Of Fish, Team Work and Child-like Wonder

19121Apparently, I am up for not only discussing mixing disciplines but also for being whimsical. I do love whimsy. That is the realm of the child and the always child-like side of ourselves. It’s something we should never, ever lose as it brings us back to a place of wonder and exploration and, by extension, a constant appreciation for this amazing world we live in. And, doesn’t seeing the world that way make us ever so much more happy in our lives?

This piece is by an artist by the name of James Christensen, and this is not polymer. But, it could so readily be polymer that I am going to chatter along like it doesn’t matter that it is made of bronze or that it originally came from one of James’ illustrations. Here are James’ own words about this fantastical piece:

In the fantastic world of James C. Christensen’s paintings, fish are a symbol of magic and wisdom. “Their floating presence in the air reminds us that anything is possible,” says Christensen, “and those touched or surrounded by fish are considered truly blessed. When the fish don’t arrive, however, sometimes a person will take matters into his own hands, with compelling but less-than-convincing results.”

“When The Greenwich Workshop first approached me about transforming False Magic into a bronze sculpture I was surprised, but it turned out to be a brilliant idea. As soon as we had constructed the rigging I knew it was going to be great; the creative work and art of many people have taken False Magic and made it real magic.” 

So from an illustration to a clay sculpture to a cast bronze, this imagery rode down the path of several disciplines to become what it is today. It’s another way that you all can look at your own or another person’s work in another medium and try to translate it into something that is all your own. Every time an artist works to translate what they see and are inspired by in the work of another, the imagery and art gains further depth.

James creates the most beautiful and whimsical illustrations, as well as other sculptures. Scroll down his page to see more of his work and enjoy a few childlike moments getting lost in it.

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A Mix of Disciplines

klickart collectionThe concept of mixing disciplines was a conversation over and over this weekend between a visit to the FIDM Museum for the Golden Globes Costume exhibit, a friend’s photography gallery exhibit opening and a wander through a rare bookstore. Some artists are inspired by the medium or technique they work in while others look for the right mediums and techniques to express their ideas.

If you read the Laurie MacIsaac article in the Summer 2015 issue of The Polymer Arts, then you probably recognize the artist here. As shown in the article through images of her sketches and her finished art work, Caroline Cornic mixes her skill as an illustrator with beautifully finished polymer jewelry. The style of her images and the brightness of her colors seemed like a perfect Monday pick-me-up, as well as an inspiration for those looking for a way to stretch out and try something new. You can use illustrative techniques by drawing directly on the polymer with polymer safe pens like Ranger’s Perfect Pearls pen or PITT artist markers, or you can draw on paper with graphite or color pencils and use a rub and bake image transfer technique to put it on your clay.

To see more of Caroline’s great illustrative polymer, check out her Etsy shop and her Pinterest board filled with her bright and whimsical work.

And speaking of past issues, we are presently running an offer for new and returning subscribers or for present subscribers referring new readers to us. Here are the details if you didn’t catch it in our latest newsletter:

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Going with the Grain

Rather than another example of great faux wood effects (and there are many more!), I spent time digging up some faux wood tutorials because maybe you want to try your hand at a bit of this. I have three here for you; all have their merits and offer a slightly different approach and outcome.
clause wood tut you tubeIf you like it quick and breezy, check out this YouTube video by Italian clayer Claudia aka Polymer Claus. I like the break up of the clay that occurs in spots due to the paint mixed in with it. However, I would be itching to go at it with a needle tool to put some dimensional lines into the raw clay or with a bit of a wire brush attack after it came out of the oven. That would give it a bit more of a worn wood look, but also a very realistic look as the grain would be tactile and not just visual. But that’s me!

woodgrain eyes


For those of you who would like a more distinct grain pattern or believe you’d prefer taking a caning approach, try this photo tutorial created by a French clayer that goes by CilooMina on Flickr. This fairly traditional approach creates bold wood grain with eyes and just a little distortion for a realistic effect.


Peraud faux wood

And for the perfectionist that we all love and admire out there, Sylive Peraud has a very thorough class on Faux wood on Craft Art Edu. Sylvie is a meticulous artist and a meticulous teacher. Although I have not had the pleasure of trying out this online class, I have had a live class with her and her workmanship and tips are amazing.


So let’s get woodsy this weekend. We did just have the first day of fall so season appropriate organic polymer creations do seem in order!


