Wednesday, March 19

How to make polymer clay jhumkis or jhumkas with swirls

It took me a long time to realise that paper quilling is big in India! So popular, that the Paper Quill Jhumkis stays on top of the star list among all my blog posts.

Interestingly, it was my friend Sankgetha Sripathy who is known best for her terracotta jewellery on Smudgy Trove Facebook page, who painstakingly pictured the process and sent to me. This time, she came up with a short tutorial on polymer clay jhumkis. 

Classic jhumkis or jhumkas are all-time favourites with some. Of late though, it looks like they're seeing a resurgence with fresh design experiments. I prefer the earthy clay over polymer any day. But the medium offers its own options for creativity. Crafters have umpteen methods to come up with polymer masterpieces in jewellery.

Am pasting here what Sankgetha tried with the polymer clay she has.

Polymer clay swirl

I love the yellow design on this jhumki, with its swirl pattern that sways between a rose effect and marble effect.  I googled polymer jhumkis and found that while jhumkis get made a lot with moulds, using such marble effects for a traditional form of jewelry is not so common. For the how to of this, read on.

Here are the materials she lists:

Polymer jewelry things to use
working board or tile
roller to roll the clay
three types of clay - she uses Sculpey brand clay packs, and a bit of base clay 
    in any colour for a ball (here she used white - the smallest of clay balls in the pic above)
a circle shaped cookie cutter
pasta machine or clay kneading machine
eye pin
Nichrome wire (scroll down to see picture)
pliers - nose plier and one to cut the wire
a thick plastic sheet to place over your table for cleanliness

a potter's tool or scoop (see later pics for reference) would be handy too

Sculpey brand

Polymer clay pieces

For a start, pick your clay sheets from the Sculpey pack.

Soften them using the pasta machine or clay kneading machine.

clay kneading machine
If you do not have a pasta machine at home, you could use your dough roller or chapati roller. Another option according to Sankgetha, is to knead it with your hands, using some baby oil.

The rolled clay needs to be cut into square shapes by cutting off the uneven edges.

 polymer clay

You then need to stack the squares or rectangles one over the other. Roll this stack, to make the sheets stick, and also to make it thinner. And now roll the whole stack into a cylindrical shape, the way you would roll semi-solid dough to make spring rolls.

swirl making in polymer clay
Once this becomes a tube, you will need to slice it. If you wish to understand this better, here is a Youtube video for your reference: How to make polymer jewelry

polymer clay spiral
This is a picture of the rolled stack, you need to tighten a bit so that the layers stick better. Slice them, and you get these spiral cuts like below. You then need to pick up the base clay ball now.

Here it is the small white clay ball that she used. Check the second picture in the post.

And then, stick the spirals on to it.

polymer clay beads
To blend the swirls on to the ball, roll this between your palms. The balls will look like this:

polymer clay designs
Aren't the balls gorgeous? They look like delicately made chocolate! Am so tempted to have them!

The next step, is to cut these balls. Not in half, but make sure you have two thirds on one side and one third on the other.

polymer clay jhumki
This is how they look after you cut through them. Scoop out the white using a potter's tool, or a tiny scoop if you have one. Leave just a little layer - a layer that holds the swirl design topping.

scooper polymer clay potter tool
Now, you make fix an eye pin through the center of this tiny cup. Before that, do add another small ball of the swirl design on top of the cup so that the eye pin stays firm. To get familiar with how it is done, you could check Sankgetha's previous post on paper quill jhumkis where she has explained it.

Pick up some green clay now, or an accented coloured clay, and roll many tiny beads from it.

polymer clay base
Now is when the nichrome wire comes into picture.

``I use nichrome wire as it does not burn when I bake the clay jewelry,'' says Sankgetha.

Nichrome wire is commonly made of nickel, chromium, often iron and is usually used as a resistance wire. It is used in clay sculptures and other clay work, to hold the pieces together. It can be fired in the kiln, and withstand high temperatures.

