Feb 25

Thoughts about Mother’s Day

It’s that time of year again when businesses are gearing up for Mother’s Day. In the UK it falls on the 15th of March this year, while in countries like America or Germany it’s on the 10th of May.
It’s a day when mothers are celebrated by their loved ones. Small children in particular are encouraged to show their mums how much they love and appreciate them by giving them gifts which tend to be handcrafted at school or kindergarten.
For some people, including myself, Mother’s Day is a day they dread. You can’t escape the ads, the marketing messages and articles written in the run-up to the day. Why am I dreading it? My mum died in 2006 at the young age of 53, so I haven’t got a mother to indulge, though not a day passes by that I don’t think of her. And I don’t have children of my own – unless you count our fur baby Bobby as one (and yes I tend to do that). I lost my only chance at motherhood two years ago when I miscarried and it was a pretty unpleasant and traumatic experience – one I would love to simply forget, but am reminded of on occasions like Mother’s Day.

And there are a lot of women who feel that way. Women who lost their mums or/and their babies.
However – as a business woman I can’t bury my head in the sand and ignore this day which is celebrated by a lot of families. And I also have to remind my husband to make sure to buy a gift and card for my mother-in-law! I tend to buy cards in advance so he only needs to sign them and doesn’t panic because he has forgotten.
This year I have created a little film with a selection of suitable gifts adult children can give their mothers to show them their love. And no, they won’t have mum written on them or sentimental messages.

You can find the film here:

 

This year I am actually taking part in the three-day workshop “Polymania” in Bristol, which is organised by my friend Cara Jane Hayman, a very talented polymer clay artist. The workshop finishes on Mother’s Day, which means I am way to busy playing with clay to feel sad. I am actually really looking forward to that weekend, as not only Cara will be teaching, but also German polymer clay artist Bettina Welker and American artist Donna Kato. I own two books by Donna and she is one of the big names in the polymer clay community – so I am really excited to finally  meet her! Donna is not only a prolific artist, she also has her own brand of polymer clay named after her: “Kato” clay. I haven’t used this clay yet, but will us it  in the workshop. Kato clay is the preferred clay by artists who create very intricate canes and it cures at a much higher temperature – 150 C.
I will let you know how the workshop went in another blog post (probably it’s going to be a three part post).

 

Purple and black polymer clay nautilus pendant - copyright Helen White

Purple and black polymer clay nautilus pendant – copyright Helen White

Anyway I wish those of you who will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day a Happy Mother’s Day.  And to all the women out there who are in a similar situation like me I say: You are not alone and feeling sad is ok. ((Hugs))

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to share or comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter here.

Feb 18

Do you observe Lent?

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, when Christians start to fast. Lent  lasts about 6 weeks until Easter and commemorates the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert where he endured the temptation of the devil. You can find more about this tradition following this link. Interestingly the word Lent derives from the Germanic root for long  – as Lent also marks the beginning of Spring and the days are getting longer.
If you are of Christian faith I am not telling you anything new here, and I also appreciate that you might have a different faith or are an atheist. Most people regardless of faith are aware of Lent and for some it marks the perfect occasion to give up something they take for granted and enjoy in their daily lives. It could be that you are starting to fast, give up alcohol, sweets or fags and so on.
So I was thinking what would or could I do which would fit the bill?
I don’t drink or smoke, but I do like sweets. So giving up chocolate, biscuits and my favourite sweets would be an obvious choice for me. For the business side of things – it would be stop buying more beads! I am sure I can manage the latter, but giving up sweets will be tough, mainly because my husband loves his biscuits and therefore there are always some in the house! So there’s always temptation lurking in the tin. But I am determined to try until Easter.
So if you observe Lent (regardless of faith) – what are you prepared to give up?
Let me know below in the comments :)
And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for reading.

Polymer clay landscape pendant: Cave and Sea - copyright Helen White

Polymer clay landscape pendant: Cave and Sea – copyright Helen White

 

Feb 08

10 good reasons to subscribe to my newsletter.

