Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mermaid Bracelet Gold Resin Jewelry 17- "Treasure"

Today, I tried casting my new mermaid bracelet design in gold pigmented resin. I then gave it an antiquing wash of black acrylic paint to bring out the details. I think the gold looks fantastic, and the details really pop! This medium can be frustrating to learn, but so much fun.
Treasure - Mermaid Bracelet Gold Resin Jewelry Number 17

To read all the details, see more pictures or to purchase this bracelet, go to my etsy store Night Sky Jewelry by In Art Studio

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mermaid Bracelet Clear Resin Jewelry 17- "Treasure"

It's finally done! The first cast of my new mermaid bracelet design -"Treasure", and I am very pleased with the results. I think she turned out fabulous! The mold was a real bear to make, and required a whole day of post finishing, but it picked up all the fine details. My fiancé remarked that the octopus almost steals the show. So, I am thinking about making "Glamor-Pus" into a pendant. Today, I will try casting this bracelet design in gold pigmented resin.

I am already planning the next mermaid bracelet design. I'm thinking of a mermaid floating in a bed of kelp, sunbathing with her friends.
Treasure - Mermaid Bracelet Clear Resin Jewelry Number 17
To read all the details, see more pictures or to purchase this bracelet, go to my etsy store Night Sky Jewelry by In Art Studio

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - The Logo

I want to incorporate my logo tag into my new bracelet design, but, where to put it? I plan to cast this bracelet mainly in clear resin, but the metal tag I use, will show through the front. The first bracelet has the logo tag hidden behind a sea shell. But, this new design has no good place to hide the tag. So I have decided to just sculpt the initials NSJ into the right hand side of the octopus. Hopefully it's not too obvious, but it's there. I am just about ready for the final bake of the master.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail - NSJ Logo

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - a Dolphin and Fish

Now for the final cast of characters. The design calls for a school of tiny fish, between the mermaid and her hand mirror. These fish are crowding each other, trying to get a look into the mirror, so only part of their bodies show. I try sculpting the fish individually, intending to stack them. I then realize there is a better and easier way. I take a small amount of clay the approximate size and thickness of the school and place it into position. I outline each fish, then start to carve and define each small head. Here is the result. They still need some refining and detail work, but, I like the look.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail - School of Fish

The last character is my baby dolphin. I imagine him to be inquisitive and playful, so he will be sporting a pearl necklace. I love adding dolphins to my designs. They are easy to sculpt, and add so much charm.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail - Baby Dolphin

Well, the sculpture is almost finished. I still have a a lot of finishing work to do, before it will be ready for molding. The surface finish is important, as every little flaw will be picked up by the silicone molding compound. But I am very pleased with the design, and think it will look fabulous when cast.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - Sculpting an Octopus

This mermaid bracelet master calls for a figure on the right side. I have designed the layout to include an octopus. I have Googled pictures of octopus to get an idea of their texture. I want to make this a lady octopus with eyelashes and kissy lips. She is trying on jewelry with her mermaid girlfriend. Sound like fun?
Here she is roughed in.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail - Octopus
I decided to change the arm position, and added the suction cups to her tentacles. And here she is with most of her jewelry on.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail - Octopus almost Complete

Next - a dolphin and a school to tiny fish complete the scene

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - Sculpting a Treasure Chest

Now for the really fun stuff. The treasure chest is next. I have been thinking about this and I wanted a layered 3-D effect. But, because it sits behind the mermaid, it can not be too thick. The front and sides are twice as thick as the top, which is hard to see in the photograph. I want it to look like rough, old wood, like it's been under water for a long time. I added a lock and some strapping, for more detail. It's not finished, I want to make it look even more old, by roughening the corners and sides. But, you get the general idea. One of the benefits of having lived in the Florida Keys, was the opportunity of visiting the many treasure museums. I got to examine the items salvaged and collected from the local shipwrecks. I also had the opportunity to meet and get to know, the guys that did the salvage diving. What fun!

Mermaid Bracelet Detail - Treasure Chest

I've added hair to the mermaid and some jewels. The Mermaid's body is finished and soft fired, for 10 minutes at 265 degrees. She is not hard all the way through, but she is hard enough to scrape and sand, before adding her hair. She looks so much better with hair. Here, also, is her fancy little hand mirror. All the tiny pearls are glass, and will be fired and cast, right into the mold.
Mermaid Bracelet Detail- Mermaid Hair

Mermaid Bracelet Detail - Hand Mirror

Next - Sculpting an Octopus

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - Sculpting the Face

Here is where the fun begins. My design is complex, with a lot going on in a 7 x 2-1/4 inch area. On the left side of my design, is a full length mermaid reclining on her right arm. Her left arm is out stretched and holding a hand mirror. Behind her tail, in the middle of the design, sits a treasure chest, filled with jewels and jewelry. On the right side of the bracelet, is the mermaid's octopus girlfriend. The mermaid and the octopus are both trying on jewelry from the treasure chest. I have incorporated a baby dolphin, who has gotten in on the fun and has a pearl necklace draped over his head. My design also, includes a large school of tiny fish, that are so curious about their reflection in the hand mirror, that they are blocking the mermaids attempt to see herself. I want the mermaid's face to convey a combination of annoyance and amusement. This might be a hard expression to pull off.

