Jewelry Relationships

I am on the road this week and have been for several days previous, so my researching time is limited for this week’s theme. Instead of a more direct theme, I thought I would share my thoughts on things from my Pinterest boards, those poor but extraordinary pieces that I have not yet found a theme for. They must get out, I say!

So for our first pull from the polymer board, let’s look at this piece from Tory Hughes. I adore the work Tory does, in part because she makes me feel better about my constant experimentation in my own work. I like to explore and Tory’s body of work, from the very beginning, has been so obviously focused on discovery and asking the “what if” question. This piece is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t find it on her gallery, but my pin says I got it there. Either way, here we have it.

Now why do I like this so much, with all the rich, intricate texture and designs she has created through her decades of work? Well, let me ask you … are you drawn to it? Are you finding yourself spending a lot of time looking over it’s many pieces? If so, why do you think that is?


I see this piece being about relationships. We have the same shape treated in multiple ways. Even some interior shapes within the shapes reflect the basic tile form or work with it. The symbol of the state of New Mexico (where Tory resides and where I also once lived) and the “+” sign are both the same essential shape of the tiles if you reduce it to a shape with an extension on all four sides. Having lived in New Mexico, I can see the obvious relationship to the materials, textures, and colors so prevalent in what is deemed native art work in the area. The black one with the white graphic markings ended up drawing me in the most, not just because it’s so different, but because it feels personal. It makes me wonder what her relationship is to this particular tile. I have no real guesses, but I do feel like I might be glimpsing a bit of her in that one bead.

Tory Hughes is easily one of our community’s most important artists due not only to the quality of her work, but to her innovations both in the early days and now, the philosophies behind them, and the generous sharing of her techniques and ideas. If you’ve never done so, do spend some time on her website as well as in her galleries to get a better glimpse of this masterful artist and what she does.


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Resource for Inquiring Minds

I know I usually give you a few words of wisdom from great minds on Sundays, but we were short a day to honor our guys, so I thought today I would bring up a gentleman who was very influential for me. If you’ve seen Garie Sim’s work, you’ve probably seen his miniatures … his really teeny, tiny miniatures. Here is the world’s smallest minion!


Although I love his little mini sculptures, this is not why Garie influenced me so much. It was his crazy experiments. Well, some weren’t so crazy, but they were all quite thorough. His was the first strength test of clay brands I saw. He is also the first person I’ve seen who has tried microwaving polymer, frying it in oil, and cooking it in a pot. He’s worked out numerous ways to rejuvenate old clay (based on age, actual condition, and sometimes brand), distilled how to use a variety of glues with polymer, and has worked with and documented a multitude of ways to work with and cure liquid polymer. His crazy and varied experiments really pushed me to go ahead and try the many crazy things that came to mind, because if some guy in Singapore is willing to pan fry polymer, what could I possibly do that would be wackier?

Are you intrigued? Take a look at all his wild “what if?” experiments, tips, tricks, and, of course, his teeny, tiny creatures and food. Mind you, you might get lost on this very dense site, but it’s quite a fun and very informative trip.


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Guys Do Play with Dolls

Today we’re going to visit with Chris Bivins, another artist that chooses his medium based on what fits best with what he wants to create. Chris is an illustrator as well as a craft artist who works in pottery and makes polymer figures. He will also unashamedly refer to his figures as dolls. Yes, he’s a guy who clays (and plays) with dolls.

Why dolls? Well, in his words: “I’ve always been intrigued with dolls. They have a decidedly eerie quality that stems from the fact that they are really tiny recreations of ourselves or, at least, some part of ourselves.” I couldn’t agree more. So if this piece, Crow’s Gift,  is a tiny recreation of Chris, one might wonder about the guy just a tad.


Actually, Chris seems to have a particularly keen sense of humor, so even when his work tends toward a darker aesthetic, I think he is just having fun and enjoying letting out his child self.

Go and enjoy more of his work yourself on his website here.

And thanks to Lynette Yore for reminding me of Chris and his fabulous figures.


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Math Art

Torolf Sauermann is an artist and a mathematician. It would be very difficult to say if he was more one than the other, but either way I do think he may be quite obsessed with what he does. Torolof creates math art–artwork that is formed by playing with mathematics. He is not the only person out there creating math art, but from the sampling I saw, no one does anything quite as intricate or nearly so much of it.

So what is math art? It is art created in mathematically based software programs using things I won’t pretend to understand like topological mesh modeling, parametric equations, and isosurfaces. In essence, these programs (to the best of my understanding) are used to manipulate mathematical models in visual forms. Torolf then has them printed using a 3D printer which, using extremely thin layers of plastic resin, builds the models from the ground up so they can then exist out in the world. One might imagine a piece developed through math might be rigid, but that is not always the case. Just look at this intriguing piece–it appears extremely organic.


I brought Torlof up today not only because he’s an artist and a guy to go with our theme this week, but because he was introduced to our community for the first time through one of our polymer guys, Dan Cormier, at Synergy 2 a few years back. And his work, which you can check out here on his website, also sometimes looks like Daniel Torres‘ hollow polymer forms. I’m sure it’s wholly coincidental, but it is kind of cool to see two very analytical guys coming up with similar forms.

Speaking of Dan Cormier and the things he brings our attention to … over at The Cutting Edge, Dan and Tracy are giving away signed copies of the issues of Ornament and The Polymer Arts that featured articles on The Broken Telephone Project. If you want to get in on that drawing, send them an EMAILFORWARD this news to a friend, COMMENT on our Facebook page, or SHARE their Facebook post with others.


