The Best Homemade Gift Ideas Monthly Digest: free-gift-ideas-newsletter-July2009.html

by: Brenda Mullard

Table of Contents:

1. Happy Birthday America!

2. BBQ Anyone?

3. Welcome New Subscribers

4. What's new?

5.Crafter/Artist Interview of the Month

6. Project of The Month

7. Reader Recipes

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Daniel Pollera

1) Happy Birthday America!

Picnics, fireworks, family and friends. That sounds like the perfect way to celebrate a birthday! For me the 4th of July means camping. I think I talked about this last year at this time, but my family goes camping in Oconto, WI. I have a few cousins that live there and it's always good to reconnect with them. I also like the idea of drinking, eating and just relaxing. Although this year I will be chasing a 22 month old around so I am not sure exactly how much relaxing I will get in. I look forward to spending time with my brother and his family too. It's just a nice little get away from reality for a few days. So here's to you America, Happy Birthday!

2) Camping Gifts

Homemade Citronella Candles make a great gift for the outdoorsy person. I am making a bunch of these to take camping with us over the 4th of July weekend. I am planning on giving them to everyone in our camping party!

3.Welcome New Subscribers A big welcome goes out to all of my new subscribers! This website wouldn't be worth creating if it weren't for my wonderful valued readers. Thanks for your continued support! It's great to have you here with me. I love to find out where everyone is from and what it is you create and do. Please drop me an e-mail if you get a chance. I am always looking for new artists or crafters each month for this newsletter.

4)What’s New? Check out the homemade gift ideas on the Friends gift idea page and the summer gifts ideas page I have also added new card to my paper greeting cards shop I have just opened another greeting card shop at Zazzle I have been blogging away with crafty gift ideas, recipes and tips for gift giving on my Best Homemade Gift Ideas Blog I try to update my blog daily with new project ideas, tips, tricks. Feel free to stop by everyday! Become a follower and get notified when a new post is added!

5.Crafter/Artist Interview of the Month

Artist/Crafter of the Month This month our artist is a very talented sculptor who uses polymer clay to make wedding memories. This woman really knows how to top a cake! I am so happy to introduce you all to Dawn Syubitsch from Summerville, SC.

1)Dawn, you look like a very busy lady. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Your family?

Yes, I'm very busy! My cake toppers take a great deal of my time and I am active in my church. I also enjoy making jewelry out of polymer clay and am in the process of making that a larger part of my polymer claying. I've also done some graphic design but my passion is sculpture. My son and his wife and their 3 year old son, live with my husband ,Jon, and myself at the moment and I have a daughter at Clemson University. My husband of 34 years works for Boeing on their flight simulator here in Charleston. We retired here in Charleston after 20 years in the Airforce. My dad retired from the Airforce here also and we wanted to be around family. Charleston's a beautiful place. We actually live in Summerville but it's all considered the "Charleston Area".

2)How did you get interested in working with polymer clay?

I first discovered polymer clay when my kids were little. I was doing wood sculpting but it's messy and hard to do while chasing toddlers. I got hold of a magazine that had an article about making a figure in polymer clay. I had never even heard of the stuff but I was intrigued. I bought some Sculpey which didn't come in all the colors yet and made my first figure. I was instantly hooked. I thought I could make these Kid figures and then maybe try to sell them. I could do it inside and watch the kids at the same time.Since it didn't come in colors I had to paint the figures. I devised a way to bake and disassemble the figures so I could paint each part and then put it together. The clothing could be complicated and it is very hard to paint details without getting it where it wasn't supposed to go and each piece needed to be painted several times.

3)How does the process of making a polymer clay cake topper begin?

I start with the faces. I refer to photos that are sent to me and try to get a good likeness. The heads range from 3/4" to about 1". It's hard to go smaller because of the sizes of my tools. The had sizes have gotten smaller over the years. I never thought I would ever be making them this small. I think my first face was about 2" tall and I thought that was the smallest I'd ever go. I use the white glass heads of straight pins for the eyes. The finished figures are between 6.5 and 7.5 " tall. I then make a sturdy metal armature and then build up the torso with clay. When the torso is finished I attach the head and bake it for the first time. I usually finish the groom first so I can arrange the brides dress around his pants and shoes. I bake the figures multiple times to set up the clay so that I don't mess up the earlier applications of clay. I try to smooth the clay as much as I can but it still needs to be sanded especially when clay has to be added to fill a crack or hole or dip in the clay that I'm not happy with. I don't add the brides arms until last or they would just get in the way. When I am going to bake a figure multiple times I don't bake at the higher temps because the clay will darken some and then not match when you add more clay like the bodice added to the baked skirt part of the dress. That means that the clay is fragile so it has to be handled carefully especially when sanding. If it does crack I just add more clay to repair the damage. Once everything is in place I do a final long bake at the curing temperature but I wrap the figures in polyester batting to protect the figures.