As you might have guessed from the headline I have a newsletter. If goes out monthly (with the rare email in between) and it is a great way to stay in touch with me for those people who don’t give a hoot about social media – and those who rarely see my various pages on Facebook and Google+.
I am always super happy when people subscribe to it. And if you haven’t yet, maybe it’s because you worry about getting spammed or that I sell your details to a third party. Let me reassure you – neither is the case. Spamming would mean I would have to write to you almost every day – but frankly I wouldn’t know where to find that extra time. I hate spam as much as you do and have the same worries when I sign up for things. My guarantee to you when you sign up: your details are safe and what’s more you can unsubscribe easily either using the unsubscribe button on the email or on my website or on this blog. Of course I will be sad when you do leave my list, but I won’t lose too much sleep over it. You might come back at another time.

So with this out of the way – I want to give you 10 good reasons why you should subscribe:

1. You will receive exclusive offers or discounts
2. You will find inspiration for gift ideas for those people in your life, who are difficult to buy for.
3. When you sign up you will get a 10% discount code to use for your first order.
4. You will enter a draw for a £10 gift voucher (valid for a year) – and the winner will be chosen after every 100 people who have subscribed.
5. You get an insight into how I create my designs.
6. You get an update of my blog posts.
7. You will be the first to see my new designs.
8. You will learn about some of the materials and semi-precious stones I use.
9. You will get a monthly update on my latest designs.
10. I respect you and your inbox – I promise you not to spam you.

And this is it – my 10 reasons why you should subscribe to my newsletter.

Thanks for reading – oh and if I was able to convince you – here’s the link to subscribe to my newsletter.

Bobby - copyright Helen White

Bobby – copyright Helen White

Jan 28

The making of…New polymer clay designs made with ultrafine glitter

This month I have finally got back to my bench (or rather craft table) and tried out a new type of glitter I bought a while ago. I have never worked with glitter before – only Mica powders which you rub on or into the clay. These new glitters are absolutely gorgeous in colour, blend in nicely and you can go for a light sparkle or rub them in so they resemble anodized metal.

Cat pendant - copyright Helen White

Cat pendant – copyright Helen White

The glitters arrived in bags, so I bought small jars and poured the glitter in and put numbers on them – because if you want to blend them subtly you need to use them in sequence. I did this for this first batch, but changed things and experimented with the next (which is still a work in progress). One jar was designated for leftover glitters, as these glitters are not cheap I make sure not to waste too much and used a piece of white paper underneath my clay.

Pendants after first bake - copyright Helen White

Pendants after first bake – copyright Helen White

I first created my clay sheets and brushed the glitters on. The next step was to create a base clay layer (so the pendants and brooch are not too thin) with a nice texture for the back. I then covered the base sheet with the glitter sheet and used my cookie cutters (I bought some new cute cat and dog cutters when I was in Cologne) to cut out my shapes. After another gentle rub over the glitter sheet and checking over each piece they all went in the oven.

Lying cat pendant - copyright Helen White

Lying cat pendant – copyright Helen White

The next step after baking was to glue the brooch back to the butterfly and attach my signature canes to the back of all pieces. I waited for the glue to dry long enough and covered it with textured clay and then all pieces went back in the oven again. After this final bake I glued the bails on and varnished each piece several times on the back and front.

Butterfly brooch front - copyright Helen White

Butterfly brooch front – copyright Helen White

Butterfly brooch back - copyright Helen White

Butterfly brooch back – copyright Helen White

And finally I assembled the chains for the pendants. You can buy ready-made chain, but I have found the quality of the fasteners often very  poor  and they were difficult to open and close, so I tend to use bigger lobster clasps which are user friendly.

Cat pendant - copyright Helen White

Cat pendant – copyright Helen White

And that’s it – my glitter collection.

Sitting cat pendant - copyright Helen White

Sitting cat pendant – copyright Helen White

I hope you like it – I made my first slideshow with these pieces.


You can buy all these new items on my website by following this link

Thanks for reading – and don’t forget to share or leave a comment.
Oh and make sure to subscribe to my newsletter for news and special offers.

