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Tuesday Tips - Using bisque molds to press pendants

Last week I showed one way to make a bisque mold to press pendants here.  So if you are new to this, check that out and head back over. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve on how to use your mold.

There's my bisque mold on the left and a couple of freshly pressed pendants on the right. Ah, but those ones in the first picture are round and this mold is clearly square. Yes, that's true, but when I was designing this, I sized the mold so I could cut either round or square pendants. So with a little planning you can get two designs out of one mold.

I start with slabs of clay that I've rolled out to be roughly a 1/4" thick. They get quite a lot thinner as I manipulate them. I then cut sections of the clay so they are slightly larger than the surface of the design. I pick up the mold and a small slab of clay and use my thumb to press the clay into the mold. This forces the clay into the design and produces a raised pattern on the surface of the clay that you can't see here because it's the back side.

I use a pony roller to further compress the clay into the mold and smooth the back of the pendant. This is one of those dual purpose steps. Clay has memory, sometimes I think more memory than I have. It will twist and turn as it's fired because it kinda remembers how it was handled during the making. This is especially true of porcelains and clays without a lot of grit in them. By rolling the clay across the back sideways, up and down, and diagonally, you can trick it into lying flat and not warping in the final firing. Well, most of the time, anyway.

I use those red and white drink stirrers straws to put a hole in my pendants. They come in packs of 1000 from the local party supply place and work a real treat. Because they are so inexpensive, I just toss them out when the hole gets clogged. Usually, I press a few pendants and keep them under plastic until I'm ready to punch holes in the pendants.

The next step I take is to use the end of a paint brush and twirl it into the hole of the pendant a couple of times to make a little divet there. This makes it easier to glaze right up to the edge of the hole and not have the pendant stick to the rod I fire it on. Leaves a little space between where it hangs on the rod during glaze firining and the glaze.

Once the pendant is dry, I use a spoon shaped dental tool to scoop out the back side of the pendant hole.

This little step of making the outside of your pendant hole on both sides a bit larger than the place where it will hang on a rod during firing can save you heaps of cleaning up or sticking to the wire it was hung on. I am so for not doing anything at all once a piece comes out of the kiln!



Gunilla Back from Gbkoru on Etsy is the artist of the week.  Besides creating jewelry, which she can't do 24/7, Gunilla's spends time with her husband and two young girls Ronja, 11 and Mirja, 8.  And... in addition to that, she spends time working on a favorite topic for most of us....taxes!   Maybe she can figure out ways that we can pay less ;o)

Gunilla also enjoys her time reading, taking pictures and going to the gym.  In terms of photography, I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you pop on over to her blog to enjoy her fabulous pictures.  The photographs are breathtaking and I think that you will agree so is her jewelry!  Prior to this interview, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Gunilla through networking and I feel fortunate to have met such an interesting person :O) 

With that said, let me introduce Gunilla Back...

....But....whatever you do after enjoying this, do not forget to follow Gunilla's exciting blog and then stop by her shop for some fall accessories!! 

How did you get started with your jewelry business? Was it a surplus of jewelry or did you set out to create jewelry to sell?

I started making jewelry when Mirja was little. I needed a hobby, something I could do at home while Mirja was taking a nap. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I ever would! I make most of my jewelry for myself or as gifts for friends and relatives.

When using ceramic beads/pendants, what it is that you like about them that makes them different from other beads?

I love the feel of the ceramic pieces, all the different textures and glazes. I love handmade components because no two pieces are exactly alike.

What are your thoughts about selling and buying online? Is it mostly an enjoyable experience or not such a great one? Please explain.

So far I haven’t sold anything online. Most bead stores in Finland operate online only. I often order beads from abroad because the selection is bigger. Etsy is a great place to find handmade pendants and beads as well as unusual beads and findings that I can’t get in Finland. I love that the item in the picture is the item you will receive
(most of the time anyway).

Here is a topic that has been popping up on blogs recently..."ORGANIZATION!"
How you do keep all of your jewelry supplies organized?

I wish I could keep it organized! My beads tend to take over all available spaces if I’m not careful. I try to store my beads by materials and colors. The art beads and pendants are in their own drawer, they’re easier to find that way. I haven’t really done any beading all summer. At the moment my desk is covered with the things I’ve bought during the last months.

