Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Awareness of Anxiety

As the year draws to a close, our final mindfulness practice for 2012 focuses on anxiety.  Curious timing.

Anxiety is defined as a state of uneasiness and distress about future uncertainties; apprehension; worry. Though we move into the new year with hope and a fresh start, it may also be a cause of anxiety. With each new year comes potential change-something we cannot predict or control.

Anxiety is a constant companion for many of us.

How does anxiety show up for you? Does your heart race or your breathing become shallow? Maybe your stomach tightens or your hands tingle.

What patterns or events trigger anxiety for you? Do you become anxious when watching the news? Does it happen when you get to work or school? Perhaps it arrives even earlier, as soon as your alarm clock goes off.

As with our previous mindfulness practice on impatience, the seeds of anxiety are often planted during childhood. Was there any particular event that happened when you were a child that contributes to your anxiety as an adult?

Anxiety is often accompanied by thoughts-negative thoughts, worrisome thoughts, fearful thoughts. These thoughts can give rise to our anxiety as well as escalate our anxiety.

When you become aware of anxiety, counteract it with deep breathing. Become aware the thoughts that trigger your anxiety and flip the thoughts for the positive.

If watching the news causes you anxiety, turn it off. Dial down your exposure to the negative.

This week, become aware of anxiety, what triggers it for you, and how your thoughts influence the anxiety. Take a deep breath when anxiety creeps in. Be truly present and let your worries drop away.

Reflection: This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety . It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace. -H.H. the Dalai Lama


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Teaching Polymer Clay Boot Camp in January, 2013

I’m happy to announce that I am teaching my Polymer Clay Boot Camp at Emerson Umbrella in Concord, MA. Class begins on Thursday, January 10, 6-9pm, and runs for a full 10 weeks!

Four fundamental canes

Four fundamental canes

Here is the full class description:

Do you have some packages of polymer clay sitting on your craft table but you aren’t sure what to do with them? Are you a fan of polymer clay art or jewelry and would love to learn the secrets to make high quality pieces yourself? Or maybe you’ve played with polymer clay but need more direction on how to use it?

If you’re ready to explore this fun and versatile medium then Polymer Clay Boot Camp is just for you. In Polymer Clay Boot Camp, you’ll become familiar with polymer clay from the ground up. We start with a discussion of polymer clay basics, including brands, handling, safety, and basic tools. You’ll learn several foundation techniques including

  • easy fundamental canes that are the foundation for more complex canes
  • an ancient metal work technique applied to polymer clay for creating fascinating, one-of-a-kind patterns
  • how to make faux gemstones and imitation natural materials with polymer clay
  • professional quality finishing techniques

As you learn these techniques, you’ll use your newfound skills to create a variety of polymer art including home décor items and jewelry.

Ancient metal work technique

Ancient metal work technique

At the end of this class, you will have learned how to

  • Prepare, condition, and safely cure polymer clay
  • Build simple and complex canes
  • Create fascinating patterns from multiple thin layers of clay
  • Design a polymer clay “fabric”
  • Use polymer clay to imitate a variety of natural materials
  • Create a variety of polymer clay art from home décor to jewelry
  • Professionally finish your work
Faux gemstones & imitative materials

Faux gemstones & imitative materials

You can register directly through Emerson Umbrellla. All materials are included for a nominal fee.

This is a fun, interactive class, perfect whether you’re new to polymer clay or looking to sharpen your skills.

Still not sure? Check out this video on YouTube where I give you an overview of the class


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Testing Vintaj Patina Inks on Polymer Clay

Now that the holiday show season has ended and the last of my special orders have been delivered, I am taking a well-deserved break and playing in the studio. On Monday, I stopped by Ink About It in Westford to do a little artsy-crafty shopping for myself. I bought some Copic  markers, a handful of Colorbox chalk ink stamps, and a package of Vintaj Patina inks by Ranger.

I decided to try out the Vintaj Patina inks first. I’d never heard of them before Monday. They were originally created to use on metal. I wondered if they were anything like the alcohol inks I’ve used. Let’s find out.

Vintage Patine Inks

Vintage Patina Inks

FYI

Before you use the Vintaj Patina inks, a few recommendations:

  • Grab a handful of paintbrushes to apply the paint.
  • Have a cup of water handy for rinsing your paintbrushes. The inks dry quickly. If you spill any ink, wipe it up immediately.
  • Paper towel. You need paper towel to either wipe your brushes, wipe up your spills or dab the inks.
  • Gloves. Wear gloves when using the inks. They’re a bit messy. (Really, it’s not just this artist!) You need to shake the bottles to mix the ink. The ink tends to spray into the cap. When you remove the cap, the ink drips from it. Be prepared.
  • Odor. I noticed a spray paint-like odor when I opened the first bottle of ink. It seemed to disappear over time and I didn’t notice it with the other bottles.  If you’re sensitive to odors, use these inks in a well-ventilated area.

