Last year I started something I have come to regret. I thought it would be great to give other bloggers the opportunity to guest post on my blog. Unfortunately the majority of requests didnit quite out turn out to be appropriate for my blog..
Today I wanted to share with you, as part of a series, an insight into the tools I am using for my creations. The first tool I would like to show you is my pasta machine.
I have never made pasta in my life and this one is a high quality Atlas machine – made in Italy, well the Italians invented pasta so surely their machines are the best on the market. I bought this machine a few years ago, and it hasn’t let me down yet. It has nine thickness settings and is very sturdy.
If you are not familiar with polymer clay I have to explain what this is useful for. Most clay when it comes out of the packet is pretty hard and needs to soften so you can actually work with it. Different brands have different a softness. I have found Premo to be the easiest to condition, Fimo Classic the hardest.I haven’t worked with Kato clay yet, but heard that it’s even harder to condition.
Acrylic roller for conditioning clay – copyright Helen White
There are different ways to condition clay, you can cut it into manageable slices or pieces and use a small roller and your warm hands, but the best way is to roll your clay through the pasta machine several times. It saves you a lot of time and is less strenuous. A pasta machine gives you different thicknesses of sheets when rolled through, which is important for different designs and techniques.
My Atlas pasta machine with a bit of Premo clay – copyright Helen White
You can even buy a motor for the machine – something that’s on my wish list. It would also be nice if someone could come up with a self-cleaning machine, because cleaning a pasta machine is really tricky and time consuming. Fimo is notorious for sticking to the rollers. I tend to clean my machine with a skewer – to get the bits out which are trapped inside – and lots of baby wipes to wipe the rollers with. When using Fimo I often clean in between colours and tend to organise my work so that I start with light colours first to avoid colour contamination. Although I have found instructions for taking the machine apart for cleaning I haven’t tried this yet. I worry too much that I can’t get it back together again!
This year I bought a second pasta machine as a spare one. It was a very cheap one from “Jewellery Maker” and buying it was a big mistake. It is flimsy and the first sheets came out dirty. It has not much of a grip. You really get what you pay for. I am using this only for “dirty” clay where colour contamination doesn’t matter. I use dirty clay, also called mud, as cores for my designs.
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog. Please leave a comment if you like, and share it.
Today’s post is a rather short one. I just wanted to share my latest designs with you.
Pendant made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
These ones are also from my landscape range. They are made with what we clayers refer as scrap clay – i.e. left over clay from canes which are not as clean and usable as the proper canes or clean colours.
Pendant made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
In this case it was scrap clay from my dichroic range. I rolled it only a couple of times through the pasta machine to see how the colours merge. I really liked the colour combinations and they reminded me of abstract landscapes.
Pendant made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
So I chose the best ones to turn into pendants. This time I wanted to try a different pendant type and quite like these eye shaped ones.
Pendant made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
As they all had flecks of silver/gold leaf I had to varnish them several times to seal these in.
Pendant made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
I also made two rings with adjustable ring bands.
Ring made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
Ring made with polymer clay – copyright Helen White
I hope you like these. Please leave a comment below if you like.
As someone who reads a lot I also follow other people’s blogs. I only follow or subscribe to a few blogs, but these are the blogs I like reading for various reasons. And today I want to share these blogs with you. In no particular order – here are my favourite blogs:
Zero to blogger by British social media expert Sarah Arrow. Her blog is the go-to blog for aspiring and existing bloggers. It is full of useful advice and Sarah is extremely generous with her knowledge. As a subscriber you get free bonuses to download and she updates her blog frequently. I don’t always read her updates straight away, but file her emails for when I find the time. I always learn something new to improve or change on my own blog and have found it very useful. I came across Sarah’s blog when I bought her Kindle book “Zero to Social Media” (written with Warren Cass) and ended up friending her on FB. Sarah also founded “Birds on the blog” a blog I also follow. It is aimed at business women and also allows guest posts. Something I hopefully get around to writing.