Jan 22

My first dragon sculpture

One of the things on my long to-do list this year is to devote time to sculpting with polymer clay. As a child I used to enjoy pottery with my very talented grandmother. She used to make not only pots, but also sculptures for her big garden and her house. One of my favourite sculptures she made was a fairly accurate likeness of Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, standing on one leg while playing his flute. It was a gift for my uncle who was obsessed with Jethro Tull. He used to play “Locomotive Breath” a lot on the piano and listened to the red album (can’t remember the name – it’s a double album) a lot.
Working with clay requires a massive kiln and my gran used toattend pottery classes where they would fire her sculptures. Unfortunately later in life I had not many opportunities to work with traditional clay, so when I discovered polymer clay and its versatility I was chuffed to bits. You don’t need a kiln – use your oven or in my case a dedicated table top oven.

I made this cat with clay in 1997 - copyright Helen White

I made this cat with clay in 1997 – copyright Helen White

There are a lot of very talented clayers out there who specialise in creating sculptures – most of them tend to be on the small scale side – like Kirsten Miller’s cute and quirky mice. Check out her work at Quernus Crafts. Kirsten has now a huge following and her mice are a big hit with customers all over the world. She also create lots of other cute creatures. On the other end of the spectrum you have accomplished artists like Adam Thomas Reese who creates (almost) life size animal sculptures which he covers with intricate cane work. He uses a lot of clay! You can find his amazing work here.
But I totally digress…Two weeks ago I was asked by friends of mine if I could make a purple dragon  for a good friend of ours. Of course I said yes, it was the much needed kick in the proverbial to finally spend some time sculpting. And as luck would have it I had two dragon tutorials written by Birdy Heywood. I bought these ages ago and then forgot about them. Unfortunately I had the colours I needed only in Premo, not in Fimo. Fimo soft seems to be better for the job, though I haven’t tested that out yet. I do love working with Premo as it is non-sticky and leaves little residue on my pasta machine rollers which are a  pain to clean when you use Fimo!

Dragon front view - copyright Helen White

Dragon front view – copyright Helen White

 

Dragon looking up - copyright Helen White

Dragon looking up – copyright Helen White

Creating the dragon took a while, as I tried to figure out the instructions – and I used different instructions for the wings which are made with a striped cane. The hardest bit was actually attaching the ears, due to the clay being a bit stiff!

Dragon back view - copyright Helen White

Dragon back view – copyright Helen White

The resulting dragon with her floppy ears resembles a little puppy – but my friend Bronya was delighted when she received her.
Next time I will attempt a cat, might use Fimo for comparison and freestyle it. Instructions are useful, but sometimes it’s better to figure things out by yourself.

Dragon side view 1 - copyright Helen White

Dragon side view 1 – copyright Helen White

I hope you like this yet un-named little dragon.

Dragon side view 2 - copyright Helen White

Dragon side view 2 – copyright Helen White

Thanks for reading
And don’t forget to comment and share.

Jan 01

Welcome to 2015.

I wish my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015. I hope you all survived the festive days and are not too hung-over. We celebrated Christmas last year in Cologne with my dad and sister. It was a relaxed affair and one highlight was definitely my sister’s cat Dusty, who is just such a cutie pie – she’s the same age as our Bobby, but has way more energy. She is very different in character, very cuddly and playful. It was so lovely when she jumped on our bed for lots of cuddles – she has super soft and silky and fluffy fur.

My sister's cat Dusty 2014 - copyright Paul White

My sister’s cat Dusty 2014 – copyright Paul White

Dusty close up - copyright Paul White

Dusty close up – copyright Paul White

I also bought more cookie cutters for my jewellery designs from my favourite stall on the Neumarkt Christmas market as you can see below.

