News of the Day and Steampunk Fairies

steampunk-moon-fairyWe are going to interrupt our normal banter about art to talk a little about the news of the day and some upcoming news here at TPA. If you want to skip to the information about this wonderfully detailed doll, scroll to the bottom of the post.

The Perilous World of Niche Publishing

A number of things have happened over the last few months and especially the last few days, that has really driven home the hard reality of being a niche periodical publisher. Early in the year we saw Metal Clay Artist shut their doors due to their distributor going bankrupt and unable to pay them. Yesterday, we got the news that From Polymer to Art is closing up shop due to the burden of a difficult personal loss. After that announcement I got several texts and messages asking if our magazine is doing okay. The answer is, yes, TPA is doing well. But, we micro publishers do sit very precariously in this world.

I was reminded of this last week when computer issues resulted in nearly 4 days of lost work. Then not one, but two contributors had to pull out due to health and personal issue. To top it off, I tore a cornea a few days ago and was unable to work for any length of time for several days.

As I lay there, eyes closed trying not to move my eyeballs, praying this corneal tear was not a bad one (I have weak corneas so this is not a new thing for me and luckily this wasn’t a bad one), I thought about how easy it would for this business go down. If I couldn’t work for a time, the magazine would simply not happen. Many niche and material specific craft magazines are in a similar boat. There is usually just one or two people holding it together.

Behind the Scenes of The Polymer Arts

For those of you who don’t know, TPA is run out of my home, and I am the only full-time person on the crew. I have a handful of wonderful part-time contractors, a couple amazing volunteers and a distribution partnership with The Great Create (manufacturers and distributors of Lisa Pavelka and Christi Friesen products). I have it so things won’t come to a screeching halt if I am out of commission for any length of time, but nothing further would be produced. So, I have to keep going no matter what to keep this house of cards from falling down.

Now, why would I do this to myself and ultimately to my readers? Simply because there is no other way it could exist. Periodicals are not the cash cows they may seem to be. Every business and service we deal with takes an inordinately large chunk, and then often asks for more. There’s no much left for staffing.  So we work more, sleep less and live off your beautiful thank you emails and messages about how we’ve provided motivation, courage, knowledge or inspiration for you to do something you could not or would not do before. These notes may not pay the bills, but they bury any regrets that rise up as we sit editing or number crunching at 3 am.

So bottom line, TPA is not in any danger, but we have our challenges. I like to think that the universe is just checking to see if I really still want to do this. The answer is yes! Just keep supporting the micro businesses you love and depend on with whatever purchases you can afford and we’ll keep working away.

Odd Blog for the month of May

That all said, this coming month, we will have more than our usual share of challenges. The house will be under construction for about a week, I will be relocating my office to another room, and there is also a good possibility I’ll need a minor bit of surgery at some point. On top of all this, there is the Summer issue to get out, which is going to be later than scheduled, although, it should be released before May is up. In other words, it’s going to be nuts, and something will have to give. So here’s the deal …

During the month of May, I am going to reduce the blog to 3 times a week. Even with this, you may be seeing some very brief posts. I’ll do what I can, but please be understanding if things get a little lean over here.

Newsletters, if you get those, will also be on the short side. But, I promise they will be worth opening nonetheless!

Also, if you have general questions, comments, or any kind of query about the magazine or your subscription, to get a quick response, you will want to write my wonderful assistant Kat, not me directly, at connect(not sbray), and she will get back to you within one business day.

A Steampunk Fairy

In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful doll by Amanda Haney. I couldn’t go through this week without taking a bow to the polymer fairies. Fairies must  be the most commonly produced polymer doll. I know that may not make this seem unique enough to present, but there is a reason for their popularity that can’t be ignore. They are charming, and polymer lends itself to truly fantastical creations.

Amanda’s Steampunk Moon Fairy includes some fun little touches like the moon morphing into (or out of) a gear at the top, and the bones of the wings being replaced with hinged bars and gears. It’s just a fun piece. And fun is certainly a legitimate mode of art.