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Remembering Gwen Gibson

I interrupt this week’s theme to acknowledge the passing of one of our more influential artists, Gwen Gibson. She passed away peacefully just this past Tuesday.

Some of you may not find her name familiar. She had been focusing on painting and mixed media wall art in recent years so was not front and center in the polymer limelight but her influence has been wide ranging nonetheless.

Gwen started working with polymer in the late 80s and developed ways of working with polymer yet unseen. In her words, “Partly because I didn’t know anyone else working in polymer clay, and partly because I had spent time painting, my work took its own direction from the beginning. My main departure was the use of paint for surface effects rather than the color of the clay.”


Her paint and silk screening work in polymer pushed many artists to move past creating effects with polymer alone and try integrating paint and then other materials into their polymer work. Her philosophy about creativity influenced the direction and ability of many artists to grow their own style and find their own artistic voice. It was also her vision that made La Cascade, the workshop center in France, a reality.

We were lucky enough to have some of her thoughts and influences described and acknowledged in our last issue of The Polymer Arts. The simple but rather moving words i our Fall 2013 issue, written by Ronna Sarvas Weltman for our Muse’s Corner section (the back page) garnered quite a few comments and notes of appreciation from our readers, some who had the pleasure of meeting Gwen and expressed just how much she touched them with her gentle ways and simple but profound philosophies about creating art.

Gwen Gibson with her 3 wall pieces in the MIPCES exhibition, 199.7 (Image and the above quote from Polymer Art Archive–click image to read the associated article.)

I’d like to suggest we all take a moment to look through Gwen’s gallery, to appreciate what she brought to our medium and because her work, especially if you haven’t seen much of it yet, is still inspiring and beautiful as is the work of any great artist.


Choosing Polymer

David Vanover is not a polymer artist. He is a jewelry artist. Sometimes he uses polymer. Sometimes he does not. The thing is, when he uses polymer, he uses it well and when it is needed. Although he has worked in more complex pieces in years past, I find his more recent and simpler pieces use a well-balanced restraint that is really to be admired. Pieces like this brooch, with just enough complexity in the polymer inlay to keep your attention yet an open silver shine to pull you out without distracting you from the focus, would be hard to improve upon.


I bring David into the theme this week because bringing up his work gives me a chance to touch on the role of our medium in what we do. Many of us are so enamored with the medium of polymer that we have no desire to work with anything else. Still others find themselves in a purist mindset, where branching out and using other mediums makes us feel like we’re cheating on our first love. For many others, we have limitations in our lives that make polymer the only reasonable choice. All of these reasons are restrictions though and some are not necessary. I only want to put out there that if you feel your vision could be better expressed with the aid of, or wholly through, another medium, you should allow yourself to explore those options–when real world restrictions won’t stop you, of course.

The bottom line is, we make art. What we make it from is not important except when it comes to the material being able to support our ability to express ourselves. After four decades of exploring a myriad of ways and materials through which to express myself, the only thing I have found that is constantly true is that it is the ability to create that matters most at the end of the day, not the material and sometimes not even what was made.

So, does David Vanover belong in a week dedicated to men working in polymer? I think so. He does certainly belong in a week about men who create art and appreciate this one particular medium that has grabbed and held the imagination of so very many of us.

David’s art jewelry can be admired on his Flickr page and in his Etsy shop.


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A Perfect Finish

Seth Savarick kind of comes and goes in the polymer spotlight, and I think he could use more web presence. (Just saying, Seth. Some of us would like to see more of your work!) But recently, between his Synergy 3 seminars and his participation in the collaborative project of the year and its resulting book, Polymer Clay Master Class, he is getting re-introduced to many of us.

The most noticeable thing about Seth’s work, I think, is the absolutely flawless execution and finish. He works in both very contemporary designs and designs with the influence of ancient Japanese cultures, such as this inro.



Right now, if you want to check out more of Seth’s work, your best bet is to get the above mentioned book (which you will want for more than a view of Seth’s work) and check out his biography and images on the IPCA pages from this year’s Synergy 3. In truth, he does have a website under construction here. Let’s all give him some more encouragement to get that up and done!


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The Guys Have It

I’ve had several conversations recently about the ratio of men to women working in polymer. I’m not sure I’m really the authority on the subject, but we do know it’s small. I seem to recall that Cynthia Tinnapple and Judy Belcher pulled up a statistic at Synergy 3 but I can’t recall the exact number, only that we are an overwhelmingly female-dominated art form. That poor handful of guys!

So this week, I thought I’d highlight a handful of our guys, trying to stick with the ones that don’t get seen around quite so much.

First, for your pattern- and color-viewing pleasure, we have Adam Thomas Rees. His work is similar to that of Jon Anderson, who we have featured on here and in the magazine; but for the most part he works on a larger scale and the focus is more on color rather than controlled patterns.


I can’t say if Adam was influenced by Jon or if they individually came to work in cane-covered animal forms separately, but I think I see some influence by other men in polymer here. At the very least, there are some canes that look quite a bit like the the mica-shift canes of Dan Cormier. Maybe its just that these guys are all sticking together!

If you know of any guys in polymer (or are one of them!)  that aren’t getting the attention you think they deserve, write me at sbray(a) with a link to their work, and let’s see about getting them highlighted this week!


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Humans Elevating Nature

When I started researching the theme for this past week, I jumped over to the online thesaurus and was surprised to find that the synonyms for “man-made” were all things like “fake”, “counterfeit,” and “false”. There was no synonym that celebrated the genius of human creation, that referred to things made by man as positive. How silly is that? Man-made is not a bad thing, not when done with care and awareness.

So here is a quote to counter that negative sense of man-made:




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