Sunday, 25 June 2017

How I make Fairy Doors

For the June Program of the Northwest Polymer Clay Guild, I was asked to present how I make fairy doors. This is still very much a sculpting program but canes can also be used to decorate each piece. If you are a caner, you can finish the door or the door frame (or both!) with canes.

There are probably many ways to make these tiny whimsical creations and what I have here, is what works for me. At the meeting I presented three styles: one closed door and two with working doors (you can open and close) using two types of hinges.

Closed door

1. Decide on a design. If you want your door to be symmetrical, I find it best to use a pattern. I included three sample patterns here that you can download for your own use. If you want it smaller, just reduce the size before you print it out.

2. Cut the door frame first, lay it flat on your conditioned polymer clay (three to four layers of conditioned polymer clay at your machine's thickest setting).

For the first sample, I am using this simple rectangular door design.

This is another frame design I love. 
If the overall shape is not to your liking, you can easily make your own pattern; simply fold the paper vertically and cut so it comes out symmetrically. Or if you don't want it symmetrical, like those cute weirdly-shaped doors, just cut the door shape you want then follow the cut you made to make a frame. If you want this to be a working door, one miniature hinge on the lower side would work. Pin type hinge will not work for this.

This is a simplified hobbit house door, patterned after Bilbo Baggin's house. After you print this and cut your clay, search for a picture of Bilbo Baggin's house to get the details right. For a working door, you can use a miniature hinge, not the pin-type hinge.

Hi-res door patterns (made for letter size paper). If you want the pattern smaller, reduce the size before you hit the print now button.

2. Condition the polymer clay of choice. I like to paint my doors because I like the effect – it seems to have more country charm. If I'm painting the piece, I will take this opportunity to clean up my workspace and gather all my scrap clay – it's a great way to use up those small leftover bits from previous projects.

That said, I also like to use colored clay; it saves a lot of time coloring and it also gives a cleaner, more polished look.

After conditioning, make four nice flat layers at your machine's thicket setting and lay the pattern flat. Cut the door frame first. For a closed door, you can use two or three layers for the door frame. Then just subtract one or two layers for the door (if you have a two layer door frame, then one layer for the door or three layers door frame then two or one layer for the door). By cutting them separately, I make sure that I have a thinner doorway, giving the finished piece depth. 

I'm using four layers here. I laid the door frame pattern flat before cutting it out.

If I'm making a fairy door that does not open, I'll make an extra layer of clay and roll out a piece big enough to use as backing to these two pieces (to cover both door frame and door) and give it extra support. This does not have to be thick, even the thinnest or second to the thinnest would do. Fit the door inside the frame. Push the edges of the doorframe towards the door carefully to connect them, careful not to distort the shape. When they are sticking together, put them on top of the backing. Check the edges and cut any excess.

3. Decorate. I love using pebbles or bricks for door frames for that old country-house fell. If I have more scraps of colored polymer clay, I would blend this in with a beige and gray carefully as not to mix it too much. I want specks of color to show up since natural pebbles have specks in them too. Then take small round pieces of different sizes and attach them all over the frame. For the door, use your tools to create wooden patterns.

Real pebbles versus my dirty clay pebbles used to decorate the door frame.

4. Add other features like a peephole (small cookie cutters work really great for this), door knocker, metal bars, nails, hinges, door knob, keyhole, etc. Depending on your design and theme, you can also add a lamp, a mailbox, flower pots, etc. when you create the floor or threshold.

5. Bake. Let it cool and paint. If using colored polymer clay, I would use the same steps except of course, instead of using scrap clay, condition the clay color of your choice. You can use skinner blend to give it depth and other effects without applying paint to it. You can also use polymer clay canes that has already been prepped (cut and flattened).

Samples of a closed door using polymer clay canes as decorative items. You can also use a layer of canes to decorate the the frame or the door itself. Here, I used colored polymer clay for the door with skinner blend.

Opening doors: Pin-type hinge (same style used for miniature wooden dollhouse doors)

1. Follow previous steps to create door frames and doors except, do not create an extra layer for flat backing. It will not be necessary since we want the door to open. Real doors usually open inwards but for our fairy doors, we will make them open outwards.

Because we need to add hinges to make them working doors, I would make both frame and door thicker like four layers and three respectively.

