Love from MN

It’s no secret that I love my state. I’ve also lived in California (four years of college and innumerable family visits), Seattle (six weeks of Clarion West), and New York (a summer internship at Tor Books), but this is where I call home.

I stopped by the Wayzata Art Experience a few weekends ago and was charmed by a number of Minnesota-shaped necklaces at one of the booths. But they weren’t quite what I was looking for. How hard could they be to make? I decided to find out.

I’m still pretty new to the whole world of crafting. I bind handmade journals from time to time and I’ve made a few dreamcatchers. I also used to make necklaces and bracelets by stringing beads on thread and wire, but nothing more complicated than that. So my approach to art in general is very much a process of trial and error.

I decided to make the MNs out of polymer clay, which I’d just stocked up on to replace what I’d initially tried to use as plumber’s putty when my basement was flooding. (See previous post.) But what does one use for a template? Paper hadn’t held up. I decided to draw out the general shape and then use the remaining tools from my jewelry-making set (long-nose pliers, needle-nose pliers, and wire cutters) to bend florist wire into an outline of the state. I would then cut around this with a craft knife.

I’m all about using what I have. Then, when I’m allowed to buy more supplies (probably not until 2015), I have a list of what would be helpful. Such as a rolling pin. Instead I used anything round that might work to flatten out the clay: thick-barreled pens, glue bottles, glue sticks. They worked well enough. And here’s what the initial results looked like.

MN Phase 1

(For whatever reason, the photo won’t turn upright. Gremlins have invaded my computer since my cat drooled on it.)

The photo also has bonus prints from a stamp I carved. More on that in a later post.

I ended up scrapping all but the first cutout and then making several more a few days later. Initially I’d intended to make necklaces, but the cutouts were a bit big, so I decided to make Christmas ornaments instead. I created hanging hardware from the same wire I’d used to create the state outline. I also added a hook on the bottom of the state to attach a dangling free-form heart. These were more difficult to make than I’d thought, but I pinched and prodded the clay into basically the right shapes, then baked the states and hearts and hardware in the oven.

They were a bit plain when they emerged, even after I’d assembled everything, and the edges were a bit rough and difficult to sand. I decided to try out some clearance rack glitter paint to liven up the state and the heart (and smooth over a few imperfections). And here’s where things stand right now.

MN Phase 2

These aren’t quite final. I need to explore a few more options for hanging the ornaments (the white ribbon isn’t my favorite), though I have a limited amount of time to do so. These will be going to family members (Shhh! That is a secret.) in a few weeks. But I’ve finished decking out the backs with “Love from MN, 2014.”

Next up, decorating the wrapping materials with a handmade MN stamp. Yup, I went a little crazy with the state theme. But stamping is something to be left for the next post. Also coming up: the art of handmade boxes, otherwise known as cartonnage.