Outside Inspiration: Oxidized Silver Rainbows

One of the primary attractions to polymer is the range of beautiful colors available. This gives polymer a huge advantage over many other jewelry mediums, primarily metals. Not that there aren’t ways to add color to metal but it takes some serious skill and time to control it. Elisenda de Haro is one jewelry artist that seems to have color in metal well under her control. She also creates these incredible forms and textures that are almost primal and quite enticing.

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If one wanted to replicate this highly textured color, I am thinking you’d search out rough textures like concrete and rock. Then use mica powders or scraped pastels and the judicious touch of a small brush. Colored pencils would also allow you to recreate that rough and random layering of color. Or you could just take away the idea of cutting away at the form to create interesting lines and organic edges. Or you can just admire this … and the rest of her beautiful jewelry on her website here.

Double down on Extruder Discs

Today … just a simple but clever idea for all you extruding fiends out there. Marie Segal has an extensive set of pages on her website on creating African trade beads and within those pages, on Part 5 she talks about making new shapes for the extruder by doubling up the discs. Genuis!

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Of course you could put more than one disc in if it continues to pleasantly change the shape. Just need a little something to hold them in position as she demonstrates in her post. But how fun. This would certainly multiply your extruder shape options for the low low cost of  … well, nothing. Who doesn’t like that?

 

Appreciating Accomplished Art

I’m going to put this out there so no one has to feel like they are the odd one out. The art piece I am posting today by German artist Angelika Arendt is not something I find particularly beautiful. There you go … I said it. So if you like the piece, great. If you don’t really care for it, just read on. Let’s talk about why we might want to take a closer look at work we may not personally find aesthetically pleasing.

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We don’t have to find something beautiful or visually pleasing to appreciate, learn something from, or be drawn to it. I’m drawn to this piece even though I would not consider having it adorn a shelf in my home. Being a texture junkie, I can’t help but be drawn to the visual and tactile nature of this sculpture. The piece is kind of nuts. Not in any derogatory way … I just imagine the painstaking hours it took to apply and pattern a piece like this. It’s really rather amazing  on that point alone. But why share a piece if I don’t find it aesthetically pleasing?

Well, of course there is the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing. I can’t just post what I like. But I think the real point is that accomplished work isn’t always going to be found beautiful. It is, however, always something that makes a good majority of people stop and contemplate it. Don’t tell me you don’t keep looking back at this undulation of color and dots. It’s kind of unnerving how visually magnetic it is. And for us as artists, knowing what kind of work went into this, we may be in awe or at least garner some serious respect for the effort involved.

So what makes this piece accomplished? It’s the fact that it does draw your attention. Its not the busy nature of the texture or color either … anyone can slap a lot of tiny bits onto a form–but there is the choice of colors mixed across the surface. We recognize that the colors do belong together, that there was thought that went behind the choices. In a less accomplished work where conscious decisions aren’t made about color and placement, that lack of planning is usually pretty obvious. What’s hard is making something look random and even chaotic but still whole and ‘right’.

Bottom line here … a variety of shapes, colors, patterns and applications can be used to create an accomplished piece of art. It just needs some intelligence and intention behind it. Even with that, you don’t have to like it but it is worthwhile to see and appreciate it.

 

Sparkling SkyScrapers

Last winter the cover of The Polymer Arts was graced with beautiful brocade polymer purses by Iris Mishly of PolyPediaOnline. Iris is quite the innovator and her library of tutorials as well as her blog is a treasure box of fantastic ideas. One of her more recent tutorials is on a technique she refers to as ‘SkyScraper” in reference to the sparkling effect of tall city buidlings in the sun.

The necklace here is an example of what the technique can create. She emphasizes that the process requires baking before creating so we can surmise that there will be some very different ideas and tricks to be gleaned from this class in particular.

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Iris’ tutorials follow a growing trend of artists that combine lengthy videos and printed materials into a very in-depth and intensive class you can take at your own pace and at a significantly lower cost than traveling and attending workshops. Not that technology will ever begin to replace that hands-on, in-person experience but with the wealth of information out there from generous artists all over the world, this technology and approach is a great way to get a wonderfully broad and diverse polymer education.

See all of Iris’ tutorial classes here. She also offers quite a number of free tuts  and free videos with additional tips and ideas.

An Optical Education

ST Art Clay’s photostream on Flickr is a rather amazing educational journey. This artist (whose name I have not been able to discover but would love to have on here, should anyone know it) looks to have taken classes with all the big names and obviously paid attention in class! She credits all her pieces to the original artist she learned the techniques from.For instance, this pendant’s mokume gane approach is credited to Melanie Muir. Melanie’s influence is obvious if you are a fan of her work but what our avid new polymer artist here does is translate what she learns into some really incredible optically active textures.