2. For the first opening door, I used a jewelry pin with a flat end. There will be two pins, one at the top and one at the bottom. At the top, the flat end will be embedded in the top door frame and at the bottom, the flat end will be embedded in the floor.

These are jewelry pins. They can be a bit soft and easy to bend. You can also use ordinary wires, just create a loop at the end to go inside the polymer clay so it is not very easy to pull out. 

3. Create a floor and decorate. I would use three to four layers at the thickest setting. Embed the flat end of the wire on the floor.

4. Bake frame and floor first. Measure your door and cut the clay. Adjust the door to fit the baked frame. Lay your door on a piece of paper with the edge folded to cover the right side. Carefully lay the fitted door flat and slide it from the bottom. The paper should help slide it in. The pin at the top will create a hole in unbaked door. Slide the floor from the bottom and the pin will also slide in the unbaked clay. If you have the edge of the paper hanging on the right side, you can pull this up and check that your door opens and closes. Decorate the door and bake.

The red door is a skinner blend of red and black, making the lower portion darker. I used a small butterfly cookie cutter to create the top hole. Using the same cookie cutter, I cut from a layer thinner of translucent polymer clay and fit it in the hole to create the small window.

5. Carefully slide the door in the frame, keeping the hinge holes aligned with the pins. Add polymer clay and liquid polymer clay to the bottom parts of the frame and then slide in the floor, sliding the pin inside the bottom hole. Bake. And there you have it, an opening fairy door!

This would make a great shadow box. Just add the walls and floor at the back, and then you have a fairy door shadow box which you can decorate with photos or floral polymer clay canes as a miniature garden. So many possibilities!

Opening doors 2: Miniature hinges

1. I bought miniature screws off Ebay and gave the attendees a pair of the butterfly ones. Making this door with real hinges is pretty much the same as the one using metal pins. Details like the screws are really awesome! 

Your door and frame should be fully decorated but unbaked before you apply the hinge. Do one side first, I opted for the door side first. Remember that your doors should open out, so test that the hinges open out. Carve out a little notch, big enough for the hinge. This will embed the hinge in the door (and later, the frame) so that it does not stick out. Put liquid polymer clay on the screws before you embed them to help keep them securely in place. 

2. The hinges were attached to the door then baked. In this photo, I slid the door in the unbaked frame to test the fit. I opened the door, which took some maneuvering because the hinges were a bit stiff. Adding a little oil to it helped a lot. Then the the other set of screws were embedded to the unbaked door frame side. I slid a plain piece of paper in between the door and the frame to avoid any possibility of touching while they were in the oven. I did not want to risk the two merging together even for small areas. After that's done, then the only thing left to do is to color it, unless you used colored clay, then in that case, you're done!

3. If you're making it into a shadow box, I would bake the shadow box portion separately. Assembly and bake it first then attached the finished box to the finished fairy door. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

My first wood signage

I am going to be selling my polymer clay creations at Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird for the first time on November 19-29, 2016 at Everett Community College, Everett, WA, so in between making things to offer, I was trying to come up with ways to stage my booth.

One of the things I definitely need is a signage. At first I thought I'd order one, get it all nice and professionally done but research told me that it could be pricey... and I did not really want to add more expenses to this venture. So my research turned into a how to make one.

We have some leftover wood from a previous project, so I gathered a few of those and started to gage how big I want the sign to be. I settled on two planks, about a half a foot long each in three layers. I was hesitant at first that mere wood glue would do the trick but good, ol' hubby assured me it was fine. So after choosing the sides with the grain I wanted to show, I started gluing in between the planks. After that, I took some shims and used those in pairs: one pair on the left, another pair on the middle and yet another on the right to be the backing, weighed them down with books and left them to dry till the next day. Hub sawed off the extras after they were all set.

There were so many color combinations to choose from. I could go with wood stain on white, wood stain on orange. White on black. Gray on white. Orange on Black. Orange on white. White on Orange. Black on Orange. 

So to check, I made a small color tests on a couple of shims. Hmmm... nope... I like it but not that much. I still prefer the natural wood look. 

So I decided to stain the wood. It's been rainy, and the big storm of the century was supposed to have whirled through that weekend, which, thankfully, it did not. So I left the stain to dry in front of the heater for a day. While waiting for it to dry, I looked up ways of aging the wood and I saw Reality Daydream's video (see it here). She colored the wood first then stained it. I really liked how it looked so I decided it's not too late, I can color over my stain and then stain it again. 