Are there certain pieces of jewelry that you like to create more than others. For example, are you drawn more to bracelets vs. earrings? Why?

I enjoy making necklaces more than anything else. I also make a lot of earrings, but I rarely make bracelets. I love wearing beaded necklaces with matching earrings or silver bali-style earrings, but I seldom wear bracelets myself.

Do you often have a plan in mind when you sit down to create something or are you like me and just wing it, take it apart, wing it for round two, etc.?

I never have a plan when buying beads or starting to make something. I usually start with a pendant or set of beads that I want to use. I use a bead board and I add or remove beads and move things around several times until I’m happy with the piece.

While looking over your blog, I am taken aback by the GORGEOUS photographs. Do you travel often? I am also fascinated with some of your photos of flowers, etc. Could you tell us a little more about your interest with photography?

I bought my first camera for the money I made from one of my first summer jobs. I’ve always taken a lot of pictures. For the last year I’ve carried my camera with me a lot more than before: when I visit my parents in Porvoo, when I spend my lunch break walking in the Botanic Garden or when we go somewhere together. I’ve tried to capture the beauty I see around me every day. I love how easy it is nowadays to take pictures with a digital camera without having to develop the film.

Are there other venues that you sell at other than Etsy? Is so, could you tell us a little about that? If not, do you think that there might be in the future?

I’ve sold some pieces directly, I’ve made some custom pieces and I’ve done some jewelry repair too.
Right now I don’t have a lot of time for jewelry making, but you never know.

I also have seen pictures of your two beautiful little girls.
Are they interested in creating, as well?

Ronja plays football and Jorma coaches her team. Mirja’s decided to quit football, but she will be taking badminton classes this fall as well as continue swimming. They both enjoy all kinds of crafty things. They are both very interested in my beads. I’ve let the girls make bracelets with elastic cord and glass beads on birthday parties and they really loved it!

Ceramic beads and pendants used are from the following artists:  Marsha Neal Studio, Summers Studio Etc., Artisan Clay, Gaea, Chinook Designs and Mary Harding.

Tool Talk Thursday: Small Kiln Bead Racks Part I

Yolanda's Clay has given me special permission to publish her review of a new and unique bead rack.  This review will set off a three part series in bead racks especially suitable for small kiln ceramic beads and pendants firings.  The following review is in Yolanda Miramontes words.  You can find out more about her clay work and firings on her blog here.  Thank you so much Yolanda for sharing this review with the Beads-of-Clay Blog.

"A couple months ago I bought a bead rack from Bisque Bead Supply owned by a clay buddy I met online years ago on the Beads of Clay group that we both belong to.

I am always looking for ways to make loading the kiln a little easier with all the small jewelry pieces I make. I have a small kiln that is 8" by 8" which by industry standards is known as a test kiln. Saturday I decided to use the rack for the first time. I put the high fire wire through one of the holes and then loaded three glazed beads and pushed the wire to the other side and let it sit on the matching hole. The rack has holes all along the length of it at different heights. So it's easy to figure out where you want your beads to be set and how many per wire, all depending on the size of your beads. I also used one space to hang pendants from the top indentations, this way you make full use of the whole height of the rack.

The rack made the loading easier than I had done before, I'm always having to reach all the way to the bottom of the kiln to set several wires along one row at a time, it can get tedious and tiring after a while. I took the rack to the table, beads on a plate and started filling it. When I was done I picked the whole thing and put it in the kiln and voila' I was done. The wires I used were about 7" long, this gave plenty of room for the wire to go across and pass the holes on the opposite side, and after I had filled the rack I realized if I play it well I can hang stuff on the outside too! Note that if you put something on one end, make sure to put an item on the same wire on the other end, so the weight does not tip the item on the other side because the wire will be lifted a little bit until the hole stops it. Basically use a balance approach. The pictures above were taken before loading into kiln.

