerals in polymer clay involves a bit of thinking.  There were lots of lines nad cuts to make so I planned it all out first and took it very slowly so I didnt make mistakes.

Step 2: Make the cuts….you have to be brave, but one you start adding your black sheets to create your lines it gives you such a buzz.

Step 3: Make the colour blends for the ribbon design of the cufflink.  I used a maroon coloured clay and blended it with black and white by rolling i through my pasta machine, a tchnique known as a ‘Skinner blend’.

Step 4: Make a long strip of blended clay into a ‘blended stack’ by carefully folding it back and forth.

Step 5: Cut and recombine the blended stack to create a block that blends to white in the middle  and dark at the edges.

Step 6: Line the long edges with thin layers of white and black clay to give more definition and an illution of dimention to the final piece.

Step 7: Reduse the size of the Romal numeral blocks so that they fit snugly within the arranged ‘ribbon’ blocks.

Step 8: When your blocks are all the right sizes and positioned correctly, gently squeeze the square cane to confirm the pattern.

Step 9: I wrapped the cane in a thin sheet of black to give a smarter look, then reduce to cufflink size whilst taking care to maintain the srqight edges and square corners.

Step 10: Slice, bake, sand and buff.  Then use Epoxy glue to fix the silver plated cufflink backs in place and allow to se for at least 48 hours.

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I was so impressed with myself, pretty proud of what I’d achieved, it had been 2 and half hours sitting at the table, following all the design sketched I’d done over the previous days and the ens result was fab.  I was bouncing round the kitchen with glee at what I’d produced.  A commissioned pair of cufflinks with a very special personal touch.

I went to bed happy.

But when I took another look at my creation the next morning…………………I realised I’d made a technical error in the design.  I debated for a while if it really mattered, was it really worth wasting all that time and effort for something that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.  But I had noticed and that was all that mattered, I couldn’t live with it, I couldn’t give these cufflinks knowing I wasnt 100% happy with them.

So I started again.

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