I chose blue, black, yellow and an off white color and just went randomly with it, no premixing or anything. 

After it dried, I sanded it by hand then applied another coat of stain. It was perfect! I love, love, love how it turned out! Look at those colors. And the second coat of stain just made it look darker and richer. 

With all the colors and that rich wood stain, I decided to just go classic white. So up next was painting the name on. Using a yellow pastel pencil, which was what I had on hand, I wrote in my loose, informal script. 

And here it is:

I am going to go over the text again, bulk it up in some areas and make some of those rounded areas more rounded. Also, I'm currently debating whether I want it to have a crackle paint effect but I'm not decided yet. Overall, I like how it looks. I think it's going to be a good first signage. What do you think?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird November 19-20

Come November 19-20, 2016 I will be at the Everett Community College in Everett, WA for Oddmall: Holiday Emporium of the Weird! Come and check it out! I'm busy building stock now. If you need anything before then, please go to or directly to my Etsy Shop at

For directions to the Everett Community College, Everett, WA, pls click here.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Crabby Granny is a Grand Champion!

As promised, This is Crabby Granny in her full glory. She's feeling quite cold so she has her shawl wrapped around her shoulders.

Here she is trying to remember the proportions of that healing tonic.

I think she's about to get up...

She has a very nifty yet simple belt. It's made of jute and she can hang just about anything there while she's scouring the woods! One of her staples is a small jar filled with dried herbs. It's her magic potion, a cure-all. And by jolly, it does cure all! She also ties dried branches and other finds by her belt. It keeps her hands free when she's out collecting.

Her shoes are really old and worn out by now. She can really get mud stuck all over it specially when she goes out during a terrifying storm. She says there are mushrooms that grow only during lightning flashes and pounds of thunder, and melt with the first ray of the sun. So she has no choice but collect them while the storm is raging.

A few days ago, after sitting down and writing in her book (I talked about Crabby Granny's book here), Crabby Granny decided to go to Puyallup and hang out at the WA State Fair. She took her rocking chair and cane with her so she was serious about staying there for a while. Must be the flora...

Crabby Granny's cane is made of dark wood. She sculpted a bird's head at the top.

She also made this rocking chair from the branches of a 100-year old tree.
The picked up the felled branches after a big storm.

"Whaddya want?" Granny said.
This morning, she sent me this picture. Seems, she's accomplished more than collecting herbs over there at the WA State Fair.

So that's Crabby Granny for you! I'll get more pictures of her at The Fair when I go visit!

(It's actually Betty M, the NWPCG president who sent me the sms photo about Crabby Granny's ribbons at the WA State Fair - much thanks Betty!)

Monday, 5 September 2016

Crabby Granny's book of herbs

When I started this project, there was only two things I knew for sure: I wanted to make an old woman with a cane. She was going to be either an old witch or an old female elf. With my family's vote, she became a witch. As I browsed through pictures of old women, I gradually leaned towards a picture of an old woman who did not seem too happy with the world.

And from there, her full character started forming in my mind. She lives in a remote but very cold village. She's a traditional witch in a semi-modern era, who discovers natural cures around her and she wants to pass this knowledge down. So one thing that's very important to her is her book of herbs.

This is a big leather book – well, big for her size – is where she records the kinds of plants, their properties, when to harvest them, where to find them, how to prepare the potions and what ailments they cure. It's a work in progress. She discovers new ways of preserving the roots and herbs every time.

To make her book, I took out some handmade paper and cut them to size. I folded the paper and cut them by tearing them apart to give the edges a rough look. After scoring it some more, I stitched them together with brown thread. When I had four sets, I covered the edges of the sewn pages with brown paper.

Check out my uneven stitches!

After the glue dried, I took the end pages on both sides and glued those to the leather cover. I wanted it to look simple and home made, so no fancy folding or decorative scoring on the leather. I only scored lines across the spine of the leather to keep it in shape. 

After everything was bound together, I started to age the paper with coffee. Which is a mistake, I found out a few minutes later. I should have aged the paper before binding them! As you can imagine, the liquid watered down the glue and detached a couple of sets of pages. So I had to be really patient and re-attach each set after the coffee dried off. Good thing the individual pages were held together with thread, at least those didn't fall apart!

Once the binding and ageing was complete, I drew on the pages, and tried to make them as small as I can, with what I hope are still legible writing.

