Sculptural Jewelry from Ukraine

Our Eastern European artist today is Olga Zhukova from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Like her neighbor from Russia we saw yesterday, Olga does a lot of sculptural floral work in polymer; but if you look over her body of work, you realize that she enjoys playing with all kinds of polymer recreations, as long as there are vibrant colors to show off.

I would not say that this bracelet below is representative of the majority of her work, but it is representative of the breadth of sculptural techniques and realistic recreations she is capable of. And maybe I just really like the idea of the frog being the focal point of the bracelet. I can certainly see this being the center of conversation wherever the wearer goes with it. How often do you see a complete, rather realistic sculptural scene on someone’s wrist?


See the wide variety of Olga’s work in her shop, on her blog and on her Flickr photostream. Olga creates in cold porcelain as well as polymer–especially with her sculpted flowers–so keep in mind that not everything you see is made out of polymer clay. Nonetheless, all her work is beautiful and inspiring.


(To translate pages you find in the links this week, copy the web address for the page and paste into the translation box at or use Google Chrome as your web browser as it automatically offers to translate pages for you into your native language. Go here for more information on this cool toolbar.)


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Russian Floral

I don’t know what it is that makes three-dimensional floral work in polymer so popular in Eastern Europe, but there is a lot of it … and most is done breathtakingly well!

Irina Dzhalilova, known more commonly on the Web as Zafirka, hails from Yekaterinburg, Russia and creates the most amazing polymer flowers. I read through a couple different pages I found this necklace on just to make sure that these flowers really were polymer. They are quite amazing.


Irina’s work leans towards romantic vintage, often using natural stones, crystals, pearls, and glass beads in addition to polymer. She found polymer in 2009 and left her bank job in 2011 to become a full-time creative. She generously shares quite a few of her amazing her techniques and tips on her website so do take a moment to jump over there and see what she has to offer.


(To translate pages you find in the links this week, copy the web address for the page and paste into the translation box at or use Google Chrome as your web browser as it automatically offers to translate pages for you into your native language. Go here for more information on this cool toolbar.)


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Eastern European Beauty

I recently noticed that there has been quite the decline in representation of the non-English speaking countries in our community on this blog lately. It is certainly nothing intentional; I previously worried I leaned a bit too much that direction since I am personally drawn quite strongly to the aesthetic tendencies of many of our European clayers. But when I thought about how I have been finding the material lately, I realized that my search methods necessarily leave out non-English websites–or more specifically, sites and images that do not have “polymer” spelled out in English. This has to be fixed, I thought, and I immediately went about determining ways to search based on theme and not miss wonderful artwork because of English search terms. Turns out this will not be easy, but then, it must be done.

I will get to my solution at the end of the post (and ask for a little of your help!) but first, let’s start rectifying this shortcoming by making this week’s theme based on artists living in non-English speaking countries. Since The Polymer Arts readership has such a huge Eastern European following, I thought it appropriate to honor our talented clay folks from that region.

Variation in visual texture is the hallmark of work created by Slovenia’s Ursa Polak. This piece uses canes, crackle, and hand tooled circle patterning, with little to no repetition in the lines and shapes of the surface treatments as applied to each bead. The collection of applications is made cohesive by the green and black theme throughout and the symmetry of the basic bead shape, size, and arrangement.


Ursa is a self-taught polymer jewelry artist who works heavily in millefiori and mokume, with a great deal of exploration into the variety of shapes upon which to apply her canes and other surface treatments. More of her work can be found on her blog and on her Flickr photostream.


How to Search for Polymer Art in Other Languages

So here is my solution to finding more polymer art when it is not posted in English. It requires actually using the translation for the word polymer in both the spelling and text characters used. This could be quite a job if I did this for every search; so for now, I think I will try and do themed weeks based on languages or geographical regions. What do you think?

Based on the subscribers of The Polymer Arts magazine, I made a list of how polymer is spelled and written out. I thought some of you might find this of interest if you regularly search for polymer art online; these are the languages in the many countries where we have readers of The Polymer Arts magazine that do not spell polymer as we do in the English alphabet. I think I might still be missing a few, so if you don’t see your language and you know polymer is not spelled or typed as it is in English on native language pages, do let me know! You can leave a comment below or, if getting this by email, reply to the email.