Jewelery Making Journal – by American jewelry designer Rena Klingenberg. I have followed this blog since I started my jewellery design business and also have most of her e-books on selling and marketing jewellery. Rena’s blog is a great source for jewellery designers and people who simply love wearing jewellery. Rena is very generous with advice and also starts interesting discussions plus her blog has also a great community. Designers are welcome to post questions and their own designs and often get support and help by other designers. Well worth a visit. Which reminds me – I should contribute another of my own designs to the blog.
Gateway Women by journalist Jody Day. I first came across Jody Day a few years ago via an article she had written for “The Guardian” about what it means to childless by circumstance. It resonated with me and I eventually joined her private Gateway Women community. Joining this community had helped me to cope with my own situation. The women are a huge support – I had many heartfelt replies when I had to deal with my miscarriage last year. I even managed to meet with some women where I live. Gateway Women is an important community and Jody’s blog posts deal with all aspects of childlessness. Her own positive example shows that women can have a meaningful life without children. She created an interesting Pinterest board of role models who had/have no children – check it out, you will be surprised by some of the amazing ladies featured.If only there was a similar community for men, but then maybe they just are not as affected by the issue or simply don’t like to talk about it.
The Blue Bottle Tree by polymer clay artist Ginger Davis Allman. As someone who loves working with polymer clay I also follow other artists. Ginger Davis Allman is a very talented lady,who not only creates stunning jewellery, but also sells tutorials. I came across her blog .. well she introduced herself to me on my Facebook page. So she likes my page which is nice to know. I follow her blog, because Ginger is very generous with her experience as a clay artist and the blog is full of useful advice and some free tutorials like for example this one. She also tests tools and new materials. For a clayer this blog is a valuable resource. Though some of the stuff she tests and writes about is not available in the UK, because Ginger lives in the USA. Below you can find my first attempt at making my own tool handles using the Natasha bead method as described in this post.
I made these following one of Ginger’s tutorials. These still need sanding. copyright Helen White
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and might find some of these links interesting or useful. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Today’s post is all about you – my readers. I want to hear from you.
I want to know from you:
Do you follow fashion trends?
Do you read fashion magazines?
What makes you buy a particular piece of jewellery?
Is it because it’s trendy?
Do you buy jewellery based on colour?
Do you only buy one-of-a kind?
Do you go mainly for personalisation? By this I mean – you want names on your pieces?
Do you buy jewellery only of one colour or particular stone?
I am asking all these questions, because I want to get to know my readers and customers better and also because Pantone has brought out their latest colour of the year. You can find their “Radiant Orchid” and fashion report here.
It’s a colour that can also be created by mixing polymer clays – though I haven’t tried it yet, but I have added to my to-do list.
I have to confess – I don’t follow trends or fads much. I rarely go shopping for clothes, when I do I check out what kind of jewellery the High Street offers, just to see what’s trendy and what people are supposed to buy.
Instead I follow my own creative instinct. Inspiration comes from all sorts of different sources. Animals and nature is an obvious one.
Polymer clay purple heart pendant with cat key – copyright Helen White
At the moment I work with a new Fimo colour I bought last year and want to test – mainly because it’s “glow in the dark” and I am just curious to see what the end result will look like. And in the process I teach myself new caning techniques. For those of you who don’t know what a cane is – below is a photo – it’s simply a composite of different colours of clay which form a pretty pattern and can be sliced and used for various pieces.
Polymer clay can – copyright Helen White
Learning a new technique is definitely something that inspires my creations. Last year I added brooches to my stock, this year I want to make polymer clay bangles. I have also purchased two tutorials by two amazing polymer clay artists whose books I have and whose work I admire – Donna Kato and Bettina Welker. So I will learn from these and put my own spin on the designs. Another source of inspiration for my work is simply a new tool. Learning how to use a new tool often goes hand in hand with a new technique. And last Christmas my husband bought me a new tool I am very excited about as it will allow me to design my own texture stamps and plates. I will write more about this in another post.
