The big struggle with any medium is working reasonably within the limitations of the material as it applies to the end product you are creating. Polymer has such freedom and ease, that it seems nearly limitless. We don’t tend to ask “if” something we see can be replicated with polymer but only “how”.

In other mediums, the limitations are extreme. Glass is one of those mediums with many restricting factors that play into what is possible as well as increasing the necessary skill set to begin to push the limitations at all. Work like that of Cynthia Saari, a glass lampwork artist, plays with the limitations and control over the surface design of glass. Her work on the glass beads below is controlled and quite intentional. With texture and lines that build beautiful landscape-like compositions, she sets aside the serendipitous opportunities that can be the fun and wonder of working on this kind of lampwork in order to assert her intentions and vision.

How does this translate for polymer artists? Well, first of all, we also have a lot of techniques whose end results are allowed to emerge from random or fairly uncontrolled applications of materials and tools. Even though it’s common in mokume gane or alcohol ink applications to allow the visual design to emerge from a random process, you might try your hand at asserting control. For instance you can control the application of inks using brushes, stencils, and resists such as wax or tape. Instead of randomly punching and puncturing an mg stack, why not lay out the alteration of the clay in a precise, predetermined pattern?

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with randomness. It’s endlessly delightful to see what appears from an uncontrolled approach, but sometimes putting limitations or structure in your process can also produce wonderful results you hadn’t imagined before.

 

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