Month: December 2010

  • The Christmas letter


    Merry Christmas!

    It’s been a busy, eventful year for the Cogan Station Matthews, starting with a cancer scare for Faron in January.  Actually, it started Christmas Eve when he was told it was likely he had prostate cancer, and that the spots on his lungs could very well be lung cancer.  Backing up a bit, he’d had swine flu in the fall, with a bit of pneumonia, so no one was sure if those spots were leftover “effluvia” from the flu or the start of something more ominous.  Thankfully, when all the tests were done, and even when he was double-checked 6 months later, no cancer found.  A very scary time but we’re very thankful that’s all it was – a scare!


    We’ve all had a bit of a travel bug this past year, Tiana and I more than the guys – not that they don’t want to. We just get more opportunities.  Tiana went back to Minnesota twice last summer, once as a planned trip, and another time because she was homesick.  She went back one more time when her grandmother passed on, later in September. Her other travels included a couple of trips to Atlantic City, a flying trip to Las Vegas with a friend, which dovetailed nicely with a trip to Durham, NC for a conference, causing her to be gone for a very long 9 days, as Jason would attest!  Last trip was with Jason, in November, when the two of them went to Hawaii to see Tiana’s good friend, Bobbie and her family.  They had a lovely 11 days there and if they could have figured a way to finance it, they’d have stayed.  One trip to the grocery store cured them both, though.  They got a box of cereal and stuff to make a taco salad and spent well over $100. 


    I had a few trips, too. In May, I went with Hazel and Ron to enjoy a few days at a rented beach house on Cape Hatteras, NC, with Hazel’s son, Duke and wife Darla, their son, Erik and his wife Amber and son, Kael, as well as Amber’s parents and sister. Stacy, Mel & Magaly were there, too.  Well, Mel left before we got there, but we chose not to take that personally.  Our niece, Tammy and her husband Leroy live on the island and this was my first time there.


    Of course, always the adventurer, the first morning there, I fell and broke my foot, restricting my movement a great deal while it got bigger and bigger and more and more purple.  While everyone went to the beach one day, Tammy took Ron and me on a tour of the island.  We had a blast.  She even got me down the beach, right to the water in her snazzy little pickup truck.  It was a great time, although Hazel and I have decided never, ever again will we rent a house and call it “vacation.”  Having been on a couple of cruises – THAT’S a vacation!  This was a beautiful house but the main living area was on the third level, and even without a broken foot, I doubt I’d have gone upstairs much.  As it was, I was grounded.


    Early in June I went to visit Amy & the kids for a week while Joe was off on Guard duty. We had a wonderful visit.  It was great to see the kids on their own turf and to see up close and personal just what a great mom Amy is!  Those children are certainly blessed with their parents.  Joe’s the original Super Dad and Amy’s got her own Superhero cape, too.  It goes without saying that our “bonus” grandchildren are practically perfect in every way, but it’s easy to see how it happens.  The boys are now 3.5 and 20 months old and they keep us laughing and give us so much love – we’re so thankful that their biological grandparents are so wonderful about sharing them with us. 


    Jason’s travel was limited to the trip to Hawaii apart from a trip over New Year’s with Tiana to her parents’ in Minnesota.  He experienced -40 temps with even more wicked wind chill factors and he chanted, “I love my wife.  I love my wife.  I love my wife,” to keep himself from heading right on home!  In the spring they did get away for a weekend to the Finger Lakes for a wine tour and came home with a few old favorite wines and a couple of new ones. 


    Faron & I had a lovely trip to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park in September, stopping to climb the Mt Washington Auto Road (in our tiny Yaris!) on the way home.  The weather in Maine was pretty nasty – raining and cool, but we still enjoyed it a great deal.  Faron even tried and enjoyed a lobster roll!  He wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about his first ocean “voyage,” a trip on a whale watching tour.  We had a great trip for seeing sea birds and whales – we saw 6 whales, but he was miserably seasick out and back. 


    On the way home through New Hampshire we stopped in Jackson to do the Auto Road – a 7 mile climb at a 40 degree incline.  First gear all the way – in fact you are warned not to use any other gear, and not to stop your car. Either way will end up unhappily!  That day was sunny and the mountains were ablaze with fiery color, and it was a lovely 70 degree day.  It’s a trip we hope to repeat one day, perhaps with Jason and Tiana.  We learned that my being disabled has an advantage – I have lifetime free access to National Parks – me and my party.