Some of my new cookie cutters I bought in Cologne - copyright Helen White

Some of my new cookie cutters I bought in Cologne – copyright Helen White

And I visited my friend Nathan and his family – which is always nice – and yes they also have a cute cat called Maya.
We also visited my gran and my aunt was there with her cat Findus. Unfortunately her cat Pippa died last year and poor Findus was still grieving and rather thin. He’s a gorgeous black cat.
So as you can see – despite being separated from our moggie this Christmas we met and played with a lot of cats- which meant I didn’t miss our Bobby as much.
I don’t know about you, but I am glad to leave 2014 behind. You see I had a lot of plans last year –and some of them came to fruition.
So here are the things I got off the ground:

  • I revamped my journalism website www.hkpress.co.uk and included my brand new German tuition service. So far I have one long term business client, so this year I am hoping to get more clients, who want to German via Skype or face-to-face.
  • I also created my first video tutorials for YouTube and received a lot of positive feedback and views. It was quite a learning curve to make these and I am hoping I will get better and being able to film myself without the help of my husband.
  • And for the first time in years we managed to go on a proper holiday. We went to Menorca - Cala Galdana and stayed in a fab hotel with great food, comfy beds and an awesome hydrotherapy/ spa area. The climate and the hydrotherapy pool helped my shoulders a lot and for one week I was pain free. Unfortunately that didn’t last long.

Which brings me to the tough bit of last year – I was finally given an official diagnosis for what I have been dealing with most of my life (well since the age of 17) – Hypermobility Syndrome ( you can find more info of this condition here: of the shoulders (that and bursitis of the left shoulder – which is incredibly painful). My pain got really bad this year and this meant I couldn’t do all the things I wanted to do:

  • I had to lay off making new things for a while due to the disabling pain.
  • And I couldn’t write much. I started out 2014 with the intention of writing a new blog post at least once a week, but that plan fell apart in the summer and my posts got more sporadic. As I also have two blogs to create content for (my journalism website has a blog, which I have also neglected) it’s also harder to keep up with both.
  • I had to change the way I work and adjust my work space – which I also wrote about here. My mini keyboard you can see in that post has died after only eight months in service. So I told the supplier and got a refund as they don’t stock them anymore. So just before the New Year I ordered a new one I am using now. Ideally I have a standing desk as that’s supposed to be good for posture.
    I also bought a motor for my pasta machine. It’s very noisy and I don’t think our cat likes it very much, but it works a treat and should help me to condition clay without using the crank.
  • I also invested in the LC Slicer which I have yet to use more often. Unfortunately the blade fell off after a few uses and I had to glue it back on, but Lucy Clay, the company I bought it from, sent me instructions and a new blade I can screw on, so I will use the old blade first until it’s knackered and then use the new one.
  • Sanding is very painful for my shoulder (I am left handed and it’s the left shoulder which is affected badly) so I created a sanding tool for myself – which I will show you in another blog post (I haven’t sorted out the photos for that one).

So I hope that all these little changes will help. I am still looking for more ways to improve the way I work.
Last year I started a course run by Nicola Smith from A Handcrafted Business. It’s called “Teach your craft online” and it does what it says on the tin. It’s the first time she runs this course. I have been thinking of teaching my craft for a while so jumped at the chance. The course is very good and useful. Nicola teaches you everything you need to know to get your course online from planning a course/class/club to creating the website and marketing. What set my plans back a little are the stupid EU Vat regulations which come into force this month. It caused a massive outcry among small business owners and rightly so – as it’s just another stupid EU law which is seemingly designed to stifle businesses. While the intention was to go after the big guys, Amazon and co, they haven’t thought things through and ignored the small businesses. Basically they want all business owners who sell digital products to charge VAT – which requires a lot of extra work and double accounting (great if you earn loads and just source this work out to an accountant, a pain when you can’t). Anyway you can read all about this new law and its implications here – and also sign the petition and share it – because charging VAT means also that everything gets more expensive – and the plan is to extend the law to physical goods, which is even worse for us.
The UK has one of the most generous VAT exemptions – currently it’s £81k per year. It would be nice if they would keep this exemption for small businesses.
Anyway in view of the fact that we all don’t know what’s happening – if they will go through with it or listen to us small business owners – I have shelved my plans – though I will start working on tutorials nevertheless and learn the ropes of creating quality videos and pdfs. This involves a lot of experimenting with clay and takes time.
Other plans for this year involve:

  • Finding new PR clients
  • Teaching more students German
  • Finally using my Stampmaker kit to create my own texture plates.
  • Start painting/drawing more.
  • Start sculpting with clay.
  • Find new more worthwhile opportunities for selling my ways offline (it’s been really bad last year and it’s really tricky to find good selling venues in Cardiff and the surrounding area).
  • Time and money allowing – I would like to revamp my website.
  • I would also love a kiln so I can work with enamels and PMC.