Find more of Amanda’s skillfully crafted dolls on her pages on Elfwood, a long-standing home for Science Fiction and Fantasy artists to post their portfolios.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - News of the Day and Steampunk Fairies   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - News of the Day and Steampunk Fairies  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - News of the Day and Steampunk Fairies  sfxpaad-diffuse

Too Strangely Cute

goonies Gesine k dollOkay, yes, I’m sneaking this one in on Art Doll week when it would probably be better categorized under sculpture or illustration, but I don’t know when else I will get to share the immensely entertaining work of Gesine Kratzner. We have doll-like forms, props and a story told through the expressions; all things that are common with most doll art. But mostly, we have smiles. On our faces. Do we not?

Gesine is from Germany, educated in the UK and now lives and breathes life into her creations in Portland, Oregon. Technically, she’s an animator but pieces like these are where her heart is at. As she says, “Most of all, I love to draw and sculpt squiggly creatures and to dream up small worlds and stories for them to inhabit.” Creatures. Dolls. Pretty much the same thing.

Her creatures are polymer clay with color added through acrylic paint. Polymer purists might cringe at the mention of painted polymer, but the look she gets is not something that could be done with polymer alone. I imagine it also allows her to spontaneously and freely create the forms leaving color until later when the personalities have made themselves known. Her process certainly shows a lot of personality.

You can further entertain yourself with Gesine’s pieces by heading over to her website. And, if you fall in love with these faces and want to own your own little creature, you can grab them up in her Etsy shop that goes by the sophisticated name of  … Blobhouse.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.


Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - Too Strangely Cute   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - Too Strangely Cute  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - Too Strangely Cute  sfxpaad-diffuse

Figurative Decor

Laura balombini-Just teaWe are going to go from darkly beautiful to wonderfully whimsical and from a doll in every aspect to a doll-like object in order to show just how wide-ranging the idea of doll art can be.

This teapot doll is by Laura Balombini. Laura used to be quite an active contributor to the pool of polymer art, but in recent years, she has focused on ceramics and painting. Her imagery has also moved from the realm of whimsy to one of contemplation and heavier on the symbolism and mood.This is not to say that her creative wire and polymer works weren’t filled with symbolism, but the joy of these pieces take center stage. I love that she was not bound by the standard idea of either a doll or a teapot. And, why can’t you make something be both?

It is not unusual, especially this century, to see doll and objects merge, resulting in pieces that might be hard to categorize—is it figurative home decor or a doll-like functional item? In the end it matters very little what they would be labeled as, only that the spirit of doll art—both expressive and decorative– comes through for the viewer to enjoy. Don’t you think?

To find more of Laura’s work in polymer, search Google images under her name plus the keyword ‘polymer’, or for a quick view, here is a nice blog post about her polymer work where I found this photo.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - Figurative Decor   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - Figurative Decor  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - Figurative Decor  sfxpaad-diffuse

Moving into Doll Art

VRopars fall dollI have been wanting to do a week of doll art for some time, but finding work that most of you readers can draw inspiration from is not easy. A lot of doll art is about painting and creating the costumes for the figures created. Those that are mostly polymer, included the clothing and props, are highly sculptural. Although admirable and certain to bring a smile to many a reader’s face, the question was could all you many non-doll makers get as much out of a doll week as a jewelry centric week of posts. Well, I guess we’ll find out now!

Most of my pics will have more than just sculpture and fabric. But, even the fabric, the painting, the forms, composition, lines of the limbs, color palettes and so much more can be immensely inspiring. So, even if you never see yourself making a doll, when you find yourself drawn to one or a particular aspect of it, try to figure out why. And, when you can identify that particular thing you are drawn to ask, “Can that be translated into what I do in polymer?” We are not talking mimicking what you see, but identifying the characteristic you are drawn to and asking yourself if that kind of thing could work well in your work and would you enjoy it?

For instance, this piece has an amazing color palette. Do you feel a connection to these colors and the emotion they emanate? How about the decorative aspect? Do you like the textures and the swirling folds of the fabric? Can you create more movement in the way you shape or fold your clay? Would crowding texture and form like this be something you can see yourself doing in your own way, with your own favored techniques? Of course, you can just sit back and enjoy the amazing talent I hope to share with you.

