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Artist Profile
Product Review
Practical Magic
Friday, 13 January 2012
Repel Gel by Van Aken for Donna Kato
Topic: Product Review

Repel Gel. I love the name, it makes me laugh.  I love the idea even better. It is a whitish, odorless, emulsion that claims you can put two pieces of polymer clay together and cure them and they won't stick to each other.  I wish there was Repel Gel for the real world. Some smelly guy on a plane keeps talking to you, just dab on a bit of Repel Gel. Wa-la.  He doesn't want anything to do with you anymore. Your kid is throwing a temper tantrum. Fling some Repel Gel on him (since he's tantruming I am assuming this would be the best way) the child and his wailing are instantly transported to his room with the door closed.  If only it could work that way. Even the great Donna Kato can't help us with all of that. 

It's also funny since us polymer clay artists are constantly trying to figure out how to make our clay stick together MORE.  Should we use liquid clay or not, glue or not, to buy the special bonder or not, etc.  So when I posted on Facebook I had bought some Repel Gel I got some questions. What do you use that for? 

In my case I wanted to use to mold clay around another piece of a previously baked item. I wanted to make a shoe for Barbie and mold it around a clay Barbie foot.  Without some sort of release the clay would stick. The gel worked pretty well. It worked best on two flat surfaces or where the clay didn't have to bend over the baked item. In this case her foot and the bottom of the shoe separated splendidly, when I tried to bake the whole shoe in one piece over the foot, I had some sticking. I also used it with bendy clay and not regular polymer clay. I do think it was worth the  5 bucks I paid. You just need a little so I think the jar will go along way. It also washed up pretty nicely.  Thanks Donna, now if you could just get to work on that gel for smelly guys on planes. Thank you. 




Posted by acmckibben at 11:26 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 May 2016 8:55 PM EDT
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Monday, 9 January 2012
Breaking in the new shoes

Why? Why do I fuss, tinker, putter, figure, ponder and generally drive myself crazy with certain things. Barbie shoes have a market value of about 3 dollars on Etsy. I just bought a boat load of shoes for my mom from Hong Kong. They were a dollar and that included shipping. 

My first thousand or so shoes were a fail. I tried making a mold of her foot from clay, a mold from foil, I tried free hand. With repel gel and without. Nada!! But I get stubborn about certain things and by George I was going to get some shoes on those useless and eternally tip toed bipeds. 

Finally after lifting up my head off my desk, wiping the tears away and pulling the clay from my hair I got enough of the pieces of my mistakes to fashion them into a wearable (but not quite yet pretty) shoe.  It will do. Once I have the formula (hands rubbing, evil cackling) I can do it again...better, stronger, faster. 

I'm keeping it under wraps for now as I am contemplating a magazine article on how to make them without scratching your own eyes out.

It's good though, something new. New neurons firing. Something to take me away from my toppers so I can return to them willingly instead of bored and tired. I am even fool-heartedly designing my next pair. When we meet again let's hope I still have all my hair.  





Posted by acmckibben at 11:25 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 May 2016 8:58 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 3 January 2012
I got a Barbie doll for Christmas
Topic: Musings

My mom gave me a Barbie doll for Christmas. Never mind that I am 42 years old. One is never too old for a new Barbie. I love her as much as my first one I got for Christmas a million years ago.

Ah yes Barbie, the impossible fantasy of ridiculous porportions, unattainable beauty, fantastic wealth and extraordinary accomplishments (if I read Wikipedia right she was an astronaut before Neil Armstrong.) 

My retired mom has been buying old naked Barbie's at thrift stores and making THE cutest clothes for them. She knits or crochets them (neither craft I could ever get the hang of) I came over to her house and she suddenly had a whole shelf of fashionably garbed models. Cool. 

So I couldn't help thinking how I could use clay to help enrich Barbie's wardrobe. (like she needs more right?) I tried making shoes first. This gave me the idea to use the flexible, bendy clay. The shoes were a fail, but I liked the way the bendy clay felt a lot like the plastic accessories that were made for Barbie, and of course you can make the clay so much cuter. I've made three purses (one of them with a puppy in tow) and two belts so far. I have a little bit of a fever. I had fantasties of being a fashion designer in my 

younger years (didn't we all?) and now I get to live a little bit of it and who better to design for than the fantastic, beautiful, impossible Barbie. 





