Monday, 20 May 2013

Allowing myself time off

When I saw this in my list of potential blog posts I knew its time had come! I have been beating myself up since last Thursday about not having written a post for nearly 2 weeks, and what could I possibly write about, when the idea for this post slapped me in the face like a wet fish. Allowing myself time off.

Time off can be a tricky subject when you're self-employed. There's not the same concept of annual leave as there is as an employee, and as your own boss the only person who needs to sign your leave request is... well... you.

With a system like this in place you would be forgiven for thinking that self-employed people do half the work that employees do. Well, you'd be wrong. When you're your own boss, you're harder on yourself than almost any other boss would be. You push yourself harder, work longer hours and take less time off. The issue is giving yourself permission to take time off.

It's not like there's another employee to pick up the slack. When you clock off, the work sits there waiting patiently for you to return. As a consequence it can be very hard to switch off. And that is why allowing yourself permission to take time off is so important.

Time out from work is important for our health and wellbeing, for creative renewal, for inspiration, for so many things. In a world where I can be sitting on a beach in North Africa checking my emails on a smartphone, the boundaries have to come from within. I have to be the one to switch off my phone, to switch of my brain, and to choose to relax.

And so I give myself, and you, permission to do that. Factor in some time off for yourself, say, every three months, and stick to it. That doesn't mean turning down jobs, but when a contract is coming to an end see if you can find a few days for yourself before the next one starts. I promise you you'll be able to work harder and have more stamina as a result.

The beach, just yards from my holiday apartment last week.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Customising casts and mouldings (A mini tutorial)

I have been very remiss. It has been a fortnight since my last blog post (say 4 Hail Marys and 2 Our Fathers). I have been very busy with custom orders, authors and coping with not having a camera. It has really cramped my style! I could write a whole blog post on just that, but I'll link to one instead, and we can focus on a tutorial - it's been toooooo long since my last one!

So what I want to show you today is how to customise casts you make from moulds (molds). Now, this may seem like the most obvious thing in the world to you, but it was a bit of a Eureka moment for me. I can't even claim credit for this simple conceptual shift - credit for the idea goes to generous and creative polymer clay artist Ponsawan Sila.

The concept is forehead-slappingly basic. Essentially, when you peel a casting out of a mould, rather than view that as the finished item, instead view it as a blank canvas. Take this blank and tweak it to make something amazing and one of a kind. Is it a face? Add nostrils, refine the cheekbones, draw the edges of the mouth up into a smile. These are all tiny changes you can make, but you can also make bigger ones - open the eyes by putting in a pupil and eyelashes along the top of the eye socket, even make it wink!

And the customisations don't have to stop at the raw stage. Once cured, use gilding wax to highlight the forehead and bridge of the nose, or a fineliner to draw in Maori-style tattoos. Here I have used a cotton bud to create a triple goddess symbol )O( and a pin to create eyelashes.

As I mentioned above, this is a such a simple shift in thinking but it has had quite a huge impact on me. I had been quite ambivalent about moulds in the past - in fact the faces came from a friend - but with this notion of the moulding as a blank canvas my curiosity has been well and truly piqued. I can make OOAK items with a mould! The same goes for moulds of other items, especially big ones where you only like part of the mould. Either only impress the area you like, or trim away the rest of the casting. Think of patterned moulds like texture sheets - if you have a cavity and you want to transfer the pattern to a sheet, try casting the clay by pressing it into the cavity and making it concave, and then carefully removing the dome and squashing it flat. Like this. Here the large mould second from the left has been used to make a flat mica shift pendant (which I then curved slightly over a light bulb after I had smoothed out the mica shift texture which is why it is domed.)

I hope all of this has gone some way towards inspiring you to dig out your old moulds that you thought were limiting and to breathe some creative new life into them.