This, of course, is the renowned mixed medium sculptor Virginie Ropars. Polymer is her primary medium in these pieces, but she also doesn’t limit what she will add to it. Her work truly transcends the mediums she uses. Her pieces are strikingly beautiful and hold a kind of magnetic energy and grace even though they are often a bit frightening and dark. The thing is, beauty is in everything, and so someone, somewhere, will come out and celebrate it, and sometimes, we are in awe in spite of our personal preferences.

More of Virginie’s dark aesthetic can be admired on her webpage here, but if you want a quick overview, drop her name into Google images and be prepared to be a little overwhelmed, but in a very pleasant way, I think.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - Moving into Doll Art   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - Moving into Doll Art  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - Moving into Doll Art  sfxpaad-diffuse

A Gateway Tutorial to the World of Polymer Boxes

polymer_clay_tutorial_-_matchbox_amulets_part_2_-_inner_sanctum_8b1de758I figured there were a number of you who might have been intrigued by the containment form of adornment this week but thought it would be too much work to get into it. However, I have found a ‘gateway’ tutorial that might just get you addicted to the idea of making container necklaces. Then, you might find yourself moving onto purses or who know what else. In any case, if you like the form, you really should give it a try.

These matchbox amulets, as Tina Holden calls them, address both the inside and outside of this form. They have a slider similar to inros, but a construction that may be a bit more accessible to the novice box maker. She sells a two-part tutorial on her ArtFire page for those of you who want to jump in with pretty much guaranteed success. If you have already played around or you create container adornments, this could be inspiration for a new form.

You can find the two-part tutorial on this link here, or, if you don’t want to dive in wholly at this point, you can get Part 1 here, and then go for Part 2 later when you see just how addictive it is! She has a lot of other tutorials to offer, so if you aren’t up for boxes right now, still stop by her shop to see if something else piques your interest.

*Update: If you want to try your hand at another polymer matchbox design, Randee Ketzel sent this link to an older tutorial where it is opened by moving the outside of the box up the cord rather than pulling the inside up. This would not be ideal to hold loose objects (if the outside gets jostled up, items could fall out) but looks to work great as an amulet with hidden items secured inside. It is free so you can give it a try before you buy something more detailed like Tina’s tutorial:  Thanks for that Randee!


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - A Gateway Tutorial to the World of Polymer Boxes   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - A Gateway Tutorial to the World of Polymer Boxes  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - A Gateway Tutorial to the World of Polymer Boxes  sfxpaad-diffuse

Outside Inspiration: Little Silver Box


As I was picking out work for this week and looking at inros, box pendants and purses, it crossed my mind that someone needs to make purse necklaces that are functional. I don’t like carrying around a purse (I’m too likely to put it down and forget it!), so wouldn’t it be great if we had something we could just hang around our necks to carry the essentials? Well, that’s probably not practical because we all we carry so much these days, but it did lead me to search for a crossover type piece, which then led me to Terry Kovalcik and these amazing metal clay box pendants. Most of his necklaces are containers of some sort with all different forms and approaches. His passion for this kind of work is evident in these couple lines from his artist statement:

“I’ve become passionate about making boxes that allow me to work on both the inside and outside designs—with the mystery of its interior and the secrets that can be hidden inside. These little surprises are special gifts to the wearer that they can choose to share with others.”

So true. That mystery, not knowing what is hidden within adds a whole other dimension to the impact these pieces will have on a viewer. And, the wearer gets to carry around a little something they can keep as a secret or share with others. With forms like this one, I see an easy transition to polymer clay for those inspired by his forms.

Drop in on Terry’s website to see the other boxes he’s made. If you’re really intrigued, there are few more that can be found if you search Google images. You will see photos of pieces both closed and open.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - Outside Inspiration: Little Silver Box   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - Outside Inspiration: Little Silver Box  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - Outside Inspiration: Little Silver Box  sfxpaad-diffuse

Giving Your Piece Purpose

nicolas nora box pendantCovering containers is not a new concept for clayers, but how small would you go? There are all kinds of small boxes, tubes, and cases out there that can be transformed into interesting polymer container adornments. This pendant by Cyprus’ Nicolas and Nora is just one such example I dug up. They’ve given the container a very specific purpose as well, which is just about as interesting as this charming pendant.

