Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arizona Saguaro Cactus, decorated Saguaro Christmas Ornaments and behind the scenes Studio Photos and Tips

 The Christmas Saguaro ornament is available at MelodyODesigns at Etsy 

As a tribute to my adopted home state of Arizona I've designed a new decorated Saguaro Cactus Christmas Ornament made from polymer clay to add to my Southwestern Christmas Ornaments Collection. Saguaros are iconic images that immediately come to mind when one thinks of Arizona. They are native to the warm Sonoran desert and can reach a height of 40-60 inches (12-18 meters). After the rainy season when water is plentiful an adult saguaro can weigh 6 tons or more. 

When the saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce white flowers with yellow centers that attract bees and butterflies and the fruits provide much needed food for birds, jack rabbits, mule dear and many other native animals. The indigenous people of the area used the saguaro for both food and building materials and members of the Tohono O'odham people still gather the fruit today to use in making ceremonial wine, jellies, candy and use the seeds to feed their chickens. Branches normally begin to appear when the saguaro is around 50-70 years old. Their life expectancy is 150-200 years. 

Saguaro at Catalina State Park near Tucson, Arizona. Photographs courtesy of Sy Brandon
Saguaro at Usery Mountain Regional Park, Phoenix, Arizona
Saguaros primarily grow in the southern part of the state and are not native to the Sedona/VerdeValley where we live, though there are some that flourish in the courtyards of private homes. However, the hoards of both international and US tourists who visit the Sedona area still seem to want to take home "all things saguaro" as souvenirs and gifts. Tourism is a huge industry here. In fact, the Sedona/Verde Valley made the list of Lonely Planet's Top 10 US travel destinations for 2013  So, it made sense to add a saguaro to my ornament collection that sells at two wonderful sister Christmas Shops in Sedona, "Feliz Navidad" in Tlaquepaque and "Merry Christmas Sedona" in Uptown, as well as at my online shops.

While behind the scenes in Santa's Workshop..........some of the tools and raw materials that were used in making the Christmas Saguaro Ornament:
 After the ornament is cut out with a craft knife it is textured with a piercing pin tool to mimic the spines of the cactus. 

The white and yellow flowers were painted onto the raw clay with a mixture of TLS (Translucent Liquid Sculpey) and Genesis heat set oil paint. They were painted using the tip of an "out of ink" Extra Fine-tipped Sharpie pen.  

The cactus is decorated with little round red Christmas balls. The balls were decorated with tiny dots of Liquitex Iridescent Bright Gold Heavy Bodied Acrylic and applied with the tip of a "spent and out of ink" Pigma Micron 01 pen. A #11 gold seed bead was pushed into the top of the ornament to give it a "hanger". 

The star was made from gold PREMO polymer clay that was rolled out in a thin sheet, lightly powdered with corn starch and punched out with a Fiskers star punch. Once cured, the star was lightly covered with a layer of Art Glitter Clear Fabric Adhesive and diped into Art Glitter Vintage Fine Glass Glitter.

The Christmas Saguaro, other Southwestern/Arizona Christmas Ornaments and many other pieces are available at MelodyODesigns at Etsy

Article and images © October 28, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Santa's Workshop, Southwestern Kokopelli Christmas Ornament from Polymer Clay

It's August and once again here in Arizona my studio looks a bit like Santa's Workshop, filled with Southwestern and Sedona Red Rock polymer clay Christmas ornaments in various stages of being birthed. It's my favorite time of year because making ornaments reminds me of all the happy times we had as a family making ornaments and Christmas cards together around the family dining room table.

Kokopelli Ornament is available at MelodyODesigns at Etsy

 This season I have some new ornaments to share in my shops in addition re-inventing some of the other ornament designs from past Christmas seasons. During the winter and spring I created several new Southwestern and Sedona designs for two wonderful sister Christmas Shops in Sedona, "Feliz Navidad" in Tlaquepaque and "Merry Christmas Sedona" in Uptown Sedona. They have been selling well, so I thought I'd begin selling them at my on-line shops, too. Over the next few weeks I'll be unveiling them here at my blog. I hope to also include some "behind the scenes" studio photos and share some of my favorite products or tools. 

The first is 3 1/2 inch tall version of Kokopelli made from terracotta colored polymer clay with the addition of some "magical" Sedona Red Rock Dirt in the matrix. He is decorated with tiny slices of turquoise and terracotta colored canes. Kokopelli is an iconic image of the American Southwest. There are many legends and much folklore that surround the beloved flute-playing hunchback. According to Navajo legend, Kokopelli is a God of harvest and plenty. Legend has it that this "Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers" was also a bit of a rascal and trickster and he is sometimes thought of as a fertility deity.
I think it's interesting to see behind the scenes studio photos to see how things are made and what interesting  tools are used. Below is a photo of some of the materials and supplies used in making the Kokopelli ornament.
 To gently "nudge" edges of cut polymer clay pieces into shape I use two tools I made from round toothpicks by dipping them several times into "Tool Magic", a heavy duty liquid rubber coating that is sold to apply to tips of pliers to help cushion them protect them from marring the finish of wire. I consider these two toothpick tools indispensable for finishing off and smoothing cut edges and for straightening out little "oops" bulges. 
I use rough 36 grit sandpaper to press into the clay surface to give it a rustic terracotta look. Using the end of a tiny syringe to gently poke sideways into a cut canes slice helps me to place them more  precisely and doesn't mar the surface.
The round and triangular terracotta and turquoise decorations are made from caned slices. For those who are not familiar with caning, caning is a labor-intensive construction technique where colored rods of clay are laid horizontally forming a complex pattern from which a thin slice is cut from the end allowing the pattern to be seen. It is borrowed from the glassmaking technique used to create millefiori beads.

Last season I added the following four disc mini-ornaments to my MelodyODesigns Southwestern Ornament Collection and one of the discs also contains an image of Kokopelli. You can tell he's one of my favorite Southwestern images!

Please click to read a blog post on my Cat Angel Christmas ornaments and animal shelter Christmas tree