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Wooden Canes and Turquoise Veins

Cara-Jane-Polymer-Clay-Faux-Turquoise-Ring-Polymania-2016-wmI was going to focus on mixed media this week, but I have run into a plethora of fabulous faux wood work, so I can’t resist showing some more. Where is this coming from? Is someone out there teaching a class or sharing a tutorial that I missed? Well, for whatever the reason, the trend has brought us some truly lovely faux wood like we’ve rarely seen before.

This ring by the ever-exploring Cara Jane Hayman just knocked my socks off. What a wonderful mahogany and inlaid look she achieved here. It’s dramatically paired with an almost graphical looking faux turquoise filled with a bold spiderweb veining. It’s terrifically real looking but aside from the impressive faux work, the pairing of visual textures in an uncomplicated form highlighted with a meticulous finish makes for a beautiful piece.

If you happen to be in the UK next year around, say, March 18th-20th, you absolutely will need to go to Polymania 2016 where Cara Jane will be teaching this ring as a workshop. You will also be able to take workshops with Claire Wallis, Bettina Welker and Donna Kato at this 3-day event. Check your calendars and get more information on this event and the skinny on this ring on Cara Jane’s website.

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A Bit of a Faux Mix

Sonya GirodonI’ve had mixed media on my mind a lot lately, so my more recent perusals online and within my collection of links have included quite a bit of polymer work integrating other mediums. Using other mediums with polymer or integrating polymer into work primarily of other mediums rather helps the work transcend its narrow category based on the material used, and it helps us as artists stretch our skill and creativity.

If you haven’t done a lot of exploring in mixed media but would like to ‘dip a toe it’, one of the easiest ways is to create connections and jewelry hanging elements with wire, metal or fiber. I have been admiring Sonya Girodon’s interesting polymer and metal pieces the last several months as she has rolled out her new work. This is really only metal and polymer. That wood you see is faux, and some gorgeously done faux wood at that! She uses ball headed rivets to hold it together (see our article in the Summer 2015 issue on how to created riveted polymer jewelry pieces), and then repeats that subtle accent with ball ended wire that comes bounding out of the polymer constructions. The ball motif is echoed in the repeated circles in the textured polymer. It’s quite a beautiful mix of materials, or what looks like a mix of several materials with a joyous little bounce from all the repeated round accents.

The metal work done here is not so very difficult and would require just a few tools you likely already have. Books on simple metal construction jewelry, mixed media and local classes on metalsmithing jewelry can get you a start down that road if you find yourself intrigued.

You can see more of Sonya’s fabulous faux wood and mixed media pieces on her Flickr photostream.


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An Original Image All the Way


You know what I’d love to see more of in image transfers? Your own 2D imagery displayed and framed in a beautiful polymer setting. How wonderful to see your own doodles, zentangles, photographs, collages, digital art or even just your do-over of some other images. I just love to see people’s individual expression in every aspect of what they create. It really tells you something intimate and revealing about the individual behind the work. Yes, the choice of images bought, borrowed with permission or used under Creative Commons copyright and the like does say something about the artist too, but there is nothing like original imagery. It’s like the difference between reading a typed letter and one that is handwritten. There is simply so much more of that person in what you see before you.

So of all the ways to use image transfer, this approach is by far my favorite. This pendant here by Lauren Abrams uses the image of a painting she herself did. I find it fascinating that she chose this dark and empty chair to use as a focal piece in a pendant that, in contrast, is so celebratory and bright in its choice of colors and form. It actually changes the way you would see the painting, going from lonely and quiet to hopeful or reminiscent of joyful days gone by. And, Lauren really shows us just how much fun and creativity can go into creating the framework for our image transfers. In any case, all the choices made here were made by Lauren and no one else. That makes for a very interesting piece.

Even if you don’t draw or paint, you can add your own imagery. From photographs of people or textures to colored pencil on a simple line drawing to collage work done digitally or by hand and photographed, you have a way to show people what you see through your own eyes. Isn’t that so very cool? So next time you consider doing an image transfer, maybe you can use imagery of your own or alter someone else’s that you have the right to reproduce. We really do want to see what you have to express!

I couldn’t find any recent websites or work for Lauren, but you can visit her Flickr page for a few more pieces like this plus just some wonderfully well finished and whimsical pieces Lauren created a few years back.