I always start with the hardest part first, the face and torso. My design calls for a 3/4 inch long, full face, 1/2 head view. Matching the approximate size to the layout, I roll an egg shaped ball of clay, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter, and cut off the 1/2 back of the head. This is placed firmly on the glass, smooshing out any air pockets. The reason for sculpting on glass is I can see what is going on underneath my sculpt, like air pockets.

Next, I add clay for the neck, and upper torso. Again placing the clay over the layout and smooshing it firmly to the glass. I start with a lot more clay than I need, so I can carve the figure. Starting with less clay, means I will have to build up clay parts here and there, to add depth and dimension. I find it easier to carve away the clay to the desired depth and dimension. Either way works. It's just my personal working style.

Sculpting a human face and torso is my biggest challenge. If the proportions are not right, the mind will perceive that something is wrong. I might not be able to place my finger on exactly what is wrong, but I can tell that there is something strange looking about the figure. Our minds judge beauty as balance of proportion. If one eye is higher than the other, or one arm is longer than the other, the figure is out of balance, and looks wrong, even ugly. Getting this balance right, is the hardest part. This is where my digital camera is my best sculpting tool.

After hours of sculpting tiny details, my eyes start to get tired. I see all the little details, but loose focus of the larger picture. That's where my camera comes in. I set my camera to the Macro mode setting, and take close-up pictures from every angle. I then down load these pictures into a file folder on my computer, and take a break. Now, I come back and look at the pictures. I zoom in and look at the details my eyes have missed, but the camera has picked up. Zooming out and standing back away from the monitor, I look for balance of proportion. The camera gives me an unbiased critique. I keep these pictures, so as I refine my sculpture, I can pull them up, side by side, and compare the changes I have made.

Here is a picture of the mermaid's head. She has no hair yet, and is very bald. The shape of her head is not perfect, but, her long hair will cover all but her face. I will add the hair after the first "half-bake", so the hair does not interfere with sanding and polishing of the face and torso. She has tiny bits of fuzz, stuck here and there. But they will be gone, with the first sanding.

Amusement shows mostly in the eyes and mouth. The mouth and eyes need to both be "smiling". The lower lip needs just a tiny fix on the left hand side. And the right eye, lower lid, needs smoothing, but, in general, I am happy with her face.
Mermaid face

Next - Sculpting a Treasure Chest

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - My Sculpting Media

All of my sculpting experience has been with polymer clay. I have sculpted everything from jewelry and dolls to my full sized animal sculls with polymer clay. So, I know the media well, and always have some on hand in my studio.
Balancing Act Polymer Clay Figure "Balancing Act" Polymer Clay Figure

Best of Show Skull Sculpture, War Cry Best of Show Skull Sculpture, "War Cry"
Polymer Clay Free Standing Cross Sculpture Polymer Clay Free Standing Cross Sculpture
Polymer Clay Sculpture, The Guardian Polymer Clay Sculpture, "The Guardian"
Detail of Polymer Clay Sculpture, The Guardian Detail of Polymer Clay Sculpture, "The Guardian"
First Place Skull Sculpture, Speedy First Place Skull Sculpture, "Speedy"
Polymer Clay Sculpture, Running Horse "Wild Horse Turquoise" Free Standing Polymer Clay Horse Sculpture

For me, polymer clay is the perfect medium for creating a jewelry master. It has all the physical properties of a good sculpting media, plus, it has a long library life. I have masters stored away in boxes, going back 10 years, that look just the same, as the day I put them into storage.

My polymer clay jewelry masters have no compatibility issues with the silicone materials I use to make my molds. No mold release is needed, and any heat generated by the mold material curing is never a problem. This is a big advantage for mold making. Mold making, in it's self, can be a real headache. No need to worry about my precious master being ruined. In fact, with proper storage, the same master can be re-used to make countless molds.

Polymer clay sticks well to glass. I always sculpt on clear glass, so I can peek underneath and check for voids. Once "cooked", the sculpture is easily pried loose from the glass.

Polymer clay is cured by heating in a home oven or toaster oven. The clay I use, is fully cured by heating for 15 minutes at 265 degrees, for every 1/4 inch of thickness. One trick is to partially "cook" the clay for say 10 minutes, then progress to the next step and partially "Cook" again. This can be repeated over and over until the sculpture is done and ready for full curing. Did I mention that raw "uncooked" polymer clay sticks well to cured clay? That is another advantage. You can keep adding layer upon layer to your design with no adhesive required between layers.

Once cured, polymer clay becomes permanent and hard, and can be drilled, sanded, polished, sawed, glued, screwed and painted, just like a piece of PVC plumbing pipe. Because it is the same material. Polymer clay is Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with liquid plasticizers added to make it malleable and clay-like.