I also gave the leather cover a very good beating: scratched it, pulled it and poured different liquids on it (which I should also have done before binding paper and leather together - oh well, these are great lessons for my next book). After some time, it had the decency to look properly old and aged. But looking at it, I felt something was still missing. So I got my thingamajig out and drew this small tree on the cover. I think that made Crabby Granny happy. It captured her book of herbs perfectly!

The last detail I added was given by Mother Nature. While out on a walk, catching Pokemons, I found a tiny feather on the pavement. It was the perfect size for Granny's hand. So as soon as I got back home, I made a small pocket for it at the back. Granny wants her tools in convenient places, this helps her find her quill easily if she needs to jot something down.

Up next, more on Crabby Granny's details. This is just the first instalment. To check out details of this art doll and her WA State Fair ribbons, please click here.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

My Old Man wins two ribbons

I entered My Old Man at the Evergreen Fair (Monroe, WA) competitions under Sculptures, Fine Arts section and today, I found out that he got two ribbons, First Place and Special Award! Pretty cool!

Seems like everybody won awards but it is still super cool that he has a nice big ribbon to affirm his awesomeness. My Old Man was created last year during the Wendy and Toby Froud workshop in Portland, during a very difficult time in my life. He is very special to me. So I am very happy and proud that others can see how special he is.

If you want to see him, he is still on display at the Evergreen Fair, Building 500 till September 5, 2016. He is in a glass case in the middle of the middle room.

If you want to read My Old Man's story, please click here.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Saturday inspiration: Lucy

Today started out researching how to do a skinner blend. And in my mind's vague plans, possibly a simple cane after. Skinner blends and simple canes are probably two of the first things polymer clayers (or clayers as enthusiasts of this medium often refer to themselves... urm, ourselves), learn early. I didn't. I zoomed in on sculpting rather than canes so it took all these time for me to start looking into how to do a proper skinner blend. And of course, got promptly sidetracked.

See, I've been noticing this brand Lucy Clay Tools but have not really been paying much attention to it because they look like serious and expensive equipment. The first tool I may have noticed was a cane slicer. So not really paying any heed to the image, I clicked the link and watched the videos on skinner blends. The demo was done by a very young looking, blond, blue-eye girl. I can't understand what she's saying but it's easy enough to understand what she's doing and how she's achieving the effects she's showing viewers. The more I watched, the more I got curious. Her name as it turns out is Lucy Struncova and she's from the Czech Republic.

Nope, no connection clicked at that that time so I read on. She was born in 1998 so I was right to think she is very young! In her bio, she wrote that it was around 2011 (she was only 13 if my usually faulty math is correct) when she became very serious with polymer clay. 13! Imagine that.

In contrast, I was already 36 when I discovered polymer clay. And for the longest time, I could not identify what got me into it or which shop I bought my first pack of polymer clay from. I went through my blog to find my earliest post and found that it was back in the middle of 2012 which also clearly showed that my interest has always been in sculpting dolls. Extrapolating from my own writings, I probably discovered polymer clay when I researched how to make a custom wall clock. I ended up using air dry clay for my wall clock but I could easily see myself buying a pack of Sculpey original (terracotta) with the air dry clay then just leaving it lying around the flat to be tried later. Make sense to me, because in my logic air dry would be way easier to try out than something that needs baking!

And despite my love for the art, my subsequent practice has been really spotty due to a number of reasons. It's only in these last few months that I've been able to regularly create again.

Anyway... what's my point? My point is, I am super amazed and impressed with Lucy. A year after she became serious with polymer clay, she's already conducting classes to teach other people, and attending workshops for her to learn too. By 2013, she and her dad are making their own tools and marketing them under the name Lucy Clay Tools (LC Tools). By 2014 she has published and successfully sold her own book. She's in art school now and probably life has taken her in different directions but boy, such accomplishments at such a very young age. She's only slightly older than my eldest nephew!

I am by no means endorsing her tools -- I have never seen them in person or had the opportunity to try them but I am amazed and in awe of people like her and I believe it should be celebrated. Not to sound too cheesy, but you go girl!

Oh and I do endorse her videos! They are very informative and very easy to follow despite the language barrier. Here's the one I watched on skinner blends.

This is the Pinterest post that led me to Lucy's website. If you want to add it too: it's Skinner blends

Where's my skinner blends? Ummm... did I tell you about the time...