Back to my initial questions – It would be awesome to read from you. So please comment below and share with me what kind of jewellery you buy and what makes you buy it.
Thanks for reading. And if you enjoy my blog – make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and share it.
Last year I started something I have come to regret. I thought it would be great to give other bloggers the opportunity to guest post on my blog. So I set up an extra page, explained what I was looking for and waited for response.
I got inundated with requests. Unfortunately 99% of these were inappropriate. Some was simply spam, some from big companies (I wanted to attract bloggers not big businesses), some clearly hadn’t bothered reading the guidelines and some were simply time wasters – people who didn’t have the courtesy to respond to my replies. It simply took up too much of my time and I was also fretting over my own replies as I don’t want to appear rude.
I am an editor and writer at UK Handmade and oversee a team of writers for the MEET section and this takes up a chunk of my precious time. However this is something I know is worth doing and it benefits a lot of people. If you haven’t heard of it yet please go and visit the website, you will find lots of fab designers on there.
My blog is attached to my business Helenka White Design and as such my posts have to bear that in mind and focus on my target readers.
I will still blog about cats, animal welfare issues and animal charities, but my own business will get more of my attention this year. I am also in the process of starting a new business and therefore simply haven’t got the time to accommodate guest post requests. I hope you understand.
Thanks for reading.
Polymer clay Steampunk clock pendant – copyright Helen White
New year, new work space. It all started with me wanting a square table to take photos on. Our living room table is round which makes photographing tricky as my lights don’t quite fit on it – one leg of the stand is always sticking out. So I thought a better table would be a small and square one which accommodates the tent. I would just buy other extendable legs for the lights so they can stand on the floor. I searched on the net and the only tables I could find were camping tables I didn’t like the look of. I haven’t been working at my bench for the last two months as it is simply too cold and this is not the best condition for clay work, so I decided the new table should not only have to be usable for my photography but I wanted one I can clamp my pasta machine on. Long story short – after searching and two trips to Ikea we settled on this table.I say we, because my husband bought it for me in just time for Christmas.
Lots of space on this is new table – copyright Helen White
It’s fab – you can store it away neatly (though it’s heavy and you need someone else to help you carrying it to the space you want it to stand), you can have both sides up or just one and in the middle it has six drawers – three on each side. It wasn’t difficult to assemble – only the drawers took a while.
As you can see my laptop sits on the table (good when I watch tutorials) and it has plenty of space for my tools and the bits and bobs I need for projects I am working on. The room is normally for guests and was supposed to be the nursery.
Boxes of clay – copyright Helen White
Now I use it for my clay and bead work until the weather is warm enough again. When it’s too hot in the conservatory in the summer I can move back upstairs too – nothing worse for clay than hot temperatures.
Lots of tools for my clay work – copyright Helen White
I don’t only design and create my jewellery here, I also do my admin here and I also have a yoga mat so I can do my yoga in this room. And when I want to read, I use the chair – originally bought for my hypnotherapy business.
My comfy chair, note the framed Aam Hills flyer, and yes I framed it because he signed it. – copyright Helen White
I also have my radio here and a cd player, so if I get bored with BBC6 I can put on my favourite cds.
Of course I need music when I work – either I listen to my cds or BBC6 – copyright Helen White
I even have a basket for our Bobby close to the radiator as she loves it warm (don’t they all?) –as you can see she doesn’t use it as intended. She uses the basket in the living room though. I think she just has to get used to my new work space as much as I have to.
Bobby next to her basket intead of being in it – copyright Helen White
What’s great is that it’s not only warmer here – I don’t have people staring at me like I am some sort of exhibit!
I can’t wait to get back to my clay work.
Below you can find a new Kaleidoscope cane I have been working on last year, the long one, behind it, is still not finished.
Kaleidoscope cane I have been working on – copyright Helen White
Thanks for reading.
Please feel free to comment or ask a question below. And don’t forget to share my blog posts if you enjoy reading them.