 

So as you can see – lots of plans and ideas for this year.
Let’s see how much I can realistically achieve.
And that’s it for now. Thanks for reading and getting this far – this post got a bit  longer than I thought it would. :)
How was your 2014? What are your plans for 2015? Let me know in the comments below.

Nov 24

The making of my video tutorial: How to make a mould…

I am sorry that I haven’t posted as much as I planned this year. But life got in the way – and I started making videos. And making videos can be very time consuming. It’s a different process to blogging – and when you start out the editing takes ages. A while back I have written an article about moulding compounds and tested a few. You can find this article here.
I thought – why not show people how to actually use the compound to make a simple pendant?
So two weeks ago we filmed the whole thing, which is tricky on a dark November day, because of the light and because the camera I am using is my photo camera (a Canon PowerShot SX20 IS). So the quality is not as good as you would expect from a professional video camera. But hey – some people use their mobile phone (admittedly some are now of very good quality) or don’t even bother to edit anything and waffle on.

Occasionally things got slightly out of focus as the camera just didn’t behave! I think the original length of the first film was about 6 minutes – I managed to get it down to 4 minutes. Windows’ own Video Maker comes with some nifty tools – you can smooth over your edits with a variety of transitions and you can speed up scenes that otherwise would take forever. I used this speeding technique several times – if I’d left it I would just bore my viewers to death.
Anyway – here is my two part video tutorial on how to make a mould from a shell and a pendant from it with polymer clay. I hope you like it.

I hope with the next video I can smooth out some issues with focus and lighting. I still have to figure out a way of how I can video myself without my husband’s help. And I might have to move my craft table around for the set up as I do have a smaller tripod for the table.

If I do this more often I might have to consider getting a proper video camera for the purpose. Recommendations for reasonable priced cameras are welcome. :)
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Nov 05

The story behind this Agate drop necklace.

Agate necklace - front view. - copyright Helen White

Agate necklace – front view. – copyright Helen White

As some of you know – I accept commissions for custom pieces. And this necklace is one of those commissions. I originally posted these Agate drops on my personal Facebook page for sale, as I didn’t know what to do with them. A friend of mine spotted these and really liked them – and asked me to make a necklace with them. She had a firm idea as to what she wanted and showed me a photo of a floating type necklace with coloured discs.

Agate necklace side view - copyright Helen White

Agate necklace side view – copyright Helen White

To get a better idea of what she wanted I created a test piece with three drops spread out at about an inch apart and another one which was on a softer wire and also spread out to give her an idea about the type of wire and the gaps between the drops. I also confirmed other details with her such as what type of clasp she wanted (a simple lobster clasp). The next step was estimating the costs and sorting out the commission contract.
Once initial payment arrived I started to work and gave her further options of the design.

Agate necklace - different view. - copyright Helen White

Agate necklace – different view. – copyright Helen White

Would she like silver lined seed beads next to the drops – or rather silver plated beads? And how many drops in total would she like? I sent her photos of the various options – one with silver beads, one with seed beads and three further images of the design with 7, 9 and 12 drops. We both agreed that 7 would look best with silver plated beads. She also wanted matching earrings. As I didn’t have any bails to hang them on I made them with square silver plated wire which I twisted with a wire twister (yes such tools exist).

Matching Agate earrings - copyright Helen White

Matching Agate earrings – copyright Helen White

Before finishing off the necklace I sent her another photo to confirm if she was happy with the design. All these photos were done in daylight – so not the best quality. Once finished I also took photos in my light tent and sent them to her.