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The ordered application of the impressed circles is almost hynotic. Browse through St Art Clay’s Flickr stream for her externally well-finished versions of Cormier Cutting Edge necklaces, Picarillo pendants, Dumont hollow beads, and McCaw canes.

Although the influence of the master artist’s are obvious, I like the direction that one can see is starting to be pushed in the collection of work. I am a big proponent of finding one’s own voice as an artist but I also see nothing wrong with learning technique and skills through copying the approach of another’s work. As long as you take it and start to apply your own interests and visions. This needs to be done not only out of respect for the artist you learn from but also for your own growth. The fact that ST Art Clay consistently pushes the work towards an optically enticing and visually active surface treatment shows this is one artist that is already well on her way to digging her own voice out of the many voices she’s been assimilating.

Making Happiness

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This holiday season, make your happiness. As creatives, we can be particularly good at this. If you can create something beautiful from a boring lump of clay, you can take something dull or difficult and create the joy we know exists in everything.

The Universe in a Dish

It’s surprising; with the ease and beauty of polymer that more artists in other mediums don’t look to polymer to add color, texture and forms that won’t require extensive or complicated work. It may be simply that they don’t know how easy it is to combine it with other materials. But when a talented artist of a traditional medium meets up with a talented polymer artist … well, there would be tremendous potential for some truly beautiful and original art.

This is the story behind the piece below. Victoria Altepeter & Judy Belcher meet at Arrowmont where Victoria is the resident metals artist and soon thereafter combined talents to make this subtle but intriguing piece.

 

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I found this piece on the IPCA website in connection with the last Synergy conference. There is a very nice explanation of the concept behind this piece on the page:

“The metalwork Victoria creates is inspired by the universe and the events occurring therein. It is her goal to make comprehensible the vastness of our universe. Intimate portraits of cosmic existence allow us to quietly ponder our own place in the universe. That connection spoke to Judy and she created her pieces that Victoria incorporated. Patination conveys a sense of time and place. It keeps forms as simple as possible creating calm and balance.”

With these last busy days and with the holidays here in the US, I’m all for simple, calm and balance. I hope you are able to enjoy your weekend with a little calm and balance of your own.

Outside Inspiration: Nifty Magnetics

Ever wish there was a way you could turn a single sale into a sale of two pieces? Wish you had a few pieces that were versatile and clever enough to draw the attention of the more skeptical buyers as they look over your booth? Well, when I saw these two beaded magnetic bracelets below, so easily turned into an interesting neck piece I couldn’t help but imagine all the configurations (and extra sales) a polymer jewelry artist could come up with.

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These beaded beauties were created by Hildegund llkerl of Austria. I did wonder at what looks to be plastic ends on these very expensive pieces ($440). But they sold. On the other hand, just think of what beautiful covered connections a clayer could come up with?

The magnetic clasps are a pretty familiar finding now a days but I do wonder that more people haven’t considered how to use them to expand a piece. You could make beaded bracelets that fit together as a necklace, necklaces that can be adjusted to be different lengths by removing a magnetically attached section or make a short necklace with matching earrings that are magnetically attached to earring wires or post but could be pulled to grow the length of the necklace. Or make interchangeable sections of different colors or patterns for a necklace or bracelet. My mind is just whirling. Isn’t yours?

Thankful for You

Today in the USA we observe Thanksgiving Day, a day most notably associated with turkey, pumpkin pie, and generally eating way, way too much. I’m not sure why we celebrate a day that is suppose to be one of contemplation for all we have to be thankful for by putting ourselves into a food coma. Maybe the food coma is a way of slowing us down so we have time to think and be thankful. Or we’re just being typical crazy Americans.

In any case, this is my opportunity to stop and say thank you to all the readers throughout the world and artists in the polymer community that have helped to make my life so full and so inspired. I am grateful for each and every email, note card and online post that encourages and comments on my efforts with the magazine and this blog. Not only couldn’t I do this without the support of all of you but, in truth, it really has become a set of projects about and by you. And I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be facilitating the exchange of knowledge and beauty in this community. Thank you all for keeping this going.

Of course, polymer would not be what it is today without the immense contribution of the pioneers of our medium. We should all be immensely grateful for their efforts to spread the word and share emerging techniques. One of the first and most inspiring of the pioneers was and is Nan Roche. Her groundbreaking book The New Clay was the seed that got the obesession going for many of us. And we are so lucky that she is still out and about teaching and sharing.

This next year at Cabin Fever Clay Festival, Nan Roche will be present, teaching her loop-in-loop chaining using extruded clay “wire” used to make pieces like the one below.

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If interested in this class and the CFCF event, here is the link to more information about the plethora of artists and classes at the 2013 event being held Feb 15-20 in Laurel, MD. www.polymerclayfests.wordpress.com

In the meantime, don’t overstuff yourselves if off to Thanksgiving dinner but do have a beautiful and loving day with family and friends.  Feel free to share this with your friends, polymer or not.

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