Nichrome wire for clay jewelry
Measure about half an inch, lesser or more, depending on how comfortable it is for you.

polymer jewelry with nichrome wire
And cut it.
nichrome wire bit
Insert the bits into the jhumki  base edge and then fix the tiny clay balls on top of each of the bits. The tiny balls work as an extension of the jhumki design.

Notice the protruding nichrome bit against the index finger, in the picture below.

how to make polymer jhumka

jhumki with polymer clay

This is how they need to look after you have inserted them on to the bits.
clay jhumki modern design

spiral design jhumka
This is how the jhumkis will look after you have finished with the base.

The next step is to bake them. Each brand of polymer clay requires different temperatures and time to bake them in.

home based clay baking oven
This is how a home-based clay oven looks like. Clay jewellery makers cannot live without it.

In this case, she fired them between 20-30 minutes in the home kin.

And then, fixed the fish hooks.

final piece polymer jhumka indian traditional

And the exquisite piece of Indian design jewellery is ready! A mish-mash of traditional and modern. Conventional jewelry with a modern twist! Whatever you'd call it.

polymer clay jhumka
Optionally, you can glaze this piece with a few coats of clay glaze for a shine.

``I wanted it in this finish, which is why I did not use the clay glaze,'' says Sankgetha Sripathy.

polymer earrings

Go ahead then, try your hand at this. And share pictures of your wonderful effort.

Picture courtesy: Smudgy Trove

Content, thanks to Sankgetha Sripathy.

For permission to use pictures, write to:

Drop in your queries and comments, and I will forward them to Sankgetha.

Tuesday, March 18

Simple DIY kitchen wall decor

We all have those little wishes to decorate our kitchens, don't we?

We may have those days when we wish those dirty dishes in the sink took care of themselves, or the kitchen floor mopped itself up while we rested...but we do not want to limit colour to a cluttered fridge door.

But then, while kitchen may be the heart of a home, spending big currency for kitchen decor is not something most of us may feel inclined to do.

I visited my friend Shirley's place recently. Check out the post on her impressive DIY graduation party archway. And what she did with the wall over her counter-top awed me.

Wow! Why didn't I think of it?

``I wanted something in red and gold colour. I went looking for frames and pictures. Nothing fit in. So I decided to do something myself,'' says Shirley.

Here it is, her lovely three frame 3-D set. No glass like in a typical wall pic. No picture or painting. Yet, a stand-out set.

A red frame, a golden one and a red frame. All to bring in the essence of her kitchen. She picked the bare wood frames up from A C Moore crafts store, for $ 4 each. And spent another $2 on the red and gold colour paints. She painted them and let them dry.

So what you need, is:

photo frames with no glass, from your craft store

embellishments with some glue

satin, threads, and the likes for fixing your pieces in the frames

some festive decor items, party paraphernalia..

This tea-pot that she strung and hung from the frame's top end, is actually something she picked up during the Christmas sales. And is a Christmas tree ornament!

Look close, the heart centre-piece here, is in reality, a cookie-cutter that she painted red! She simply strung it with a satin ribbon! And the flowers that she used to embellish it's left bottom corner, were gifts from her New-York based cousin who makes and sells them.

Spoon and fork - perfect kitchen pieces - utilitarian. But as decor, you'd settle for giant pieces. Remember the kitchen wall at the home of Raymond's mother in Everybody Loves Raymond!

These two pieces though, were part of party items at Wegman's. Shirley gladly used them on the frame. They're plastic, but look like steel!

The ensemble shows that a bit of imagination can do wonders to your dream decor at home. It's just about going out there and giving colour to your ideas.

Pics courtesy: Shirley Gandhi

For permission to use, write to me:

Wednesday, March 5

Button earrings n toilet roll owls

When my Boston-based nieces visited me during Thanksgiving last year, they had come prepared to indulge in crafting and play every minute.

The younger one, a six year old, would drag me from my kitchen work so she could learn something new to craft.

On my part, I had enough trash to keep them occupied too.

I had a crate full of toilet tissue roll cardboard. A quickie Google image search revealed umpteen owl crafts using the rolls.