They label these ‘prayer box necklaces’ in their Etsy listing. They go on to describe in detail what a prayer box is and how to use it by saying these are “used by religious faithful to help them focus on their specific prayer needs and to facilitate contemplation on one’s faith … most people stuff notes of prayer items into the boxes. Think about what you truly want and write it down. Writing your desires out give them energy and increase the likelihood that your wishes will be answered.”

Not only is it a nice idea, but by giving the pendant a particular purpose is also a smart way to sell. It’s not unlike staging a house. If you can show people just what they can do with what you have for them, they are much more likely to buy because they can imagine, in a very specific way, how they themselves would use your piece. So, if you do make any kind of container adornment or house decor, display and photograph the work with possible things it could contain, not as a primary presentation, but for the purpose of selling such as you would in your online shop or at a craft show. It turns the work from just something beautiful to look at (not that this shouldn’t be enough!) into something the buyer/wearer can customize and use for a more personal and connected interaction with your work.

Nicolas and Nora don’t seem to have any more of these container-style necklaces in their shop right now, but if you like this earthy, bohemian look, or are curious what other personal approaches they use to grab the interest of their potential customers, jump on over to their Etsy shop and take a look around.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - Giving Your Piece Purpose   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - Giving Your Piece Purpose  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - Giving Your Piece Purpose  sfxpaad-diffuse

An Accessory with Room to Play

ThermesosPurseforWeb-700x525We’re going to move from container pendants to another type of container accessory, the purse. Purses are not the easiest creations to make in polymer, but with all that open space, there is so much that could be done. And, this is one of the huge advantages of artistic container accessories–you have a lot of real estate and several sides to work with. For those of you that sell, also consider that handbags have a high price point, so all the hard work that you put into your masterpiece is more likely to be well paid for.

It would be impossible to bring this form up without mentioning the queen of polymer handbags, Kathleen Dustin. Over the last year or so she has been working in a beautiful series she calls The World Traveler, highly influenced by the amazing ceramicist Vicki Grant who I’ve featured on here a couple of times before. Kathleen’s work has a wide breadth of texture, motifs, forms and color palettes, but the approach and craftsmanship is still quite readily recognizable. She has created some very complex purses in the past, but I found this one particularly appealing because it is a bit more straightforward, and its relatively simple structure allows the treatment of the clay to really shine. I also figured, if you ever wanted to try your hand at polymer purses, you can readily see here that it can be typically purse-like but highly artistic with so much room for play.

It seems like only a handful of purses and necklaces from her recent collections have been making the rounds on the Internet, so do stop and treat yourself to a more extensive view on her website. And a happy birthday to Kathleen who, yesterday, celebrated another year on this earth and another year regaling us with her beautiful work. Keep it up for many, many more years if you would please!


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - An Accessory with Room to Play   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - An Accessory with Room to Play  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - An Accessory with Room to Play  sfxpaad-diffuse

The Form of a Box Pendant

enkhe box as pendantsHere is another take on the inro form; although, the creator has labeled these “Box as Pendant” pieces. Enkhtsetseg Tserenbadam’s versions are not as heavily decorated as what we saw yesterday, but the variety of forms is a pleasure to see. The interest lies in the surface treatment and color combinations, which subtly accent the primarily organic forms.

Enkhe’s work is often hollow, although, not always in order to hold something and not always as a jewelry. She makes purses and table top boxes. She does play a lot with hollow forms in her jewelry but with many a revealing opening. Her largely minimal palettes make her forms particularly important, and that is where most of her focus lies.

Enkhe’s work can be found online, primarily on her art website.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

Never Knead 125x125 april2015 - The Form of a Box Pendant   Polymer Clay Workshop 3 30 15 ad - The Form of a Box Pendant  TPA_McGuire_blog ad  TPA Blog Newsletter Ad ShadesofClay 1014 v2 - The Form of a Box Pendant  sfxpaad-diffuse

%d bloggers like this: