Polymer Arts design magazine

The Many Faces of Leaves

wmoore red leaves 430x410 - The Many Faces of LeavesPattern in nature is everywhere and not just on the surface but in the groupings as well. I know for certain that Wendy Moore, the creator of this lovely riot of red leaves, is heavily influenced by the patterns and energy in nature. You can hear it in the things she writes on her blog and her focus on repetition of natural shapes in her work which you can find on her Instagram account.

This piece was actually a commission but from one of the people most certainly to be a heavy influence on her as well–her mother. I’m thinking now that perhaps this connection to nature is also one her mother has and maybe she influenced Wendy’s appreciation of the natural world. Or maybe it’s Wendy’s life in Australia and her time in the outback or her years in Nepal and her continued visits there to support the Samunnat women‘s project.

I only ponder this because how much we interact with nature and how connected to it we are has been on my mind lately. I am so immensely lucky to have a wide swath of nature right outside my office and studio here. I have tried to make a point of spending time out there every day. Recent trending reports on “forest bathing” and how short immersive excursions among trees can really help reduce stress has led me to consider how important such moments of connection and relaxation are to creativity.  The more I get outside, the more inspired I feel.

So, weather permitting, try to get outside this weekend. If weather is not being cooperative, perhaps there is a greenhouse or enclosed botanical garden not too far away. Or spend some time tending yohouseplantsnts. Notice the textures and patterns in nature, breathe in the smell of the growing things and just connect to the most constant thing we have interacted with in our history as a species–mother nature. I think you’ll find it invigorating, relaxing and inspiring!

Versatile Nature

sandrinearevalo pinklily tube 430x417 - Versatile NatureIs this pattern from cobblestones, beehives, bubbles on the surface of sudsy water, or the mash of cells under a microscope? I have no idea, but I do know this kind of pattern is all over the place in nature. I cannot be sure which, if any, of those guesses inspired the surface design of Sandrine Arevalo Zamora’s tube here but what I do know now is that you can take that fun natural pattern and add a great color palette and you have the formula for a piece of adornment that the eye will gravitate towards.

I think I gravitated towards this not just because of the color and pattern but because it is just a tube. And I wondered what she created this for. I was thinking napkin ring (we’ll blame that on a recent visit to Ikea), which, I think, you still could use it for but she is selling this as a versatile scarf and necklace component. It really does make a great scarf piece and is very easily tossed onto a chain or leather thong for an eye-catching necklace. Click the image to get to her Instagram string of images for how she suggests this is used.

I tried translating the French commentary she posted with this and got something about balloons so perhaps she was not inspired by nature but being Google was translating, one just doesn’t know. Nonetheless, if you look, you’ll see this pattern all over. Sandrine plans on teaching this technique in Provence Easter week at the Polymériades event along with Christine Dumont, Karine Barrera, and Mathilde Colas. Check out Sandrine’s Instagram and Facebook page for more of her work.

The Pattern of Nature

Sburroughs branches necklace 430x418 - The Pattern of NatureIt’s been freezing or wet or muddy or blistering hot this last week, depending on where you are in the world, but the crazy weather does not stop us from getting out and seeking inspiration in nature. Well, maybe for a day or so here and there. Nature’s patterns are the most beautiful and amazing visual and tactile textures that will ever be created and regardless of the crazy weather, they seem to be on the mind of many artists lately. So here is a week of pieces translating patterns we find in nature.

This necklace really caught my eye because it is not a version of nature’s beautifully organized or symmetrical patterns we are so often in awe of but rather it’s the chaotic fractal pattern of weather-dependent growth in the form of tree branches. The reaching arms of tree branches are a history of the climate, too complex to decipher but I think we recognize the intentional rhythm of this chaotic order nonetheless.

I can only assume that instinctual recognition was at least, in part, behind Samantha Burroughs‘ choice of pattern here. Because even though the pattern doesn’t repeat, it does look intentional while remaining natural. She does add a bit of her own organization with the consistently angled wider branches, adding a regular beat on top of the beautiful chaos. The variation in the browns also adds variety but within that limited, natural range of color.