    Apart from travel, we enjoyed many cookouts, the four of us, and visits from Joe & Amy and the boys a few times.  Faron and our friend Peter planted a huge garden on the flat at the bottom of our property, corn and potatoes and pumpkins and melons and cucumbers.  And Faron planted another garden up behind the barn – tomatoes and peppers and onions and peas and carrots.  Celery, too but it never came up.  We got 91 packages of corn in the freezer, and I lost count of the bags of green peppers.  We didn’t get any tomatoes put up – we just weren’t prepared for that, although maybe next year we’ll take a shot at some salsa.  A lot of potatoes, more than enough for both households, but our pumpkins weren’t as plentiful or as big as the year before.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to disappoint the boys – Joe & Amy couldn’t get up before Halloween so they got their pumpkins elsewhere. 


    I swam a lot this past summer and generally tried to get in as many outings as possible, knowing that winter sees me cooped up pretty tight.  Faron & Jason continued their diligent work on the house, closing in the back porch to make what is now our “spa” room.  We got a hot tub in the fall, as well as a wood stove that fits as though it were made to do so, in the fire place Faron built out there when we first bought the house.  After a bit of tweaking and by adding a damper, it takes no time to warm the room up to more than 70 degrees, making it almost too warm to enjoy the hot tub.  But we do enjoy it, Faron especially.  I like it, but it doesn’t like my sensitive skin.  Jason & Tiana love it but they only get up on weekends Tiana doesn’t work. 


    The guys are also working on adding a workshop to the back of the barn, so Faron can put all his power tools in a place that can be heated, unlike the barn, and, that can be locked up, again, unlike the barn.  He’s hoping to be able to do some woodworking for pleasure someday. 


    So that’s what we’ve been keeping ourselves busy with – all of us.  We are blessed in our children by birth, “adoption,” and marriage and in our grandbabies, and while we both wouldn’t mind replacing a few aching body parts, we’ve enjoyed good health this past year and are thankful for it.  So as we approach this time of remembering the incredible blessing of the birth of Christ, we would hope that this year has found you all with similar blessings.   We hope to see each and every one of you as often as possible.  See how cozy and inviting the house looks with the Christmas lights?  As far as we’re concerned, the welcome mat is always out – stop by and see us sometime!   






    Faron & Cindy

    Jason & Tiana


  • Ok – skipping on to current events…

    December Challenge – Faux Mokume Gane

    Welcome to the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy’s December challenge. Our theme this month is “Faux Mokume Gane.”

    Mokume gane is an ancient Japanese metalsmithing technique which artists in other mediums, including polymer clay, have adapted. The term Mokume gane literally means woodgrain metal or eye of the wood metal, and refers to the elaborate woodgrain patterns which can be created with the technique.

    There are many ways to achieve the look of mokume gane in clay. The traditional method is to stack different colors of clay and/or translucent clay and foils, compress the stack, emboss it with a patterned texture sheet, then shave horizontally the raised areas of the stack to reveal the different colors and patterns. It requires a light, but steady hand. If you shave too deeply, you will ruin the pattern. If the cut is too shallow, you won’t reveal all of the color bands.

    Some artists stack the colored layers and then use a ripple blade to slice vertically, revealing wavy patterns in the clay.

    Each entry must be at least 50% polymer clay.

    Please vote for your top 3 favorites in the pull-down menu at the bottom of the page. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, it may take a few minutes to load.

    Voting begins December 1, 2010 and ends at midnight Eastern U.S. time on December 7, 2010. Winners will be announced here on December 8, 2010 and at

    Please note each voter is allowed one vote. A vote consists of choosing a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner. Please do not choose one entry for all three places. If you vote for the same entry for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, your 2nd and 3rd place votes will be discarded.

    Winning public voters will be notified as soon as practicable after the time to vote closes. If you do not respond within one week, your prize will be returned to the pool as unclaimed.

    You may also sign up for our monthly newsletter when you vote.

    Our members love to hear your comments about the entries. Please take a moment to complete that section when you vote. We also love to hear how you learned about the challenges.