The image of these owls I found on Creative Jewish Mom and similar experiments by other crafters were quite an inspiration. The kids took no time in working away furiously.



and some tissue to wipe off stains from hands...

Here is what Sowmya, the 13 year old, came up with:

Notice that the first owl in this picture has eye-circles cut from another piece of cardboard and stuck there for effect.

The curvy head for these owls comes about when you press the edges of the toilet tissue roll on one side, towards each other. You can then use a masking tape or glue the edges on top. Rest is all about black lines!

The kids also did some button craft. I had some jump rings and fish-hooks among my stash of jewellery findings. All I did was to teach them, to use the jewellery pliers.  Here is what they made:

This pair needed all of four green buttons, and eight jump rings, besides two fish hooks for earrings.

The next one did not quite turn out perfect, but I love the effort they put in. If you want a video tutorial about how to make button earrings, here is one from Youtube:
Button Earrings

In the meanwhile, I found some bread tags in my kitchen drawer. Using a geometry box compass, we punched holes, and lo! we had another pair of earrings!

These quickie pairs could make great party give favours. Or, you could simply organise a `make and take' party for a bunch of kids around the block!

Owl crafts can be great for theme parties, `make and take' , and inexpensive to teach too - especially if your raw material comes straight from the toilet and before it gets trashed!

Pics courtesy: M Radhika
Crafts by: Sowmya and Saahitya

For permissions to re-use, write to:

Tuesday, March 4

Rangolis on jewelry boxes

During my recent trip to India, I looked around at craft shops in vain for pain wooden boxes that one could paint on. Tough luck. I did find some cute gift boxes made of bamboo possibly, but with no scope of personalizing.

That's a reason I love Dollar Tree and the craft shops out here.

If you are an avid scourer for stocks, you can get desktop wooden boxes that are unpainted for as little as $1.

I love painting rangolis on these boxes, although it is a tedious process. I do not prime the wood with a wood primer before getting started, but I do sand-paper it thoroughly before starting the paint work.

For more instructions about painting wood boxes, you can also refer to my ancient post: Rangoli on a jewel box

A tip or two with those instructions though - things I learnt during the numerous painting sessions.

For the initial lot of boxes, I stuck to glossing them with Mod Podge. But switched to Martha Stewart Crafts High Gloss Finish. I am happier with the results although I don't think it is the perfect one.

  • When you sandpaper the inside of the boxes, make sure you scrape more from the surface near the box hinges 
  • Do not give extra coats on the surface connecting the lid and base. Doing so could make the paint stick and peel
  • Always paint the narrow frame top that connects lid and base in the end, and leave it to dry more than you would possibly dry the rest of painted sides
  • For intricate designs like the rangolis, using a zero size paintbrush helps- stock more than one Size Zero paint brush though
  • Stick to simple designs for a start and move on to more intricate designs as you progress with a few boxes
  • If you wish to spray paint them, try as much as possible, to use the paint outdoors 
  • Spray paint may not need more coats the way hand painting would need, but you need to use masking tape extensively for the hinges and latches
  • Cut large plastic covers to rectangles and place over newspapers when you spray paint 
  • Paint about three boxes simultaneously. It helps save time, because by the time the painted surface of your first box dries up, you are done with the third box
    • When you use a brush to gloss the painted boxes, make sure you use single strokes and do not rub the glossy finish 
    • Keep a container of water handy so you can drop the gloss brushes in it quickly
    • Make sure you wash the brushes with soapy water after each session of painting
    • My personal experience with olive green or camp green craft paint over orange surface has not been great
    • Whites over dark surfaces work great for me, but if you have any tidbits you can share, please tell
    The yellow box I have painted above is my favourite. These were the colours used on the doorstep of my Ammumma's home in Chennai. The tikka you see on its side, is called Kalyana Bottu in Telugu. It is the design used as bindi on the foreheads of brides and grooms in Telugu marriages.