Natural patterns are dominant in Samantha’s work as you can see in her Etsy shop. Her pieces are sold under the moniker Jessama which is a mash of her name, her sister Jessica’s and ma for her mom, as the running of the business is a collaboration between all three although Samantha is the artistic powerhouse behind the designs. She offers tutorials, technique advice, and other information through her website Jessama Tutorials.

Sonya Rings in the New Year

SonyaGiordan rings 430x288 - Sonya Rings in the New YearHere are a couple more interesting pieces posted in the first week of the year from the prolific Sonya GirodanRandee Ketzel sent me this before it popped up on my Flickr stream. These rings do really grab your attention. They might also grab your knitted sweater but that is beside the point.

These are an intriguing and different use of familiar techniques. The beads were inspired by classes she had with Celine Charuau, who we looked at on Wednesday, and Christine Dumont. In both cases, her instructors generally use these techniques on elements created as pendants or brooches rather than rings. Laying the beads down in a horizontal plane makes them feel a bit more placid than they would be in the about-face position of pendants and brooches.

Sonya brings back any energy lost by the change in orientation, however, by adding thin and reaching elements beneath the beads to draw the eye out and back from the body of the rings’ designs. It may make for delicate looking pieces and not everyday rings but you have to admit, they would grab your attention.

I do wonder if this announces a new direction for Sonya as I’ve not seen anything quite like this from her. Not that Sonya taking a left turn in her work is surprising. She seems to constantly be reinventing her style.  Just take a look at her body of work. Her progression can be very explosive at times and her need to explore and push design is evident everywhere. It’s an inspiring journey and you can catch it all pretty quickly by taking a visual stroll through her Flickr photostream.

Celine Crushes It

Ccharuau leaves steel 430x562 - Celine Crushes It

Another artist with a bunch of new images posted recently on Flickr is  Celine Charuau. Her alien-like plant forms an interesting combination of materials and forms have taken on a sparkly and crumbled texture, maybe from crushed shells. I’ve seen a similar product used in acrylic nail art although she doesn’t list that.

Here she balances the texture polymer forms with steel leaves. Although the beads are more dimensional, I like the echo of the leaf shapes with the pod shapes. They are basically the same shapes but contrast in dimensionality and texture. It is also the quieter of the pieces she created with this intriguing new texture.

You can see the rest of this collection to date on her Flickr photostream.

Keeping Dragons A-Round

vanillamaart dragon bracelet - Keeping Dragons A-RoundI thought this week, we’d just check in with what our fellow clayers are posting this first week of the year and I found quite a few pieces of new work on Flickr.

This detailed and whimsical bracelet is by Dorota Kaszczyszyn. The individual ridges that make up the dragon’s back work so perfectly as separate beads fitted together to create the bracelet and I love how she integrated the closure into the design. The closures usually end up on top of the wrist in large bead bracelets anyways since the weight of the beads, being heavier than the clasps, spin to hang downward so why not just design for that eventuality? I thought it was a great way to finish off a well sculpted and textured set of beads that is sure to draw some attention.

This is not Dorata’s first dragon bracelet but is, thus far, my favorite. I do like the toggle clasp on some of the others versus a lobster clasp but the face on this guy is beautiful. See more of her dragons (and owls … another favorite creature of hers) on her Flickr photostream.

Outside Inspirations–Watercolor Texture

plastic wrap texture 430x574 - Outside Inspirations--Watercolor TextureTrying something different this year may mean looking outside the polymer realm for new techniques pulled straight from other mediums. Our innovators all did that back when there were no techniques yet and many polymer artists still do. And why not? With the flexibility of polymer, it is not hard to work out a way to recreate effects or adapt other techniques.

Recently, I landed on a page of watercolors with a texture that I hadn’t seen before. With a little exploration, I found a how-to on a plastic wrap texture technique and just had to try it with polymer. The technique, as you can see on this page, is a simple application of crumpled plastic wrap which causes the watercolor pigment to pool where the plastic touches the paper. Although watercolors don’t do so well on polymer, I figured the technique should work with alcohol inks, with some adjustments. So I gave it a try.

