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Wrapping Beach Glass in Clay!

I live on an island. For the past six years, a significant chunk of my income has come from wire-wrapping beach glass and selling it to tourists, or folks from here who have family away and want to send them a piece of home. It’s been great, and my parents have been my largest supplier of beach glass, picking it up on their weekly beach walks.

But recently, at least three other wrappers have popped up and I felt the market was inundated, so I stopped – but my work was still being requested. I ruminated for a while, and decided that polymer clay was the answer.

First, I did a bit of sketching. That’s my new thing, with the Think and Design series behind me and a gorgeous new Galaxy Note 8 Tablet (with the pressure sensitive s-pen!!!).

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I may have gotten a little carried away drawing shellfish.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day I was actually able to work on this idea. I grabbed a couple of light, slightly uncommon soft greens and got to work. At first, I wanted to just make sure I could actually capture the stone without using a back, so I didn’t get into any fancy sculpture, just some waves and dots.

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I sort of liked them – the blue one has great lines – but neither one of them was really pushing my buttons. I couldn’t figure out why, so I went straight to my wonderful fan base on Facebook and asked their opinions! And oh boy did they have opinions :) Most people agreed with me that they weren’t quite right but it wasn’t until I started pushing for answers that it came up to the surface: they looked like icing, like cartoons, like kid’s jewellery. Which totally resonated with me, and now looking at them I can identify that the solid colours and thick lines are not sophisticated enough. I needed texture, depth, interest.

So OK, back to the drawing board. Except this time I didn’t do any drawing. Whoops?

Anyway, I thought of trying a somewhat traditional bezel setting. I rolled out some clay, textured it with this gorgeous zentangle stamp, cut out a geometric shape using my clay blade, used an x-acto knife to cut out a hole behind the stone to allow the light through, and then used a piece of textured clay to create a bezel to trap the stone.

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I went back to facebook with the new prototypes and received much more enthusiastic reviews. I was really excited, so I made more!

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I had a lot of fun picking out and blending the Pearl Ex Powder colours on the surface of the clay to set off the colour of each piece of glass.

This technique lets me play with pearlex powders and textures while still keeping the natural beach glass which I actually do still love a lot, and I think it’s just groovy.

I can see a few places to improve and grow on this technique but so far, I’m loving it and I just had to share!

EDIT: Ok wow, my friend suggested that aluminum foil behind the glass would help with the luminosity, and BOY HOWDY does it ever! The difference was so staggeringly awesome that I re-baked all of these with foil trapped in a new layer of clay. Check it out, before and after, similar lighting conditions:

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It’s like there’s a flashlight behind them when it’s now solid clay! Yum :)

And new ones!

User comments

Idea Overload!

Two weeks ago I had some vacation time, and my younger brother and I headed out across our wee island in search of rusty crap. It was a gorgeous summer day, warm but not so hot we needed the A/C so all the windows were down and everything smelled like heaven – pine and hot sand and salt air and just… fresh and wonderful. If I could bottle all of those summer smells for you, I would! As it was, I was too enthralled to even take a single photo the whole day. Remember what it was like to live your life instead of recording it? It was delightful and I’m happy I have the memories even without being able to show you.

But I CAN show you what I found on our little treasure hunt!

Apparently, most of the antique places in Cape Breton are clustered around the middle, so we plotted a course and headed out. First stop, Baddeck. I got a few fun little pen nibs, some random metal bits, and some old keys, really big delightful ones that my locksmith dad was super impressed by – he says they were probably for great big doors.

Keyyyyyyyyyys

Next stop, the Garage Loft. An antiques shop above a literal auto shop in the middle of a gorgeous wood off a rural road, you get in by walking up a hill behind the shop and then across a few planks over a gap between the building and the hill, and then you’re in the loft! The first thing I see? This delightful wall of tools. I bought some calipers which I can see as the basis for a fantastic necklace.

Calipers and... I dunno?

And a great little metal measuring tape, which I took apart, cut off the inside-most ten feet, and put back together so it’s still usable.

A great old chunk of tape measure

I spoke to the owner and he dug out the inside of an old clock, plus the beat-up clock face. My husband is going to have fun tearing this apart!

The whole inside of a clock. It still moves!

The front of a rusty old clock

Then I came across a lovely, unsorted (my fave) box of old horse tackle. The wheels are turning with these suckers!

Horse buckles and such!

Moving along, we found a house that’s been converted into “antiques and art”, with an artist in residence upstairs and so many old typographer’s cases – some with the metal type still inside – that I was almost weeping at being too broke for any of them. My brother bought some local fiddle CDs and the guy at the desk said hey, there’s another building up back – just follow the path.

So, we traipsed up the garden path, past someone’s front door, to a garage – with a blue door – full of more tools and delights. First thing I see? A box full of more keys (the small ones are in the photo above). Next thing? A BOX OF CLOCK GEARS. A whole box. So. Many. Gears. And not little ones, either, these are 2, 3 inches across. It was like I’d won the lottery. But… I was running out of cash! It was 3:30pm on a Saturday! I was in the middle of nowhere! I was counting out as many as I could afford and finally just took the whole box back down the garden path and made an offer – which he accepted!

A BUNCH of clock parts! These are HUGE.
MINE. ALL MINE.

Last place on our list was up in Margaree, further than we’d planned to go but the day was so gorgeous there was no way we were stopping now. And I’m so glad we went! At first I wasn’t sure there was anything for me, but I found a pile of leatherworking tools I thought would be great for clayshaping.

Leatherworking tools

As it turned out, they were part of a set of other leather tools and whatnots which, since I’d bought a pile of leather belts the week before (yet another project I haven’t had time yet to start), I thought what the hell, and bought the lot!

More leatherworking tools

Then we had some delicious meatball subs in Inverness (ok my brother had a lobster one, but: ew), waded through the water at the beach, and tiredly made our way back home.

But I’m not even done! My lovely friend was going through some inherited jewellery, and gave me a box of things she didn’t want/think were useful.

Jewellery castoffs from a friend!

The patina on that silver belt alone is swoon-worthy.

I’d also ordered a few things on Etsy, and they showed up too:

Bottle caps!

Gnarly pen nibs - some used

Random rusty bits

 

So with all of this new material, plus all the sketching I’ve been doing (more on that later), and a rainy vacation with my husband out of town, you’d think I’d be showing you a bunch of finished jewellery next, right?

Well, now we come to the title of this post: idea overload. With the hot mess my studio was in and the sheer number of thoughts running through my head, I was the most ADD I’ve ever been: start this project no wait clean this section no I can’t do that now I’ve got to put these away oh but look at the project I can do with these oh but I need to make earrings for the shop but I can’t do work I have to clean but these things need to go away but I don’t know where they go aaaaaaaaaaa… and I just actually walked away.

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Aieeee!!!

I’ve since got the mess somewhat under control, and some production work, including a wholesale order, sort of where it should be. I’m hoping by my next vacation – two weeks! – I’ll be able to actually show you something delicious.

Cross your fingers for me!