 Rangoli patterns can be used on plain cardboard cartons too. Give the experiment a shot and let me know how it goes. After a lot of dilemma, I learnt to use gold coloured paint over a painted surface. I was not so satisfied with the first attempt, but my friend who I gifted the box to, was thrilled. This one is a bright red-gold combo, but I tried a gold over maroon surface and gifted the box to my mom during my India trip. The result was good.

My friend Ashwini Deshpande, of the popular Indulge Ashscorner food blog shared a picture of one of my boxes.

These boxes are a sample of what I regularly paint. I did a bunch of them more, to gift away in India. The most unexpected reaction was from my friend's kids.

You would assume that such boxes would be a hit with women, those who are religious and otherwise, to store their jewellery and tiny treasures. I stashed one such painted box for my friend's mom and some kid stuff, all in one tote, when I went to meet them during the India trip. The kids - a six year old and a two-year old, saw the box first, and decided it was the best toy in the world for them.

For the next couple of hours, they took turns in playing with it, smiling at it, opening and closing it a hundred times, watching its corners and carrying all over their home! My protests that the box was meant for their grandma hardly mattered. And we presume that kids take a fancy only to bright coloured plastics!

The next time you paint a wooden box, do not be sure only 20 plus and 30 plus people will like it. My slow discovery -- no age-bar for rangoli box love.

Monday, March 3

Flowers, ferns and broken plastic

It's been a long long time that I posted something on Imprints Handmade. For all those who patiently waited for a post, thank you!

Since October last year, have been caught up with Fall travel, Thanksgiving travel, Christmas travel, and an India trip. Not to forget the huge shopping lists before my India trip, non-stop travel in spite of fragile health back home, and a post-travel bout of flu. But enough is enough, I thought. No more excuses to stay away. Here they are, ideas from Lalitha Menon for last-minute gift wrapping and more.

Have you ever faced gift dilemmas? Those last minute sprints to gift stores when you just remembered today was your close kin's birthday?

What can you possibly do during such days when nothing seems to go right?

Lalitha Menon who had sent me some of these pictures eons ago, shows how. My apologies Lalitha, for the pre-Thanksgiving to post-Valentine's Day delay in putting these through. One of the hazards a trip to India brings up.

Meanwhile, here is the first picture of her Christmas gift for a friend.

It looks like a paper towel spread on a plastic plate. But in reality, it is a translucent chocolate box put to good re-use. So, the paper towel you see is actually inside the box. And those little candy coloured embellishments are decorated on top of the box. Believe it or not, she picked them up from an old shoe.

Inside the box, are an expensive coffee mug and some coffee powder. The thin lavender coloured line around the box, is actually her signature satin ribbon that she uses generously for gift wraps.

Now, for some flower gifts that gave away. When you want to gift a bouquet on some occasion, is it not typical that you head to a florist, get them to suffocate those stems in plastic wraps and staples? On the contrary, all it takes is some thoughtfulness and putting your garden to use.

These roses she placed on ferns from her garden, tied them up with an old piece of dupatta. She then rolled silver coloured satin ribbon on it, and tied it up into a bow.

These gladioli and gerbera daisies were tied up similarly too. As for the bunch below, she used her favourite lavender satin ribbon, and left them at the doorstep of her uncle in his 70s. She left him guessing who the flowers came from.

It's the next set of pictures though, that take the cake - perfect example of how your empty soft drink bottles can help.

Look close, what does the picture below show?
A card on top of a gift wrap?

It's a shopping list post-it slip that she used for a cute little note with the gift.
As for the gift, you will know how it got wrapped, from the pictures below.

So, it was a coffee mug, with some exotic tea bags that went into an empty soft drink bottle that she cut in half. She topped the container with some colour paper. and fixed her note.

``The gift was for a friend from abroad who called on suddenly. I gifted her the coffee mug from a mall. But she refused to accept it without `my own' gift wrap!'' says Lalitha, who had to take it home, gift wrap it and give before the friend's departure from her city.

Now, that's an idea for what can be done to old Pepsi and Coke bottles!