The picture right above here you can see the left row is where I hung the pendants I talked about above, and also two pendants on the outside of the rack one on each side. I want to point out also that putting these pieces on the outside (specially the pendant row because of its weight) will avoid sagging of the wire thus avoiding pendants to stick to rack floor. For those of you who are not ceramic people, things to look out for when doing a glaze firing is that things cannot touch (or rack sides) otherwise they will stick together and will not be usable, you can also see that not all wires had items on the outside because they'd be too close risking getting stuck.

I really liked the bead rack. It's durable, small, stackable. The size is perfect for my kiln, it was a breeze to fill up and load in kiln. I am going to order a second one since they are stackable, two will fit just right in my little kiln. I could see these racks be made in bigger sizes too, I think they could be used with larger kilns where you could have several in one firing. I do want to say that this load took fewer beads than I usually put in the kiln, but saving my back from being tired and in pain for the years to come, is worth it to me. The price for the bead rack is $34.95 plus shipping. You can get the rods to suspend the beads and pendants also at Bisque Bead Supply click Supplies on the left and it will give you the choice to check the different sizes and gauge. The wire that I used to fire the beads is nichrome high fire wire, I buy this at my local supplier and it's gauge 17."
Thank you so much Yolanda. 
Readers, we would love to hear your comments on how you fire your ceramic beads and pendants.


UFO Sighting!

UFO for us means Unique Fabulous Originals! :-)

Every now and again, we will sneek into our members stores and snap a picture of some of their Awesome pieces of Art. Then we will bring them back here for all to see. Todays UFO sighting comes from the store of Yolanda Miramontes of Yolanda's Clay.

Aren't these Awesome?
If you want to purchase these or see more of Yolanda's UFO's go to Yolanda'sClay on Etsy

Tuesday Tips - Bisque Molds for Pendants

These butterfly pendants were formed from a bisque mold I made from a carved slab of clay. It's a technique I love because you can build up delicately raised texture for your glazes to pool and break over. Most of my designs start with an idea of how glazes will work to acheive the effects I want. But that's a whole other blog post. So I think we'll save that for later.

Most of my designs start with sketches. I wanted a final glazed pendant that would be about 1.25" square. So there are two things I need to remember before I start. First the bisque mold is going to shrink during the firing.  Second, my pendant is going to shrink as well between its raw clay form to it's final glazed form. How much will it shrink? Well that depends and it's really only possible to figure it out by doing a few shrinkage tests with your clay and your firing conditions.

But for me, I know that the stoneware clay I use for molds shrinks about 5% from raw clay to bisque fired piece. I also know that the porcelain I make pendants from shrinks about 15% between raw clay and glaze firing. From that I know that the bisque mold needs to be about 1.44 inches square to account for shrinkage of the porcelain.  To that I add another 5% to account for the shrinkage of the raw clay of the bisque mold.  That brings me to a 1.5 inch square starting point to size up my image.  Whew, that's a bit tedious, no?

So that drawing up there is a print out of a scan I made from the original. I just put a copy into power point, click on the image properties, and tell it to size it at 1.5" x 1.5" and easy peasy, I've got a properly sized drawing.

I roll out a slab that's a little over a quarter of an inch thick and let it set up to leather hard. I do this between two sheets of dry wall to keep the slab from warping. I find leather hard clay the best for carving because any softer and it's just too difficult to keep from gouging and tearing the clay.

The tools I use are pretty minimal, a wire loop tool and a soft brush to sweep the clay crumbs away. That image up there shows the design marked into the clay and the first start at carving. You know, you kind of have to think upside down when you do this because whatever I take away is going to end up raised on the final pendant.

A little further along in the carving. I take away clay quite slowly. You can always take away more clay but it's nearly impossible to add any back.

The completely dry slab of clay then gets a bisque firing. I prop mine up on end in the kiln. It helps to keep the mold from warping and even worse cracking. Sometimes large flat pieces will warp and crack if they are lying flat on a kiln shelf because the shelf temperature is hotter than the air on top.

Ta Da! My bisque mold and freshly pressed pendants.

One last little tip. By the time I got the lines of this particular pattern deep enough the clay was quite fragile. If I brushed away the clay crumbs I risked damaging the mold. So I just fired it and then used sand paper to smooth the surface of the little crumbs.