Agate necklace with earrings. - copyright Helen White

Agate necklace with earrings. – copyright Helen White

A day after I sent her the necklace she posted a photo of herself wearing it. And this is what she said about the necklace and the service she received.
“I asked Helen to design me a necklace using beads I’d seen and liked on her website. I had quite a clear vision for what I wanted and she agreed she could make what I wanted and offered to make me some matching earrings.
She communicated with me frequently throughout the design process offering alternatives and using photos to illustrate the options. She gave me quotes for the work ahead of time. She worked diligently and in a very timely fashion keeping me updated as she went.
I was delighted with the finished pieces which she packaged beautifully and sent by secure post. I was very happy throughout the entire process and Helen finished the necklace and earrings to a very high standard. I would have no hesitation recommending Helen for her work, design and collaborative approach and the excellent quality of her jewellery. I’ll be keeping an eye out on her website for other items I might fancy.”
Siobhan O’Neill

I love happy customers – they make it all worthwhile.
By the way – I still have  five of these beads left and you can find earrings made with them in my shop here.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below if you like.

Necklace packaged before it went to the customer - copyright Helen White

Necklace packaged before it went to the customer – copyright Helen White

Nov 03

The making of…my first YouTube tutorial

A few months ago I started uploading videos on YouTube – these were all videos of our cat Bobby. It was my first attempt at working with videos with the view to create tutorials and videos which feature my business. Yesterday I finally got round to creating my first video tutorial – with a little help of my husband, who filmed the whole thing in three parts. He also helped me editing it, which took the better part of yesterday. It’s very time consuming when you are new to creating videos.
When we filmed it I was talking through the whole thing, but when I watched it back I didn’t like it and didn’t want to do a voiceover. So in the end I decided to put inserts in which explain what I am trying to show. The final part was to find royalty free music which would run in the background. My husband found a useful link and we had a good search. The music I have chosen is slightly shorter than the video, so we let it start a few seconds in.
Anyway with no further ado here’s the video. Hope you like it. I already had a lot of positive comments from fellow polymer clayers.

Thanks for reading – and watching. Please make sure to leave a comment below and share the post.

Oct 02

And the winner of the Macaw necklace and earring set is…

First of all, apologies for not posting anything new. I have been struggling with shoulder pain which means typing is really difficult and I tend to avoid it as much as possible. And yes, I need to look into using speech recognition software as this is unfortunately a condition which is not curable.
I am hoping to rectify this lack of posts soon and will post slightly shorter articles.
Anyway – skip to the end or rather point. If you remember my last post- to celebrate the 4th birthday of Helenka White Design I have offered you the chance to win this polymer clay necklace and earring set. 31 people entered, 27 qualified (i.e. subscribed, commented and shared).

Macaw polymer clay pendant and earring set - copyright Helen White

Macaw polymer clay pendant and earring set – copyright Helen White

Deadline was the 1st of October and because our Bobby was so co-operative last time when I had a giveaway I thought to ask her for her help again. Well I can tell you – this time it wasn’t so straight forward as Miss Mog wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. And the last thing I wanted was to poke her and wake her up – she would have been very grumpy. She’s nine years old now, so a middle-aged lady who, like most cats of this age, sleeps a lot.
So I had to wait until the evening when my husband came home. We used one of his hats – and a lot of cat treats – to get these shots. In the end he picked the winner.

My husband's hat with the entries. copyright Helen White

My husband’s hat with the entries.
copyright Helen White

 

Bobby looking for her treats. copyright Helen White

Bobby looking for her treats.
copyright Helen White

Bobby "picking" the winner. copyright Helen White

Bobby “picking” the winner.
copyright Helen White

As I am writing this our moggie is still snoozing in hubby’s sleeping bag (and it’s warm outside!!). So I couldn’t take a photo of her with the prize either.
However we have a winner: Congratulations to Tracy Nixon from me and Bobby.

The winner is... Tracy Nixon. Congratulations Tracy. copyright Helen White

The winner is… Tracy Nixon. Congratulations Tracy.
copyright Helen White

I want to thank everyone who participated in this competition and took the time to share and leave kind comments.
If you are still interested in a pendant like this one – as luck would have it – I made two sets with the same veneer. You can find the other one here.

Thanks for reading – and stay tuned for the next blog post.
Oh and remember you can always subscribe and share my blog. :)

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