Bulgarian: полимер

Dutch: polymeer

Estonian: polümeer

Finnish: polymeeri

French: polymère

Greek: πολυμερές

Hebrew: פולימר

Hungarian: polimer

Indonesian: polimer

Italian: polimero

Japanese: ポリマー

Latvian: polimēru

Lithuanian: polimeras

Persian: پلیمر

Polish: polimer

Portuguese: polímero

Romanian: polimer

Russian: полимер

Slovak: polymér

Slovenian: polimer

Spanish: polímero

Turkish: Polimer

Ukrainian: полімер

I do worry that I will still miss out on a quite a few gems out there, even searching with these translations. So for those of you who live outside the US, especially non-English speaking countries, would you help us out and send links to blogs, websites, forums, and specific artist’s websites to help me with the geographical themed weeks and just to get me linked in on pages I might be missing? Art has no language barriers, but the web often does, and I don’t want that to get in the way of us being able to learn from the whole of our international community!

(To translate pages you find in the links this week, copy the web address for the page and paste into the translation box at or use Google Chrome as your web browser as it automatically offers to translate pages for you into your native language. Go here for more information on this cool toolbar.)


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Choosing Variety

This week we talked about using materials from other art forms. Why? Because variety in our art provides more options for expressing ourselves. But it’s not about using more materials or adding more to your work. It’s about choices. Sometimes you’ll want to use just polymer and maybe even just one color. That may be exactly what you need to say or show what you want in that particular piece. You don’t always want to use a variety of materials, but you should know what options you have so they are there when you need them.


This past week I vacationed on the Oregon coast with my immediate family (which was 23 of us!) even though I am going into crunch time getting the next issue of The Polymer Arts ready to go to print. Yes, I worked while I was there, but just being somewhere different and visually inspiring, even with the pressure of deadlines sitting heavy on me, was just what was needed to give me back the energy and enthusiasm for all I do.

As some of you know, the production of The Polymer Arts projects is primarily a one woman operation so at this point, TPA pretty much is my life. I love the polymer community, polymer art itself of course, and feel so very fortunate to get to do what I do. It’s such fun, even with the stress. But there needs to be something else besides work, no matter how much one loves what they do. My second love is traveling, especially in the US where there is such a variety of people, sights, and adventures to experience. The photo behind the quote is from my recent trip, my brother-in-law and his son searching tidepools in the background. It’s these adventures that I take that influence my art work and even what I present to readers. It is the variety I include in my life that allows me to keep thinking up new art, new articles, and new approaches to what I do on this blog, in the magazine, and in the upcoming books we have planned. Changing things up is important for you both mentally and physiologically as the novel input forces your brain and body to learn, not just experience. It is what will keep you young and ever curious, and thus always pushing yourself including what you do in your art.


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A Bit of Everything

Scrapbooking pulls from many other artistic sources, just as polymer does. Whereas we have heat restrictions, they have the solubility and fragility of paper to contend with. But that hasn’t stopped the scrapbookers from trying tons of materials from other art forms, even polymer clay. And then, here we come along and borrow from them as well.

I suspect Russia’s Victoria Mkhitarian borrows from just about anything in reach. Her polymer work includes yarn knitted backings, wire work of all kinds, spice inclusions and, most recently, a lot of scrapbook materials.  This reversible necklace–pretty cool design for a reversible, I have to say–uses embossing powders, rub-ons (similar to temporary tattoos),  and acrylic paint to decorate her polymer beads.



There really is no reason not to use just about anything available if it works for the design and effect you are after. Polymer’s versatility is one of its greatest characteristics, so borrowing from other artistic mediums is going to a pretty natural extension of working with polymer clay. I know some people feel such dedication to the clay that they want to work only with polymer and what it can inherently do. But I say, don’t let any one material restrict your artistic expression. Your vision comes first. Yes, a medium can be the inspiration for what you do artistically; but let what you do grow from that inspiration, not keep it confined there.

If you would like to explore more of Victoria’s work, check out the variety of work she has on her Flickr photostream.


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Outside Inspiration: Painting in Three Dimensions

The artist I’m introducing today is not a polymer artist, which is why I decided he belong in the Outside Inspiration category. However, he does use polymer. No, he doesn’t always use it, but when it suits the vision he is trying to create, polymer can play a prominent role in his images.