Come back next Tuesday and I'll show how these pendants get pressed. Thanks for stopping by!

The Winners are........

Winner of the last weeks, 2nd Wed. Giveaway is.........
Kym Hunter Designs!
Congratulations Kym. :-)
You have won some beautiful pendants and beads.

The first Pendant was created by Beth Roark of Carpe Beadem.  
And the second picture shows a Pendant and beads by

Kym, be sure to send  your address to sales@bisquebeadsupply.com

Remember to check out the 2nd Wednesday giveaways each month!


A Peek into the Minds of the Artists Who Design with Earth Clay...

There will be no interview this week since I have not heard back from our artist.  I guess things like this will happen every now and then and I apologize to all of you avid readers.

Check back next Sunday to meet Gunilla Back.

Thanks for reading and supporting those who create with Beads-of-Clay....

MaryAnn :O)

Saturday's With Sharleen

Last spring I posted some pictures that I took while walking in the park with my dogs.  Today I took my camera again with the thought of  posting more inspirational nature pictures to inspire your clay work and jewelry designs.   We took a path through the woods that leads down to one of the creeks (there are 3 creeks that run through the park - hence the park name, Three Creeks).  The dogs both wanted to wade, which they've never done before, so I let go of the leashes and in they went.  One of them is a shih-tzu and she got all muddy and wet, but she had a ball.  The leashes were a mess too!
I hope the photos stimulate some ideas. I decided to concentrate on looking down at the ground, and tried to find interesting textures and color combos.  I thought the seed pods were a real find.

August 2010 Third Friday Cone 6 Commercial Glaze Tests by Marsha Neal Studio

Marsha Neal Studio Third Friday Cone 6 Glaze Tests on Beads-of-Clay.blogspot.com
Above is the new picture/logo that I am going to be using to help promote this monthly glaze post. Once I figure out how to create the html that you can copy and paste so the picture just pops up for you, you are welcome to use it too - with photo and copyright credit to Marsha Neal Studio, LLC (got to have that in there).

This month I am going to share with you some of the test results combining Georgies IP207 Steel Black with some glazes, mainly: 

I will go extensively into the other two tiles shown here in the upcoming months...
Marsha Neal Studio Main August 2010 Test Tiles with IP207 as a base.
In the above picture there are three test tiles (yes - you do see 9)…

Georgies Interactive Pigment (IP207) Steel Black is brushed onto each test tile, then glaze applied all the way across and down in a straight line for each color (yet it looks like they are painted in a "V" - it's just the way it looks).

By column they are: Unfired Glazed, After Glaze Firing, Back of Tile (flipped).

By Rows they are:
Top tile is with all twelve of the current Coyote Clay "Frank's Colored Celadons".

Bottom tile is a random mixture of Coyote Glazes that I had picked out at NCECA back in the spring.

Marsha Neal Studio Glaze notebook showing which glazes were used on each test tile.

Marsha Neal Studio's Olympic Baby Doll Test Kiln: pre-glaze firing to Cone  6.
When testing glazes it is important to take notes and pay attention to what you are doing, especially if you want to be able to attempt to duplicate results. 
This means remembering things like:
What kiln you used (I fire in the kiln that is most efficient - not always the "smartest" way to do testing).
What cone temperature (I often use both Cone 5 and 6 - depends on the glaze).
How you fire and cool it (slow, fast, soak, etc).

Trust me - after so many firings, it all gets mixed up in your head and you start second guessing yourself, then guessing about your guessing - it's a mess! Just write it down on paper and the test tiles! Or you may end up with results like this...
Marsha Neal Studio: Georgies IP207 base with Coyote's Franks Colored Celadons applied on top.
Now you may be thinking: Wait, aren't those small round test tiles (shown front and back in the photo above) created in the same way the larger test tile was (IP207 as the base then individually Frank's Colored Celedon's on top?). Well yes, and no. Yes it was the same basic application, but no because on the one larger test tile there was a lot of color overlap. 

This is one reason why I don't have the rich colors. The other is because I was in a rush (for BeadFest Philly!) and I fired them in my larger L&L computer controlled kiln (Cone 6). It's a different atmosphere and temperature, and some glazes are very sensitive to those differences.

Marsha Neal Studi Georgie's IP207 Base with Coyote's Frank's Colored Celadons (and one with Spectrum 1100).
These shapes are some of the fall cookie cutter pieces I made a few years ago. I was not wanting to glaze them with my regular glazes I use for my porcelain pendant line - they just don't work for me like that (not saying they don't work for other people like that… I just wanted them crusty and dark looking). 
So they sat, in their plastic shoebox bin, waiting to be used one day…

Oh yeah, back to my point: I glazed those little round test tiles to fire flat on the kiln shelf (horizontally) and I created these "character ones" to hang vertically. I do this so I can see the difference in puddling and the interaction of the glaze with the textured surface within the same kiln firing.

Yeah… it didn't work that well because they all came out looking almost identical, and I can't tell which vertical (not marked) character ones match the horizontal (marked) round ones.

So that test will be run again - in the small kiln AND with lots of overlapping glaze colors as well…
These tests are going to grow exponentially can't you tell? Glad I do this every month...

And a quick note about Cone Temperatures and my two main kilns used...
According to the Orton Cone Chart:
Small Cone 5 = 2230 F (my baby doll kiln)
Large Cone 5 = 2167 F (my pre-programmed L&L Kiln)

Small Cone 6 = 2291 F (my baby doll kiln)
Large Cone 6 = 2232 F (my pre-programmed L&L Kiln)

So now you can maybe understand the differences and importance in understanding your kilns and firings...
Marsha Neal Studio Georgie's IP207 as a base with Spectrum's 1100 on top.
You sometimes have to look at the test tiles in great depth to see potential combinations that may work for you… 
Above is from one of the very first tests I did with the Georgies Interactive Pigments. This is where I saw a small area on the IP207 tile that really interested me and as a result I decided to see what other somewhat clear/transparent glazes (hence the Coyote Frank's Colored Celadon) looked like over it.

Then to see how the shinos, the crawl glazes, and many, many others will look…
I love all the potentials with these!

And remember: these posts are meant to be inspirational to you for your own creative work. Take the information and run with it! 

The information, images, and pieces in this post are copyrighted by Marsha Neal Studio, LLC.
If you have questions or concerns contact me through my main website or blog.

Have fun doing your own tests and make sure that if you blog about the results, share a link back here (or on the current monthly post if this one in particular is closed)… 

Remember, your tests will be different depending on a lot of factors, most basically the kind of clay you use… Would love to see your results! Thanks for stopping by!!!

Meet The Winner Amy Genz of Seoul Identity

Meet the winner from the Tool Talk Thursday Giveaway:  Amy Genz
Amy was kind enough to send me some photos of her ceramic pendants that she makes for her website Seoul Identity.
This is a very special kind of place.  I asked Amy to tell us about hereself and her website:
"Once, in high school, I made a mug in ceramics class. That was the end of my involvement with clay… until about four years ago. It was then I was inspired by my children to create something that incorporated their birth culture into our daily life. Having taken Korean language classes, our daughter learned to write her name in Korean (Hangul). She began to write her birth name in Hangul on her drawings and school work. It is beautiful. Seoul Identity was born.

Seoul Identity is my way of sharing that beauty with adoptees and their loved ones. I imprint my pendants with translations of about 50 words in Korean and Chinese. Words like Mom, Dad, Grandma and Aunt are most popular with the adoptive families who have purchased from my website. My favorite ones to make are the pendants with Korean names in Hangul. And I am excited to be adding new designs with cultural symbols. I hope these pieces of wearable art give adoptees a connection to their birth county and to a part of themselves.

Seoul Identity is also an avenue for giving. By donating a portion of website sales my customers and I are able to support a number of non-profits serving children.

I had always made jewelry, stringing beads to make gifts for my family and friends. So when I was looking for a way to share culture jewelry came to mind first. I knew to get beads with inscriptions like I wanted that I would need to make them. But, other than that high school class I had no experience working with clay and I had never used a kiln before. Luckily I found the Bead-of-Clay group and got advice on clay, glazes and kilns. I am still on the learning curve and feel fortunate to have a resource with such a wealth of information – Thank You