Art Elements Gnome Blog Hop

This months theme for the Art Elements Blog Hop is Gnomes. I was delighted that Jenny picked this theme because I’ve got a thing for gnomes and love making them out of wool. You can see some previous posts I’ve written up about Bottle Toppers and Gnome Ornaments.

I usually create these gnomes with a bit of a theme to give them some character, and recently I’ve been making a lot of bunnies due to teaching a class in early March, so I thought it would be fun to put some bunny ears on this gnome.

This is the Sarafina Fiber Art way of making bunny ears. Sara created the Zullitool which makes really great shapes perfect for ears.
Top Row – lay out fibers and add blenders. Flip fibers, then use the zullitool to shape the ear.
Middle Row – create the basic bunny ear shape and use the multi-needle tools to flatten and make the shape secure. Add some pink for the inside ear color.
Bottom Row – the wide bottom gets folded and felted to create a tapered bottom with fringy edges that get felted onto the hat of the bottle topper gnome.
I made the base of the ears to blend with the hat. To cover seams, I used a bit more of the hat color to blend the ear bases. Then added a hat rim color around the hat, and used it to also felt into the ears a bit more for added support. Also added a dried bit of plant material into the had (because this gnome was definitely hanging out in a garden).
Here is the detail of the hat ear area where I used some of the Sarafina Moose Moss dyed curls to help secure the plant material to the hat a bit more (the headpins at the top of the hat are Sue Kennedy’s creation).

I really had fun making this guy up and want to make a few more like him. And possibly the teeny gnome ornaments with bunny ears too. Those would be lots of fun!

Here are the rest of the Blog Hop Participants:

AE team:


How To Finish Ribbon Ends

I have been selling Ute’s hand painted silk ribbons (2mm round cord, Silky Ribbon and Fairy Ribbon) since 2004, and the question I receive most is: How do I finish the ends of these silks? And instantly my brain is overwhelmed because there are so many ways!

When I am looking for jewelry inspiration these days, I usually go to Pinterest to see if there are any DIY tutorials or photo inspirations. Here are two of my Pinterest Boards where I save things I like (these are great places for you to start to get ideas yourself).

Marsha Neal Studio Ribbon Jewelry Pinterest Board

Marsha Neal Studio DIY Jewelry Tutorials

There are some physical differences between silk, leather, cord, and other materials that you can use as layers in jewelry design to consider when designing with them (do they hold knots well, do they compress, will you need glue, etc). Some things come with experiencing the nature of these various materials and how they wear over time.

To have your jewelry piece hold up over time, avoid chemical exposure (pool water, salt water, some hand soaps), direct sunlight, sharp edges that come into contact with the material, tight knots in places you want to untie later, etc.

Here is a list of some techniques that I really like to use:
– Overhand Knot (simple – like tying your shoe laces).
– Wrapping using wire, waxed linen, silk (fold over cut ends, looped ends, wire wrapped end with a cone bead to cover it up).
– Stop Bead (silicone lined bead or silicone o-ring).
– Crimp Ends (Glue in, teeth clamp, fold over, large crimp beads).

Marsha Neal Studio Beaded Braid Bracelet Kits (silks are tied to 1mm waxed cotton & itself).
Silks are tied with Irish Waxed Linen (Left and Middle).
Silks are folded over loop end and tied to itself (right).
Necklace design by Staci Louise Smith. Silk is folded over loop end and wire wrapped to hold secure. Great way to use cut parts of silk and Sari Silk as in this piece.
7mm Silicone O-Ring acting as a “Stop Bead”. You can pass the silks through the stop bead either in opposite directions (left) or all through in one direction (right). There are nicer silver and gold beads, but I could not find mine when writing this post.
You should put knots, beads or some other small resist at the end of the silk to keep them from coming back through the stop bead.
These are crimp tubes with loops. These are used for silk cord, leather, cotton cord, satin cord, and anything else that you can press into. You’ve got to use pliers to crimp the middle section to hold the material secure.
These are U-Shaped Fold over crimp ends. Use Flat-Nose Pliers (metal or plastic – without teeth – depending on your material). The silks are laid in place, one side folded down tight, then the other side. Cut excess silk sticking out by the loop.
These are the same sized U-Shaped Fold Over Crimp Ends as above.
This photo is showing the Silky and Fairy Ribbons instead of the 2mm round cords.
There are also Folding Crimps that have teeth to hold the silk in place.
The ends were doubled over at the very end to give the crimp a bit more to bite into.
This is also the type of crimp where a bit of E6000 epoxy comes in handy to make sure that is stays put over time.
If your silk ending has a solid loop, you will need to use a jump ring or a split ring to add closures to it. Here you can see simple lobster claws which then needs another loop to attach to. Keep in mind the ease of use with these closures. Many different options out there – you can even make your own closures.

I will probably keep updating this post as I make other samples, but I am hoping this will help spark some ideas for some basic ways to finish the ends of these silks in jewelry designing.