Andy Kehoe is an painter with quite the imagination. In researching him for this post I got completely lost in his stories and ramblings found throughout his website and on his blog. Trying to find out one serious bit about him was nigh impossible but I can’t say I didn’t have fun going down the rabbit hole of his imagination! So, back to what I do know. Andy works in painterly mediums, has a keen fascination with layers and depth and recently started playing with painting on multiple layers of resin, building up the strata of imagery that gives these works an almost surreal depth. This in conjunction with his stylized scenes that often look like paper cut-outs and/or uncertain dreamworld creatures creates an unusually strong atmosphere in the limited space the work exists in.

This piece, Approaching the Watcher of the Veil, combines oil, acrylic, polymer clay, and resin on wood. In what serious material I could find Andy is presented (usually on other people’s and galleries’ sites) as a painter, but obviously he doesn’t limit himself to any one medium. The polymer clay, which I assume is in the tree, also has a painterly look to it, making it blend into the work so that the piece transcends its motley medium existence to exist simply as an artist’s sincere and authentic vision.



Polymer is no stranger to being combined with paint or even becoming the paint so, no, this outside inspiration is not really about the painterly way polymer can be presented, but rather that polymer can be a medium used in conjunction with something as old and revered as painting and be an equal when chosen, as needed, for its particular characteristics. The medium is not the key. Its the choices of medium and how they are applied that defines a well-done piece.

Don’t miss some of Andy’s great posts on his blog  as well as the entertaining material (especially in the “About” section) of his website.


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Brilliant Color

We usually think of adding color to polymer in terms of pigment that can be mixed in or applied to the surface. But color can be added in a number of forms, including light itself.

Crystals, because of the colors they come in along with the way they refract light, can accent and splash color across a polymer surface in ways that can change as the piece or viewer moves. The grouping of crystals across Elvira Krick’s simple drop polymer earrings work off the color of the polymer (colored with inks, incidentally) by reflecting the color behind them as well as lighting the polymer up with their own refracted brilliance.



Using crystals in a tasteful, not overly garish way can be a little tricky, especially if you want them to be the primary colorant and focus of the work. I think Elvira has gotten that balance down here, keeping the polymer base simple so the crystals can shine, abandoning an evenly placed and orderly arrangement for an organic sprinkling which also speaks to a simplicity of application that helps keeps the dense grouping  from being overwhelming.

Elvira seems to be quite a bit of experimenting and playing with both color and form. You can explore more of her exploration on her Flickr pages and in her Etsy shop

Blushing Pastels

Chalks and pastels have been grabbing the imagination of quite a few polymer clayers in recent years. Their matte, subdued colors can add a subtle texture and softness that isn’t found in other common surface colorants like mica powders and alcohol inks. This can be of particular use to sculptors and those working in translucent clays, since chalk pastels can be easily added for just a blush of color where needed.

The best use of this approach that I know of has to be the way Jodi Creager adds color to the skin tones of the amazing art dolls she creates with her husband Richard Creager. Her most stunning work is probably her realistic dolls with historic or cultural representations of people around the world, but I thought I’d share one of her fantasy dolls where the application of pastels might be more easily imagined not to mention there are a lot of fun details to explore with this elfin character.


You can see her incredibly easy to follow approach to using pastels on her doll sculptures in her sample sculpting video that covers this part of the couple’s doll making process. Even if you don’t do any sculpting, this approach can be used to add a blush of blue or tinge of purple to the edges of a translucent bead or opaque shape. The blush effect can add dimension to an expanse of color that you feel appears too flat, or exaggerate the shadows of a form. It’s an option for subtlety that would be difficult to achieve with most other media.

See more of Judi and Richard’s stunning work on their collaborative website, Creager Studios.

Classic Work in Acrylic

Some of our major pioneers borrowed, almost from the start, mediums from other disciplines. Elise Winters‘ easily recognizable undulating forms sparkle with the crackle effect she got from adding acrylic. Likewise, the Bonnard Disc Collar Necklace by Rachel Carren that you see here is textured with acrylic paints, carrying the design so the polymer, as essential as it is, is the foundation rather than the star of the piece.


Acrylics are also widely used in screen printing on polymer, antiquing, accenting, and just straight up painting either to add realistic, exaggerated or decorative elements to polymer sculptural forms or to actually work with polymer in wall pieces and even jewelry. Acrylic, a plastic cousin of polymer that had its coming out as a true three dimensional medium in the 90’s with the production of new and highly varied thickening and texturing mediums, has also become known for its versatility and ease of use; along with polymer, this makes for a mind-boggling number of possibilities that I think have only been touched upon as of yet. We shall see what acrylic and polymer together have in store for us in the coming years as our innovative community continues to push the boundaries of what our medium can do.

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