Okay, onto the play and testing the Vintaj inks on polymer clay.

Testing

The colors inks I tried out were Ochre, Agate, and Onyx.

Vintaj Patina Inks: Onyx, Ochre, Agate

Vintaj Patina Inks: Onyx, Ochre, Agate

I conditioned some Premo black polymer clay and pushed it into a mold from my collection. I decided to test the inks on two samples of raw (unbaked) clay and two samples of cured (baked) clay.

Clay samples

Clay samples

Can you guess what item I used to make the texture in this mold?

Raw Clay and Ink Test

In this first sample, I applied the agate ink, two layers, and hit each layer with the heat gun in between applications.

Raw clay with agate ink

Raw clay with agate ink

Then I brushed on a small amount of the ochre ink, dabbed the ink with paper towel, and hit with the heat gun. (NOTE: I used the heat gun to slightly dry the inks between applications. I didn’t run the heat gun long enough to cure the clay. I’ll do that after all the inks are applied.)

Raw clay with agate and ochre inks

Raw clay with agate and ochre inks

The last application was the onyx ink over the previous two colors. I dabbed the ink slightly with a paper towel to remove some of the excess. To keep the confusion to a minimum, this first sample will be known as AOO.

Raw clay with 3 layers of ink

Raw clay with 3 layers of ink (AOO)

On the second piece of raw clay, I applied the ochre ink first, then the agate ink, and then the onyx. I dabbed all the ink lightly with a paper towel and then hit it with the heat gun. This second sample will be referred to as OAO.

Raw clay with ochre ink

Raw clay with ochre ink

Raw clay with ochre & agate

Raw clay with ochre & agate

Raw clay with final layer-onyx

Raw clay with final layer-onyx

Both pieces of raw clay were cured (baked) in a clay dedicated convection oven for 10 minutes at 275 degrees. After baking, I let the pieces cool completely. Then I lightly sanded both pieces with 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

OAO (ochre, agate, onyx) on leftAOO (agate, ochre, onyx) on right

OAO (ochre, agate, onyx) on left
AOO (agate, ochre, onyx) on right

Sanding removed most of the top layer of paint in the OAO sample on the left. It also left some interesting scratch marks on the surface which I kind of like.

If you couldn’t guess it earlier, now can you tell what item I used to make the mold?

Cured Clay and Ink Test

While I worked on the first set of samples, I cured the other two pieces of clay. Those pieces were in the oven for 15 minutes at 275 degrees and cooled completely before applying the inks.

On the first cured sample, I applied the onyx ink first. I mixed the agate & ochre inks together and applied this combination on top of the wet onyx ink. Then I dabbed the wet ink and hit all layers with the heat gun. I repeated the process with a second layer of the agate/ochre mix.

At this point I was so absorbed with what I was doing that I forgot to take a picture of this sample at this stage! Sorry.

With the final sample I was feeling a little more daring, so I started by spraying the cured piece of clay with rubbing alcohol and then applying the ochre colored ink. The Vintaj ink immediately ran off the alcohol soaked clay. So I wiped off most of the mess with paper towel and dried the piece with the heat gun.

These inks do not react like Ranger’s alcohol inks.

On the next attempt I applied thin layers of the ochre ink. I mixed the onyx and agate inks which resulted in a rather ugly battleship grey color. I put the battleship grey color on top of the ochre ink. Dry this mess, I mean mix, with the heat gun.

Okay, now I’m starting to get bored. The resulting color combination is rather “meh.”

Off Come the Gloves

At this point, the gloves came off. (They’re too big for my hands anyways so I really needed to take them off.)

I don’t like how either of these cured samples is turning out. They’re both look dull. They need some bling. Some spark.

I sand off the top layers of ink on both pieces using 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and pull out my Lumiere paints. On the first cured sample, I apply a layer of  pearl turquoise paint, wipe it off, and dry with a heat gun.

Cured clay with Vintaj patina inks and Lumiere pearl turquoise paint

Cured clay with Vintaj patina inks and Lumiere pearl turquoise paint

The Lumiere pearl turquoise paint gives the first sample a little more depth.

On the second cured clay sample, I applied Lumiere super copper paint, dried and sanded it. A lot of the paint came off when I wiped the still wet clay. (The clay was wet from the wet/dry sandpaper.) I put on another layer of super copper paint followed by more ochre ink and wiping in between layers.

Cured sample #2, sanded copper

Cured sample #2, sanded copper

Cured sample #2 with copper paint & more ochre ink

Cured sample #2 with copper paint & more ochre ink

You know how a teacher will tell you beware of turning your piece into mud? I’m starting to feel that way with this sample.