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Image Transfer as Pure Surface Design

il_fullxfull.688326151_dofsHere is another thought about the use of image transfer. Instead of making the image transfer the focal point of a piece, why not integrate it into the design so that it reflects, and is reflected in, the other elements that surround it. Using image transfers with the attitude that it is simply another form of surface design to be cut, formed, or otherwise manipulated may open up a much wider variety of possibilities in the way you might use them.

This whimsically formed bracelet by Connie Castle is such a wonderful example of this. You don’t think about this being an image transfer at first, if at all. The lines in the transfers are mirrored in the lines of the wire work around it, and the curved and free form shapes those lines create extend to the way each panel is shaped. It all works together so well that you could easily just sit back and admire the piece without a thought as to how it was created. Okay, well, many of us would eventually ask ourselves how the images were made, but that question is secondary to simply enjoying the look of it. And don’t you love the interruption of the panel set with that open work focal bead section? It’s like a bridge in a song after several stanzas, giving us a moment to pause as well as being a way to add dramatic contrast in the composition of the piece.

Connie doesn’t stop with simply working to integrate her transfers into her designs, she also enhances the images transfers with paint which is a great way to take paler images or black and white laser prints  and create your own color palette to make them so much more your own thing.

This is one of Connie’s two favorite methods for creating her art jewelry. She also works heavily in calico fabrics, which may give us a good hint as to why she followed this particular approach. You can find her work and more ideas for expanding on the possibilities of image transfers gracing the pages of her Etsy shop.


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Altered Image Transfers

Irene MacKinnon imagetransferOver the last year or so, there seems to be some resurgence in image transfer techniques, which is why we did the image transfer tutorial in the 2015 fall issue. It’s also something I had been playing with quite a bit, but not in the direct way we often see it–in perfect replication on a square or other geometric form and hung as a pendant. There is nothing at all wrong with this form, but with all the ways the transfer could be done, there seems like something was missing when the image has not been altered, added to, manipulated or colored in some fashion. The chance to add one’s own bit of expression and highlight why they liked the image is absent. Unless the image is the artist’s own creation, the image transfer–borrowed from some creative commons license imagery or bought from a digital image repository or other supplier–is just highlighting work that belongs to someone else.

I think the reason the unaltered image is so prevalent is because, for one, the images chosen usually look beautiful on their own, but more importantly, there aren’t a lot of examples out there showing what else can be done with them. My explorations in this are, for the most part, not ready for prime time, but there are others out there using image transfer as a means of self-expression or an expression of their aesthetics that I thought might help get the ball rolling for some of you.

This piece is actually a half-dozen years old, but Irene MacKinnon took the image transfers just a couple of steps beyond the simple image pendant by creating a collage of images. Whether she was able to do multiple transfers on the same sheet of clay, used a stack of liquid polymer transfer skins or created the collection of images on the computer so it printed out ready to transfer as one image, I can’t say. The thing we do know is that this composition of images has something to say and to draw us in, making us look past the technique to what the whole piece has to convey.

Irene’s recent work plays more with the form upon which her transfers are used, but there are still quite a few examples where the technique is taken step further than we often see it. Check out her album of photo transfers and see how the altered images pop out of the collection and hold your attention far quicker and longer than the basic pieces she also has there to share.

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The Many Faces of Micro Mosaics

5698826559_5e2d870f2b_zWhen we do an article related to a technique that has been explored by several artists, we try and include art by these other explorers of the technique, but when it came to Karen Mitchell‘s article on polymer micro mosaics there was just too much wonderful stuff that Karen was sharing to expand on it. The article includes a history of micro mosaics, how the originals were created (including images from Karen’s hands-on experience recreating this old art form) and a tutorial on how to design and construct them successfully in polymer, as well as an endearing story of her discovery and exploration of the technique. That didn’t leave a lot of room for extras.

So, here is an example of micro mosaics not unlike what Karen does, created by DDee Wilder. DDee created these ‘vertical micro mosaics’ almost exclusively in rings and put together an album of them on her Flickr page. She used simple narrow canes and extruded polymer strings for her tiny mosaic elements and played with the design born from the pattern of color they created. If you enjoyed Karen’s article and are intrigued by the idea, you definitely need to take a look at DDee’s rings. And if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the micro mosaic article and tutorial, you can admire these while you wait for your very-soon-to-arrive subscriber’s copy (issues are still making their way to many of you on the East Coast especially and overseas), or you can order your copy directly from us or from the retailers listed on this page.


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