The image on the top is from the link I just mentioned, from Dr. Anastasia Halldin’s blog site, HealthyMamaInfo.com. It’s watercolor on paper and is so simple, that almost all the pages I found instructions on were for kids. The one below is my experiment on polymer. It’s a sheet of pearl clay with the right side dusted and burnished with pearl mica powder. I did this because I wondered if I would need to keep the ink from sinking in too quickly and the mica powder and burnishing acts as a mild resist. As it turned out, I didn’t need it to make the ink pool and it came out brighter on the unburnished left side.

I did spray the whole polymer sheet with a good amount of alcohol before dropping the ink on it so there would be plenty of liquid to pool, then quickly but loosely laid down the plastic. It all pooled quite nicely. It took three hours to dry enough to remove the plastic so the technique takes some patience. I’ll play with texturing and stretching the sheet to see how that affects it. And maybe next time, I’ll texture the clay first to see what that does to the pattern. I might try watered-down acrylics, too, to see how that works and what can be done with it.

So, you see how just playing with the basic idea taken from watercolor can lead to all kinds of wonderful ideas? It’s also a lot of fun. So go out and research a little and then play a lot with the ideas you find out there from all corners of the art world!

Ripple Away

ripple collage 201x450 - Ripple AwayFor an easy but classic set of techniques that you might want to explore, just pick up your ripple blade. Most all of us have one. They come in those beginner pack of polymer blades so they are easy to acquire if you don’t have one. The effects you can create with them go from controlled pattern to random to sculptural texture.

I just pulled out a few that caught my eye today. The top one was posted by Libby Mills back in 2012. She used stacks and played around with manipulation and how to slice them, following instruction she got from Jody Bishel both at a retreat and through a project in the book Polymer Clay: Exploring New Techniques and New Materials. She really had too much fun as you can see on Libby’s blog post from back then.

I could not find attribution for the center image but I didn’t want to skip over the sculptural aspect of this handy blade. Cutting beads and stacked edges with this blade gives us quick and interesting textures. The ripple tends to lend a fun quality as well as the instant tactile quality so it’s not for all pieces but whimsical and graphic pieces might be something to try this on.

This last one was created by Nevenka Sabo some years back. I don’t have a date as the links are broken but you can see well enough what she did. Create a bulls-eye cane with a Skinner blend laid on a white sheet of clay and roll. Cut sideways and you have some wonderful veneers with an interesting patterned center swatch. Click here to get a more detailed view.

There are tons of tutorials online for using the ripple blade so if these tickle your fancy, do try a Google search or spend some time on the many Pinterest boards featuring techniques with this tool and then head off to the studio table with a new infusion of ideas.

Exploration in the New Year

klio1961 pearled stencil 373x1024 - Exploration in the New YearFirst of all …. a very happy New Year and all the best to you this coming year! I am very excited to welcome 2018 and see what it has in store for us all. 2017 was a bit rough for so many of us, personally and globally, within our community and without. Every year has its challenges, of course, but I like to greet the new year with optimism and enthusiasm because it does represent so many new possibilities.

New possibilities may be about looking forward but it can be helpful to look back in order to create new and exciting futures. I’ve dug up a few interesting techniques from the past in order to, hopefully, spark some new ideas and encourage you to find new ways to use older techniques.

Let me tie into some of last week’s subjects. If you didn’t see the post about the silkscreen stencils on Friday, do check that company out. That would provide you with new designs, pre-made or custom, to try a new approach with. Then try a little something different, using multiple colors and controlled placement. I believe that is what Kleio Tsaliki was doing with these gorgeous sheets she created back in 2015.  I am thinking she used stencils and pearlescent paints and, in the top two, taped off sections as she applied colors. Or maybe she is using a stencil sponge to control where the color goes, which would work for the more random placement seen in the bottom sheet.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t know how she did this as the ideas we are guessing at are quite worthy of a bit of exploration regardless. I have found some really cool, unintended effects when I have just been guessing at how other people have done the work. It just pushed me to think of new ways to approach familiar techniques.

A quick click on this link to her Flickr pages will show you the variety of sheets she created. And if you are not into guessing how she did it, she also has a tutorial on this stencil technique available in her Etsy shop.

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