I buy my polymer clay at the local Hobby Lobby, for $8.00 per 1 pound box. Last week, I bought a new box, and the price had gone up to $12.00 for the same 1 pound box. But, considering how many jewelry sculptures I can make from a pound of clay, that's still not a deterrent. I buy Super Sculpey in the green 1 pound box. I am not concerned about the flesh pink color, since my jewelry masters are not the finished product. I am happy with the consistency, straight from the box. And I find it easy to condition, by hand, without the use of any mechanical devices. Polymer clays must be conditioned, by kneading for several minutes to soften and to distribute the plasticizers throughout the clay.  But, I just pinch off the amount I need, and start rolling it between my hands. It's kind of a relaxing Zen thing, conditioning the clay, while my mind is wandering through the design process.

I am sure there are other advantages that I have forgotten to mention. So, feel free to leave your comments.

Next - Sculpting a Mermaid Face (Getting down to the Nitty Gritty Details)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Design Ideas - Where Do They Come From?

Design ideas, where do ideas come from? Good question. I have been pondering this question, in an attempt to analyze my own creative process. If, I can better understand myself, maybe, I can create a better atmosphere for my creativity. Find a way to channel, and multiply my own creativity. Did that make any sense?

Some ideas come from a need to revise an older design. The design was good, but the process was too expensive. For example, my clear resin bangles, take weeks to make. By the time I factor in my time, with a reasonable hourly wage, the price is too high, for the average consumer to justify. I still make and sell these bangle bracelets, but, only on special order.

Some ideas, just come to life, out of a lump of clay. There you are, kneading the clay, getting it ready to work with, and out pops a design. If you are paying attention, you catch it, before it is lost. For example, my Table Coral Ring Design. It's magical, the way this type of design happens. It's perfect, the first time, and needs no changing or refining.

Some ideas come from a friend's suggestion. Could you make this, but with a few changes? For example, my turquoise cross sculptures. One my gallery owner buddies, saw a small turquoise cross sculpture I was wearing, as a necklace, and asked if I could make the same thing, only larger, wall-sized larger.  These have turned out to be good sellers. I have sold every one I've made, with requests for more.

Most of my jewelry designs come to me early in the morning, before I am even out of bed. Funny, I don't remember dreaming about anything. But, there it is, this design vision, and I haven't even had my first cup of coffee. This is an exciting reason to get out of bed and start the day, and a good reason to keep a notebook handy.

Some ideas just seem to multiply from another design. My current mermaid bracelet design, became a series this way. The first design, leads to multiple variations on the same theme. So far, I have a list of 6 new designs for this current bracelet. The second design of this series, is the one for which, I will demonstrate the sculpting process.

Next - Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - My Favorite Sculpting Media

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sculpting a Mermaid Bracelet Master - The Design

I am currently working on a new mermaid bracelet master. Sculpting a new master is a long and tedious process, but it is my favorite part of jewelry design.

The idea for this new mermaid bracelet design came to me early one morning, before I had even had my first cup of coffee. That's when I grabbed a quick cup of Joe, a pencil and my design notebook. I started sketching, rough and quick, before any distractions could make me loose the vision in my head. Later, that day, after the the morning rush was over, I was able to sit down again and refine the design parameters. The total circumference, minus the cuff opening width, would be the length I would have to fit the whole scene in to. This left me with 7 inches. The height was my only loose variable, but, from experience, I know that 2-1/4 inches, is about the maximum height for comfortable wear. These dimensions allowed me to create a more detailed layout.

I scanned my pencil and paper layout into my computer, for safe keeping, and then printed it out to the exact dimensions. I always sculpt over clear glass, with the layout taped underneath. This keeps me from getting carried away, and within my dimensional boundries. The layout tends to get dirty, from the oils in the sculpting media that I use, and I can print out a clean copy as needed.

Next, I needed to find a clear glass jar with the exact diameter of the finished bracelet. With my dial calipers in hand, I rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Success brought me to a jar of  Smucker's strawberry Jam. The perfect diameter and adequate height, but I had to find a new container for the remaining jam. Viola! Rubber Maid to the rescue. My family is getting used to these kind of surprises in the pantry, and don't even ask anymore.

Next, More of The sculpting Process...... (or How to Loose Track of Time)

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Mermaid Bracelet Clear Resin Jewelry Sculpture

New Mermaid Bracelet Clear Resin Jewelry

Is it a Sculpture? Or is it Jewelry? It's both.

This is the 1st design in a new series of cast resin cuff bracelets. I think she turned out fabulous! I have more mermaid and other sea life bracelet designs on my work bench, and will be blogging about the sculpting process. So come back, for more jewelry design ramblings.
Titled "The Find" Mermaid Sculpture Bracelet, from my "Iridescent Sea Series", this mermaid and her dolphin and fish friends are a 3-dimensional sculpture. Detailed down to tiny scales on both the mermaid's tail and the fish bodies. I sculpted this magical scene in clay, and then used this clay master to create the mold, and finally hand cast the bracelet in crystal clear, tough and durable, urethane resin. There are shimmering hi-lights, here and there, of iridescent blue, aqua, and golden violet.

Available for sale here: New Mermaid Sculpture Clear Resin Bracelet