The end of this year is nearing and what a hellish year it was for so many people I know or read about – myself included. My husband said he never liked the look of 2013 – he thinks 2014 looks by far more aesthetically pleasing. I don’t judge years by their looks – obviously, but by how they have panned out.
I had to content with personal trauma (I was supposed to hold a baby in my arms in December) from which I am recovering.This was followed by ongoing awful shoulder pain which hasn’t been resolved yet, because it’s hard to get the right diagnosis and treatment when you live in the UK. This has impacted on my business (working with a lot of pain, esp. typing and making jewellery isn’t easy), my finances and my mood. Those of you struggling with chronic illnesses might be able to sympathize with me and can relate to the difficulty that chronic pain can pose to staying positive.
On the plus side – I met lots of lovely new people through social media (including Gateway Women)– and some even in real life. I also have some fab loyal customers who keep buying from me and recommend me. And in November I met one of my favourite comedians – Adam Hills. He is a true gent and lovely human being. He didn’t mind having his photo taken with me and I read that on at his gig in Barnstaple he took his whole audience bowling. How cool is that??
Casper the friendly ghost with Adam Hills – Cardiff , 12th of November 2013
A lot of my friends had a rubbish year and can’t wait to see the back of it. So I say – Good Riddance 2013 and
Instead of resolutions I want to share with you some of things I have planned for the New Year:
I want to start making short videos.
I also want to blog more regularly – and aim for one post per week – let’s see if I can manage that. On my list of things is therefore to create some sort of schedule for posts.
I also want to contribute to other blogs.
And spend more time on Google+, twitter and LinkedIn.
On the jewellery front – I want to continue working with polymer clay and learn new techniques, work with precious metal clay and also return to some metal work.
This year I finally got the Cardiff Polymer Clay Group off the ground and we have a few members – so I am hoping to meet up with them for our own little workshops.
I have to update my journalism website and also want to get back to more paid writing – esp. copywriting.
I am also planning a new business – teaching and translating German – The teaching is mainly aimed at adults and will be done via Skype (or face-to-face) – I am hoping that by Marchthis new venture will be up and running. I have to see how this works out.
Of course there are also non-business things I want to do: I want to get my shoulder to a pain-free state.
Exercise more (dependent on pain levels) and eat less.
And finally go on a proper beach holiday – just relax and soak up the sun. We haven’t done this in years and certainly haven’t seen much sun.
Start playing my Ukulele is another thing I’d like to do.
And meeting lots of lovely comedians!
So this is it – my long to-do list.
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and wish you all a great start to 2014.
And before I sign off – what have you planned for next year?
Let me know in the comments below.
And if you like reading my blog – why not share my posts and sign up for the newsletter?
Round Polymer Clay Pendant – Dichroic Purple, Blue, Gold – copyright Helen White
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve fast approaching it’s time for a short blog post on how to keep your pets safe.
Bobby with tree 2012
We are lucky with our moggie as she is pretty unfazed by the whole Christmas thing. She tends to ignore the tree with its decorations, but often gets playful when we actually hang things up or wrap our presents. She isn’t much interested in naughty food and only begs when we prepare prawns or fish. Why am I telling you this? Well, because not all cats are like Bobby – especially when they are very young and super nosy – and that’s the time when things can go wrong and you may end up at the emergency vets.
So here are my tips to keep your nosy cat or dog out of serious trouble:
If you have a tree – hang baubles high and away from excitable paws. Also you might want to opt for baubles that are not made out of glass and therefore won’t break as easily. The same goes for lights, tinsel and ribbons – these are best kept out of reach.
Keep candles out of reach too!
Don’t keep batteries lying around!
When wrapping presents – make sure your nosy moggie or pooch stays away from sellotape, glue, blue tack and scissors.
Keep your pets away from anything that is poisonous: this includes the popular poinsettia, which can be fatal for them. Chocolate, grapes, sweets and liquorice, are also toxic to cats and dogs. Don’t be tempted to share your Christmas turkey with your pets, as they could choke on tiny turkey bones, while the rich gravy, the stuffing and even the raisins in Christmas puddings could prove to be fatal if eaten by your pet.