    December Challenge Entries

    1) Special Earrings Circle in Purple by BeadElz

    Els’ description of her entry: These earrings are a special design. I was looking for a replacement for metal hooks because of the allergic reactions. The nylon cord inspired me to design these funny, modern looking earrings. The fun is that you can use any color or shape, small and big. The nylon cord goes through the ear and behind the ear back through the metal tube.

    2) Beautiful Blues Long Pendant Necklace by HiGirls

    Lisa’s description of her entry: Long necklace with brass chain using mokume gane technique in polymer clay. Achieved by stacking many layers of clay, distressing, then shaving the stack. I used the shavings over a base piece of clay, the entire thing molded in a handmade floral shaped mold.

    3) Mokume Gane Christmas Ornament by PolymerClayCreations

    Angela’s description for her entry: This ornament was made in the mokume gane technique using red, green and pearl metallic clays. Along with transparent and black. There are also several layers of copper metal leaf. It was stamped with an intricate design and then carefully shaved away. It was sanded in several grits of wet/dry and sandpaper and then buffed to a shine.

    4) Autumn Heart Pendant by ReignbowDesigns

    Connie’s description of her entry: This autumn heart is filled with the colors of changing leaves, red, brown, green and gold with layer upon layer in the mokume gane technique

    5) Asian Wine Bottle Stopper by YoungCreative

    Marie’s description of her entry: This wine bottle stopper features the “Mokume Gane” technique. Thin layers of chocolate brown and gold clay and gold foil with translucent clay added to the indentations to form the pattern. Reverse side has a hand-stamped Asian coin

    6) Desert Nightrise by Phoenix Rose

    Suzen’s description of her entry: This may be my favorite piece. It is a mokume gane necklace on a satin cord with Czech glass, brass and mokume gane beads to match the pendant. The pendant is mokume gane turquoise, blue, orange and black layered and pressed through a pasta machine at the lowest setting then stamped and carved, layered, and finished with gold dust.

    7) Space Oddity by RiverValleyDesign

    Christi’s description of her entry: This pendant was made using a texture plate I made. The texture plate is quite unusual, big holes all the way through, and lots of texture. I mixed up some custom colors with piles of scrap clay and stacked it to create my block. Smooshed the texture plate into it, and started slicing away! This was one of the pieces I sliced off. Mokume gane is a wonderful polymer technique. It has always been one of my favorites.

    8) Bracelet with Handmade Polymer Beads by CraftsByCAG

    Carola’s description of her entry:

    9) Copper & Bronze Asymmetrical Necklace No. 117 by 11BoldStreet

    Susan’s description of her entry: For the PCAGOE December Challenge “Mokume Gane” I chose this neckpiece. I love the whorls on the focal piece, which almost look like metallic fingerprints, but are slices taken from a block of polymer which was layered, deformed and reshaped multiple times. I then rolled some of those slices like jelly-rolls, and took slices from them. The accent beads were formed from the same stock and the pieces were married with multi-strands of complementing seed, glass, copper and Czech glass beads.

    10) Mokume Gane Star Ornament by MirameCreations

    Lupe’s description of her entry: This Christmas ornament was created by me using a Mokume gane cane and foils. China glass and crystals were added for some bling.

    11) Sky Blue Pink by PipsJewellery

    Pippa’s description of her entry: These beads were created by making a stack of layers of tinted translucent clay with silver leaf. The stack was distorted and then thin shavings were sliced from the top of the stack. Love this technique!

    12) Desk Set in Shades of Pinks by NKDesigns

    Linda’s description of her entry: This is my challenge entry for December in the technique known as Mokume Gane. It is done in dark and light pinks with silver leafing. This desk set would make a great gift for your secretary, your assistant or perhaps yourself. The little box can hold paper clips, binder clips, erasers, and many other office supplies. The rose was hand-formed and I highlighted the edges of the petals with white Pearlex. There is a matching pen to complete the set. There is no additional finish on the box nor the pen, just sanded and buffed to a soft luster.

    13) Moonlight K by PolyClarific

    Amanda’s description of her entry: This is my mokume gane letter K keyring. I love the pearly blue that shows through underneath. Such a fun technique to use!

    14) Red Mokume Gane Ornament by WiredOrchid

    Lorraine’s description of her entry: This tropical ornament is my entry for the PCAGOE December Challenge: Mokume Gane. I used custom blended peach, white, alizarin red and copper polymer clays, a stamp with a large leaf design and an ornament shape cookie cutter. Happy Holidays from South Florida!

    15) Bouru Vase Necklace by TheSageArts

    Sage’s description of her entry: Mokume Gane ‘rainbow jade’ bowl vase on antique copper chain.

    16) The Morning Sun by Peggers

    Peggy’s description of her entry: Inspired by the first rays of sun in the summer mornings. The dew on the leaves create a rainbow effect when the sun hits it just right. I used a rainbow of metallics to create this Mokume Gane. I added a fluttering butterfly to this rainbow.

    17) A Marriage of Metals Pendant by SCDiva

    Lynda’s description of her entry: This pendant is the focal component in a necklace of the same name. It is part of my “Ancient Romance” series. All the pieces in the collection were created from metallic clays. For this pendant, I stacked thin layers of rich bronze and pewter polymer clay, which I compressed and stamped with a diamond patterned texture sheet, then shaved with a flexible blade to reveal the layers underneath and manipulated the sheet to exaggerate the shapes. I stippled it to add a little texture and antiqued it with a dark bronze acrylic paint before curing, then sanded and buffed it with 8 grits of wet-dry sandpaper to bring out the shine.

    18) Mokume Gane Pendant by ElPasoClayNation

    Kathy’s description of her entry: I made this pendent by layering solid colors and metallic gold Kato clays. I placed balls of clay beneath the layers and shaved them.

    19) Cranberry Rivers by AshPaints

    Arlene’s description of her entry: This necklace was made to match a sweater I recently purchased that had some beautiful colors – a rich red running all the way from bright to the cranberry color in the name, then various shades of purple and green. I custom mixed the colors to match and stacked multiple layers along with gold leaf then impressed different shapes in to create the “rivers” of different colors.

    20) Jingle Kringle Bangle and Earrings by ArrowdaleArtStudio

    Cindy’s description of her entry: This bracelet/earring combo set was made from discs of wood cut from the rare, priceless Arborvita Kriskringlesia, known for it’s fascinating cross-grain show of the amazing colors of red, white & green. When cut, edges show silver, making for beautiful jewelry pieces! The loose discs at the bottom are included to show the variations of pattern achieved. I layered red, white and green clay with silver leaf, then poked and pushed and manipulated the stack to create striation patterns resembling wood grain. I then rolled it thin, cut 1″ circles and cured them, then painted each edge with a leafing pen before stringing the discs with silver jingle bells on clear elastic cord. For the earrings, after the pieces were strung together, I glued them into the shape you see, then drilled more holes to insert jump rings and the fish hook earring wires, all of Sterling silver.

    21) Carnival Perfume Pen in Pink with Blue Teardrops and Yellow Triangles by RenGalSA

    Deb’s description of her entry: This is my entry in the December PCAGOE challenge. It has a pink mokume gane background made from various shades of pink mixed with translucent clay, ink dyed translucent, and silver foil over a white background. It is accented with teardrops and triangles from striped millefiori canes.

    22) Mokume Gane Elegance by MarciaPalmer

    Marcia’s description of her entry: Mokume Gane has always been one of my favorite polymer clay techniques. There are quite a few variations of this Japanese metal working technique that have been adapted to polymer clay. This challenge gave our members a chance to highlight several of those techniques. Check out all of our fabulous entries.

    Many of the entries are available in the member’s Etsy shop. Click on the member’s name or the title link to check any entry you are interested in purchasing.

    Five (5) lucky winners chosen at random will also receive one of the prizes shown in the prize mosaic below, all of which were created by our very talented members.


    PCAGOE December Challenge Prize Mosaic

    1st row, L-R: ArrowdaleArtStudio, BeadElz, PipsJewellery, CreateMyWorld
    2nd row, L-R: RozPetalzStudio, MarciaPalmer, AlisonEKurek, HiGirls
    3rd row, L-R: PolymerClayCreations, ThePleasantPheasant, JKollmann, DebbieCrothers

    Thank you again for your votes, and for supporting the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy. We hope you will join us again next month. The theme for January is “3 Color Combo.” We hope to have many beautiful entries to inspire and delight you.


    I apologize for not ever finishing our vacation reporting – not sure what the deal is but at least I got this post up!  :)   Hopefully I’ll get back on track now.