Category: Organization

Continual Improvement

Butterfly Beads

I try, very, very hard to not fall into the trap of having to have things work perfectly the first time. I aim, instead, for small improvements, little steps, incremental progress. I can math well enough to know that compound interest is magic and I feel that the same concept applies to most things. You put a little effort into a project, over a period of time and the results will impress you. We covered this approach in a unit, in school, on Japan. They call it Kaizen and use it to mean the incremental improvements in corporate and manufacturing settings that keep a company steadily climbing. They contrast it with the Western approach where people aim for perfect in one go. I can’t do perfect but I can do a little better, often.

This applies to my site and my polymer clay life as well, of course. I’m going through the tedious process of converting materials from here into better formats and layouts. Some of it needs updating because I’ve improved and the clay work explained on here needs to be corrected. Other items need updating because I’ve learned how to use better tools for production content making.

First up: I updated the quickie Skinner Blend Plug tutorial. I added a section on how to make the blend, created new pictures and laid it out more effectively. I may need to take the image sizes down a notch but overall I’m pleased. For added fun, I ran the images through a slide show program and posted that on my Instagram so you can see the whole deal as a simple video. Once I shrink the images a bit, I’ll make an animated gif version for here.

Scrap Clay Remix


This is the part where I wonder what the heck I got into. There’s a post on my blog from years ago titled 10 lbs of scrap clay. And it’s got stuff all neatly rolled into thick sheets and tucked into a shoe box. I have to laugh at Younger Me a bit… this tub was between 30 and 40 pounds of crumbs, packed tightly so that it stayed tub shaped when I upended it. My mission is to turn at least some of this back into usable material again. I did the same last year. I try to every year. And this may be the year I put 5 smaller buckets there instead and separate the crumbs by colour way right off.

First part was to break that up and set out wax paper for chunks to get organized by rough colour ways. Some of the most mixed bits went right into the clay patty pile to get rolled into sheets for usage as bulk fill. The piles that are organized by colour ways are ready to turn into projects. pics of things you can make with scraps

Made with Scrap Clay

I don’t use scrap clay in enough things – you might have guessed that because I have piles of it – but I do use the colour crumbs here and there. I make swirl beads and pendants, mirror image beads, scrap clay mokume gane and Stroppel cane things. I use the mud layers to build up forms and fill pillow beads. The canes and MG cover stuff like Easter eggs and rocks. I’ve made things straight out of scrap clay and then painted them but they’re not pretty yet so no showing those off.

All this to say, you’re going to make scrap clay. No matter how awesome you are with polymer clay. So it’s definitely worthwhile to pick a method to store and deal with this stuff. If we’re keeping score, I got through 23lbs of clay with this sort. There’s a little over 30 left in the tub so my initial estimates were way off. Sigh.

The Best Laid Plans


2016 crept in while I was looking the other way. Probably while I was painting some more walls in my studio.

I met a lot of my clay goals in 2015. Best show ever? That was Sundog 2015, in December. Best Etsy month and Best Etsy Year? Yep, both happened in 2015 (best month was March, which is usually my best month).

Some I inevitably missed. Didn’t finish up that Polymer Clay Challenge, for example. So I’m doing it again. It wasn’t that I didn’t clay and didn’t take pictures…I just didn’t blog it and share with the challenge group. Luckily, they’ll let me play again.

So I have 5 clay-work related goals to do for 2016. I mean, there’s MORE I want to do but let’s keep the list easy and checkable.

  1. Do the 2016 Polymer Clay Challenge – or at least get further than last time! I mean I’m going to clay all year again, so this keeps me publicly talking about it
  2. Get to 500 items on Etsy, in my Tooaquarius shop – if you haven’t been doing Etsy for long, this sounds like a lot but I have lots and lots of canes and beads and buttons and such. I’m just a procrastinator on putting stuff up. My shop is usually between 250 and 300 items so this isn’t too crazy
  3. Put my first paid tutorials out – again, for the Etsy shop. This is sort of a natural progression. I’ve written free ones. I’ve taught. I explain to random people who wander into my shop how ridiculously complicated canes go together. Which confuses civilians by the way.
  4. Sculpt more – this is just a reminder that I’m having fun with 3d work and I’m not bad at it and should keep playing with it.
  5. Teach more – I taught a few classes last year but a lot of the year was spent getting my studio and physical shop space working for me. Now, back to regular classes. Classes are good because the force me to be organized and to be productive. Students also make you question and improve.

What kind of clay things are you guys tackling this year? Or regular life things?

The bird beads are a catching up on stuff I meant to make. The bluebirds in particular have been on my list of Should Make That for years.