Finally, I decide to apply a very light brushing, almost a dry brushing, of Lumiere pearl white paint. I wipe off the excess, dry the sample with a heat gun, and then use 0000 steel wool to sand the piece followed by a very light run under the buffing wheel at low speed.

Cured sample #2 with many layers

Cured sample #2 with many layers

It’s kind of gone from “meh” to “maybe.” Not sure if I “saved” it or not. But this is just an experiment. There was no planned destination.

Impressions

Well, I can say that the Vintaj patina inks are nothing like Ranger’s alcohol inks. The word “ink” is a little misleading. The Vintaj patina is more like a paint. There is a mixing ball in the bottle to mix the pigments. And there is that slight “spray paint” odor.

On the raw polymer, the paints appeared more vibrant after the curing process. On the cured polymer clay, the patinas were not so vibrant. Now this could be due to my color choice in both the clay and in the patina color combinations. I would definitely try this again on other colors of clay to see what happens.

In general, I think the patinas have potential to be used with polymer. They make an interesting alternative to the standard acrylic paints we often use to antique or stain cured polymer clay. I did like the layering affect that happened with the patinas. It reminded me of the results you get using the mokume gane technique.

Now there is something to consider. Using the Vintaj patinas in the mokume gane technique. I sense another test coming on.

If you’re interested in using the Vintaj patina inks on metal, you’ll find numerous videos on the Vintaj website as well as on YouTube. These two posts on Ink Stained Roni’s blog were also helpful (note-these titles are my synopsis titles, not the original post titles): Samples of the line of Vintaj inks (there are some very pretty colors) and Answers to questions about the inks & that messy ink bottle


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A Year of Mindfulness: Impatience

This week’s mindfulness practice is indeed timely now that we are in the throes of the holiday season. This week, we are asked to be mindful of impatience.

Impatience is a common experience in our lives. When we sit in traffic, we wait impatiently for it to start moving. When we wait in line at the store, we tell ourselves that we got into the wrong line.

Impatience takes different forms. For some it appears as finger tapping on the table. Or maybe it appears as loud, heavy sighs. For others it may be verbal as a slew of words or phrases are stated under their breath. In myself, I notice I get a little agitated. I may look at my watch or the clock. My stomach sometimes feels knotted.

How does impatience appear for you?

We learn to be impatient. It can come from our parents who may have shown their impatience with us or others. It can come as we sit in class with a teacher that we find boring. People who are impatient may interrupt another person as they speak, finishing that person’s statement because they can’t wait for that person to finish.

Impatience is our mind’s way of moving things into the future. Of trying to make things go faster.

In Buddhism, impatience is one of the three “poisons.” (The other two are clinging and delusion.) Together, the three “poisons” contribute to suffering, making us mentally & physically ill.

Impatience is a form of aversion. It represents our desire to get rid of something. Impatience is also a form of anger. And hidden under anger is fear.

When you feel the pull of impatience, ask yourself “Why am I in a rush to get X over with?” If your answer is to “get onto the next thing,” ask yourself then what? Are you simply rushing through tasks and, perhaps, rushing through life?

Ask if there is fear underlying the impatience. If so, what is that fear? Fear of not having enough time?

This week, become mindful of impatience. Notice the feelings that arise during moments of impatience. When those feelings arise, take a deep breath and bring your awareness to the present moment.

Reflection: Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success. -Brian Adams


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A Year of Mindfulness: The Tongue

The tongue (n): a fleshy, movable, muscular process on the floor of the mouths of most vertebrates that bears sensory end organs and small glands and functions especially in taking and swallowing food, and in humans, as a speech organ.

This week’s mindfulness practice is rather curious. This week, we are asked to become aware of our tongues. Yep, to become aware of our tongues.

It’s okay. I scratched my head too when I read this practice.

Consider the definition I shared at the top of this post. “A fleshy movable muscular process.” Now how often to you think about your tongue in that way?

But isn’t that what our tongue really is? A muscle that moves around in our mouths. It helps us to move food around in our mouth. It helps us to form letters and produce words and sounds.

The tongue is also a sensory organ detecting the flavors and temperature of food.

So try this. When you’re eating, see if you can stop your tongue from moving. Now try to keep eating without moving your tongue.

What happens? How does it feel?

Awareness of your tongue is a great example of the power of mindfulness. Focusing a quiet mind on anything opens up and reveals a new universe that was always there but somehow hidden. There is your tongue, hidden right under your nose, carrying out many tasks.

You may notice that your tongue operates better when it is left alone. This mindfulness practice reminds us that things often function better when we get out of the way and try not to control them.

For the most part, our tongue functions on its own without us paying much attention to it, unless we hurt it. This serves as an example of the many ways we are supported and cared for in life that we do not notice or appreciate.

This week, become aware of your tongue and the many blessings in your life.

Reflection: The tongue has its own wisdom. Like most things, it operates better when we don’t try to control it. -Dr. Jan Chozen Bays

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