Don’t share your rich festive food with your pet. Only because you want to pig out, doesn’t mean your pet should. The only treats we allow Bobby are prawns – which we usually defrost in an egg cup and mash it up for her. Low in calorie, rich in nutrients. So if you want to avoid your pet from getting seriously ill with indigestion, sickness, diarrhoea or even gastroenteritis and pancreatitis – stick to his or her normal diet.
Boxes are great for cats to hide in and they love boxes – but plastic bags can be dangerous and should be kept away.
If you want to spoil your pet over Christmas – take your dog out for extra walks, play more with your pets and instead of an unhealthy treat, give them a toy. You can make lots of toys yourself. Both cats and dogs are easy to please and happy with a box, old socks, and tennis balls or small paper balls. Cats also love to chase a laser dot on floors and walls -just make sure not to point the laser directly at your cat’s eyes.
New Year’s Eve is the time of year most dog owners dread. While cats tend to just hide away, dogs find it harder to cope with the noise. So keep your pets indoors and give them options to hide away in a safe place. Our cat can pretty much go and hide in the house wherever she wants to – she is fairly unfazed by fireworks and sometimes actually watches them. However we tend to shut the cat flap once she’s in – just in case. Some owners sedate their dog in the hope to calm them down, but timing is crucial and it doesn’t always work out. A friend of mine tried this with her dog one year, unfortunately the effect wore off when the fireworks started and the poor dog was howling for the entire time. Please keep your dogs indoors. We had posters in our neighbourhood of dogs who went missing in November during Guy Fawkes.
And finally – in case an accident does happen, have your emergency vet’s phone number handy. Here’s a useful link which also helps you finding a vet in your area.
Bobby with our tree last year – this year it will have different decoration, but we haven’t put our tree up yet.
In today’s blog post I want to share with you an experience I had last year in June when I visited Duesseldorf’s Aquazoo.
Months before I had “friended” a tame otter named Nemo on Facebook along with his owner, Dr. Wolfgang Gettmann, the recently retired Director of the Aquazoo.
Herr Gettmann playing with Nemo.
Nemo is an eight year old Asian short-clawed otter who was adopted by Wolfgang as a pup because his mum couldn’t care for him. Nemo has since become a media star not only in Germany, but also an international social media phenomenon – at the time of writing he has 2893 Facebook friends. The cute chap has posed with many of Germany’s celebrities including model Eva Padberg and TV stars Verona Pooth and Guenther Jauch. Apart from being famous he also fulfils the serious role of being an international ambassador for all 13 otter species and he accompanies Wolfgang on his various appearances to raise awareness for the International Otter Survival Fund.
Nemo looking very flat and super cute.
Nemo lives with Wolfgang and his family. He also grew up with Laika, a German shepherd, with whom he formed a close bond. Sadly, Laika died in 2011, but not long after her death Balou, a Hovawart puppy, was brought into the family to cheer Nemo up.
Nemo profile shot.
Nemo not only enjoys walks on a harness with Balou, but Wolfgang, an enthusiastic canoeist, also takes him on his canoe trips. On these trips he is allowed to swim on a long leash. You can find a video of Nemo in action here .
Back to meeting Nemo – when we planned our visit to Cologne I emailed Wolfgang and asked if it was by any chance possible to meet Nemo in person – mainly because I noticed a few people on Facebook have done so, and Duesseldorf is only half an hour’s train ride away from Cologne. He kindly wrote back and invited us. I couldn’t believe my luck and privilege. Knowing that Nemo loves chewing on baby’s dummies we bought some as a gift.
When we arrived at Aquazoo we had more than an hour until the scheduled meeting, so we had a look around first. The Aquazoo has an impressive variety of exhibits representing different aquatic environments. Highlights include a vast shark tank, a tropical hall stocked with reptiles and of course an otter enclosure.
Eating a piece of cucumber
And then at 3pm we got to meet Nemo. He had just woken up and was enjoying a snack of cucumbers. It’s really hard to describe the cute noises he makes. Wolfgang offered us coffee and we sat down in his office to have a chat about all things otter. We found out a lot of things about Nemo too. Looking around in his office it was clear that Nemo is indeed the boss!
Look who’s the boss here.
He even has his own cat basket to sleep in! After our chat it was time for a wander outside.
a wet Nemo
playing with Paul’s plastic tube.
Exploring the plastic tube.
He got dressed and an intern picked him up for his stroll around the Aquazoo’s outside area. At one point he jumped into a pond covered in duckweed and had a good swim and hunt around. Wolfgang joined us to tell us the story of a Japanese visitor who managed to fall into that pond!
I want food.
more food please..
can I have another one?
Back inside we were treated to the unusual sight of a wet otter rubbing himself dry on a towel.
We also had a go at play-fighting – something I wouldn’t necessarily recommend – while his paws are soft and very dextrous, his jaw is incredibly strong – and when he even playfully bites you it does hurt!
Wolfgang also showed us Nemo’s find-the-food game.
find the food
We spent about two hours with Nemo and Wolfgang, who also provided us with some otter related literature and a Nemo dvd.
with his water bowl
Before we had to say goodbye we also had the privilege to have Nemo on our shoulders. It was a strange feeling having this cute warm and still slightly damp creature breathing close to my face. He didn’t wriggle much – unlike our cat! Instead he was ever the professional and didn’t mind at all!
A very cuddly and soft otter.
And then sadly it was time to go.
We very much enjoyed our encounter – a truly pawsome experience
Nemo is an Asian short-clawed otter – the smallest of all otters.
They can weigh up to 5 kilos, while their overall length can vary between 70 and 100cm (head to tip of the tail)
Asian short-clawed otters can be found in Burma, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia
The Asian otter has very distinctive and dextrous paws – its claws don’t extend beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed toes (as you can see in the images)
Their social structure revolves around one pair of Alpha pair which breeds, while the group helps out with the rearing of the pups.
Loss of habitat and pollution means that this species is regarded as vulnerable and included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
This otter species has a long tail which forms on-third of its total body length. The tail is incredibly strong and used for balance when standing up, propelling the body through water as well as steering. The base of the tail also has subcutaneous and scent glands.
Asian otters are monogamous and the female can produce two litters a year – giving birth to up to six pups.
Otters of this species can get between 11 and 16 years old.
Round Pendant – Polymer Clay Dichroic Blue, Purple, Yellow – copyright Helen White
A few months ago I started working with a new technique used to create faux dichroic effects on polymer clay. And I just realised I didn’t really share this on my blog – which just goes to show how side tracked anddistracted I get with other things.
Owl Pendant – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
Anyway, I really enjoy using this technique, but I also created a lot of waste (yes things can and do go wrong a lot in my workshop and you can’t always rescue things). It took me a while of refining it until I got the results I liked.
Dichroic polymer clay heart brooch – copyright Helen White
For these pendants I use artificial gold and silver leaf (real gold or silver leaf would be way too expensive), Gilder’s paste and lots of inks and varnish. I have also tried the technique with acrylic paint but prefer the inks. It’s incredibly messy to make the sheets! And you need to be patient and give the inks enough time to dry!
Sitting Cat Brooch – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
I have now developed my own way of creating the sheets from which I make my pendants – and brooches. I also finally made my first brooches – these take actually longer to make and are a bit fiddly.
Bird Brooch – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
Rabbit Brooch – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
I got to use my new fab cookie cutters I bought last year at the Cologne Christmas Market at Neumarkt and the sitting cat design has proved to be very popular.
Sitting Cat Pendant – Dichroic Polymer Clay – copyright Helen White
Lying Cat Pendant – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
Standing Cat Brooch – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White
I am now in two minds if I should actually create a tutorial of my own and sell it either on my blog or Etsy.
Heart Pendant – Polymer Clay Dichroic – copyright Helen White