Sample designs with Ute’s Silky, Fairy and 2mm silks.
Ute’s multi layered silk design (not sure how this is secured in the back. Possibly slips over the head or maybe all of the layers join behind the neck).

Art Elements Theme Reveal Monthly Blog Hop for October: Eyes

Another month has flown by and it is time for the Art Elements Blog Hop for the October theme: Eyes. This is such a fun theme that I am definitely going to explore a bit more as there is so much beauty and emotion through the eyes.

Left: Anole eyes. Middle: Toad eye. Right Top: Beetle House NYC, Right Middle: Sarah Dressler sculpture, Right Bottom: hand carved ceramic clay stemp.
I love going out into the woods and looking to find eye shapes where branch-like protrusions no longer exist. And the dreaded spotted lantern fly (these were squashed immediately!)
Some different eye styles I’ve created out of wool (by needle felting) over the years of working at Sarafina Fiber Art.
And if you are making the eye, it is good to get perspective right. This goat is from a class with Sara of Sarafina. I love the little details she instructs everyone to do.

I will definitely be revisiting this theme a bit more in depth as we get through the holiday season and all the prep work that goes into making items to sell during this busy time of year.

Please stop by the Art Elements Blog to hop the other contributors! (I will update my post as soon as I get the list in the morning). Thanks for stopping by!

Art Elements Blog Hop September Theme: Foliage

It is time for the September Art Elements Blog Hop reveal for the theme: Foliage. Here is the intro post and reveal post from Caroline. This is such a great theme and I cannot wait to see what everyone shares (read to the bottom for the list of blog hop participants).

Foliage from my perennial garden. I look at the plants not only for their beauty at different times during their peak season, but also because of the habitat they create for the creatures that live around here too.
I wanted to get some imprints for the flower challenge back in July, but time was not on my side. Now that it is fall, and the garden is going to be put to overwinter bed, it was the perfect opportunity to gather some some cuttings and bring them into the studio.
I was so excited to work on some new texture plates, that I forgot a very important step: put some newspaper down between the plasterboard and the clay being pressed. So my clay on these larger pieces really stuck to the plasterboard (drywall) and when it shrank, it cracked.
Bottom middle was the piece dried as I got it off of the drywall.
Bottom right is the cleaned up edges and ready to use for pressing smaller bits once bisque fired.
Here is a bit closer up and you can see for me to press the plants into freshly rolled out clay, I use a dry sponge. I try to pull out the plant material when I do this so I can use them again if I need to.
Here are the texture plates once they are out of the bisque firing. I’ve rolled out some fresh clay in slab form and have gotten a reverse impression. There were some wonderful areas, and some duds. It is all about experimenting and seeing what works.
As far as what to do with those test pressings, I cut some of the areas out and will make some glaze test tiles with them.
I also plan on rolling out some of my chocolate stoneware clay into these texture plates so I can get some really rustic looking pieces to use for Christmas ornaments.
I also have started a series of new Gnome Bottle Toppers with these branches at their top end.
Their colors are of the woods with mosses and lichens.
And they carry a bit of magic with them in their handmade bead accent.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post for this blog hop. Please check out these other artists with their Foliage themed inspirational posts:

Beth & Evie

AE Team

Art Elements August Theme: Octopus Blog Hop Reveal

I love that Claire picked Octopus as our August theme (Art Elements Blog). They are one of the most interesting creatures that inhabit the oceans here on our planet. I love how they can transform their body shape and move super slinkily.

A few years ago I made these needle felted octopus, and I always wanted to get back to seeing about making their suckers out of some “O” ring beads. I had in mind making some small pieces that could be used as earrings, but as I started working, they just got bigger. So I embraced it and went with it. If they were any smaller, the beads would have had to decrease in size as well.

I wanted to transition from 26ga wire to 32ga wire to keep the end of the tentacle really bendy and tapered looking. Used Sarafina Chunky Core wool as the base.
Using Fireline on a beading needle, I stitched the “O” rings on with a size 15 stop bead.
I then added some spots for color using the tiniest amounts of top coat wool.

I was in the studio creating some “fall” themed beads and I thought that I could make some tentacle inspired curved pieces – and that these could be earring sized or as a focal piece. Here are some photos of the process.

The rolled out cones and balls of clay were wet when joined to make them stick well.
I love using stylus tools for carving into the balls (I use them for carving my texture plates for all my other designs too).
Bisque firing all the pieces can be touching. The glaze firing not so much.

Soon I will be fiddling with finished designs and making more tentacles with my chocolate stoneware clay body as well (for a more rustic look). These are literally just out of the kiln and put into photos, barely cool enough to hold.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post, and thanks to Claire for picking this fun theme. Please take some time and check out some of the other participants of this months blog hop (thank you for participating if you are one of these artists!)
Guest artists:
Evie and Beth
Art Elements Team:
Marsha (you are here)



Ceramic Artist. Garden and Nature Enthusiast.

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