4)Where do you create your cake toppers? Do you have pictures of your work space? We just moved into a larger home 3 years ago and for the first time I have a small room of my own for my clay. I quickly out grew it but it's better than the dining room table where my mess was out for all to see for years and what's great now is that I can close the door to hide it all! I clean up between projects but it's usually really messy. I've heard that mess is a sign of genius??? Somewhere!

5)Do you enjoy doing any other types of artwork? I love carving sculpture whether it is wood or stone. I also really like to draw but I just don't find the time. I'm hoping to find time soon to carve again. I have a sketchbook full of sculptures waiting to carved.

6)Were you influenced by anyone creative when you were younger? What did they do that helped encourage your creativity?

I don't remember any specific influence when I was younger except that I wanted to be a cartoonist for Walt Disney. My parents suspected that I was artistic and encourged me by supplying me with art materials while I was young so I was always making, drawing or painting something. I was a very creative kid and I was happy as long as I had an art or craft project keeping me busy. I used to go door to door in my neighbor hood trying to sell the things I made so I could make money to buy supplies to make more things. I think they started to hide when they saw me coming!

7)How many cake toppers do you make each year and what are your prices for these beautiful sculptures?

I started by doing maybe 20 toppers a year but I could never do that many now. I put much more time and detail into my toppers now and that takes a lot more time. I've actually just decided to cut way back and only do about 4-6 a year hope that my jewelry can fill in the income gap. I've been making toppers for at least 8 years and I need a little bit of a break. I would love to make figures of my own design one day especially fantasy characters and art dolls. I'm hoping cutting back will allow me to explore that. At the moment I charge $2800 for the basic topper. That includes all the basic bride and groom attire and flowers. If a person wants other things such as pets or vehicles then there would be an additional charge . It also includes a really nice glass dome so the topper can be displayed nicely. I think that the word cake topper works against me when people see my prices. What I make will go on a cake but it's really a highly customized piece of art work that you will have for many years to come. It also takes me 3 weeks or more to complete a topper. One I'm working on now will feature the couple on a motorcycle and that will take quite a bit more time and work.

8)If someone wanted to start working with polymer clay what would be your advice for them?

Get a pasta machine, buy a book about polymer clay or search the internet for a project to start with and dive in. It can be a little overwhelming because this medium is SO versitile and there is so much information out there about polymer clay. There's not much you can't do with it and it can be hard to know where to start. Just start with something simple and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

9)Do you have any advice for anyone who thinks they might be interested in turning a hobby into a business?

Don't feel the need to put your first efforts out for sale. Get good at what you want to do. Now I didn't say perfect because you'll always be growing but you will be rewarded if you take the time to put out a good product. Another bit of advice is don't cut corners on your work. Have a critical eye and take the time to do your best. Quality is better than quantity. Then check out the local craft shows. If you can put together a web site you will have a place to send your customers between craft shows and build a following from there. Dont' quit your day job right away! It takes time to build a business.

10)What direction do you see yourself going in in say the next 5 years?

I really hope to be making and selling my own line of character figures or art type dolls in clay. I mentioned fantasy charaters and I'd love to do that. I am in the progress of puting together a book that shows exactly how I do my cake topper figures. I've learned many techniques that would really help those who want to do this type of work and don't have 9 years to figure it all out. Up until now I have gathered many of photos of my process but I haven't had the time to put it together. That is one of the things I hope to accomplish by backing off a little.

6) Project Of The Month

This month's project of the month was submitted to us from a bolg called crafteteria. Sarah Jane posted a

paper roses tutorial

7)Reader Recipes

This month's recipe is Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam.

I just made some of this jam yesterday after the kids and I went berry picking. We came home with 20 pounds of strawberries. Yes, I said 20 pounds!

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