Posted by acmckibben at 11:04 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 May 2016 8:50 PM EDT
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Monday, 2 January 2012
A Name Change

I believe that art is magic. From the Mona Lisa to the paintings of half naked chicks on Harleys, I appreciate it all. I think if it speaks to our inner being in some way, it is valuable and is a true contribution to the human spirit. But I am also a Minnesotan, a tired Minnesotan at that. It's cold here and we use up a lot of resources just keeping warm. I wish I was one of those people with boundless energy but I really do need to conserve what little natural spunk I have, so I need my art to be practical. I need it to somehow serve a purpose. I've done a lot of cake toppers. Now that may sound frivolous but it's driven by a client who really wants this to make her big day a little more unique at a price that won't blow the budget. To me that is supremely useful.

I orginally named my blog Lump of Clay. I thought this would let people know it was a blog about polymer clay and a lump of clay can really refer to anything that is created by hand, but I came up with the name on the fly (not practical at all) and just the word "lump" is pretty unappealing. It survived one post. I think the name Practical Magic is more suitable. Even if it shares the name with a weird and slightly disturbing movie. I also think it widens the net a little bit. I can share other people's magic, even if it doesn't include clay. I think that is quite practical.

Posted by acmckibben at 9:38 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 May 2016 9:02 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 December 2011
Identity Crisis

It is a twisted path one takes to make polymer clay cake toppers. Chances are it isn't something you say you want to do when you grow up. You can't major in Cake Toppers when you go to college.  I do have an Associate of Arts degree. It is in nothing. I call it my bag lady degree since that is all I qualify for by having it. 

I've had many careers. My first job was at McDonald's. A great place to learn how to really work and not just look busy. They do (or at least they did a million years ago when I worked there) a great job of utilizing their employees. Since than I worked at a video store, a cheese shop, a machine shop, a glamour photography studio, the video store again, the cheese shop again only this time in a form of managing kiosks, a temp service. (I placed people in temp jobs) I worked for a major bank and a major retailer as well. Whew. I disliked most of those jobs. (I loved the video store and the cheese shop as you can tell as I went back to them a couple of times - both have since closed or I may be selling you Havarti or recommending a good Saturday night flick)

During all those working years, I kept thinking of ways to incorporate my artistic tendancies and my need for moola. A difficult task. Nothing seemed to really fit. Then I had a baby and everything else fell away. I didn't care one bit about working, or artistic expression or anything at all except this fantastic little human I was taking care of. The little boy filled in all the cracks of my identity.  

It seemed after a time that this child was the only one that was going to show up. (he was the only one brave enough to be my kid) That suited me just fine. But now there was some time left over and the the previous mentioned thoughts and desires began creeping back in to my mind. 

I tried a couple of other things first before the toppers. I tried being an Avon lady and doing a "party" thing. No and no. During all this time and during all those cruddy jobs I had a cake decorating hobby. But you can't make cakes from your home. The state of Minnesota thinks all of our  kitchens are too grubby to do that  and the truth is I wasn't thrilled with baking anyway. I just made the cakes as a vehicle to decorate. My favorite decorating task was gumpaste and fondant sculptures.  It's still food though and Minnesota still says no. (update: Minnesota has changed it's laws since this post. With limitations you can start a food based business from your home.) 

This next part of the story you may have heard before. It's on my website on the "About Me" page. The very much abbreviated and simplified version of the road to making clay stuff.  My cousin's son was getting married. I agreed (or volunteered, I don't remember now) to make their wedding cake. They had a cute invitation with a cave man and woman on it. I wanted to make a little cave couple for a topper out of gumpaste but the wedding was 250 miles away and even in the frozen north it's still hot up here in August and figured any sugar sculptures would surely melt on the journey. I decided to try polymer clay to make them permanent. It worked. Really well actually. Usually any 

artistic endeavor I try takes a least a second go, or a third or fourth to get it the way I like it. The clay immediately opened a door in my heart. I look at the picture of that first topper now and think it looks amatuerish and the structure was not stable but at the time it was the best thing I had made in a long time. So my mind began to work on how to grow this thing. I began to research it and it turns a few other people were doing this (there IS a market for this) It also corresponded with my ability to get on a computer and actually reach other people besides just my mom and sister (my biggest customers of my other ill fated ventures) The seeds of Tippy Top were sown. There is more of course. I will continue to write and see how tolerant you all are of the ME syndrome these first few blog entries are suffering from. I hope you will read on. 

Posted by acmckibben at 2:29 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 May 2016 9:17 PM EDT
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