Glowing and Flowing

patti Red PawI am packing to make the 16+ hour road trip return to Colorado tomorrow, so I’m rushing about and haven’t really come up with a theme for this week, but we’ll muddle through. I’ll start sharing some of the items that didn’t fit into this insanely packed Spring issue by Friday and take that into next week, so you have some exciting stuff to look forward to. We will be getting the Spring issue wrapped up soon with print issues leaving the printer’s in the next couple days and the digital being released this Thursday. (Get your subscription or pre-order in today so you get it with everyone else …

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some metal jewelry as an introduction to the idea of mixing metal and polymer. This issue has a ton of mixed media tutorials and articles, including metal, but this is not polymer nor even metal clay. I thought it might be PMC at first, but I believe this is all classic metal work created by Patti West-Martino of Michigan.  I just thought it was a great outside inspiration to share.

I absolutely love labradorite, and the tendril and twists are all too close to the kind of work I’ve done so much of, so it’s no surprise that I was drawn to it.  But I can’t imagine that the glow from the stone wouldn’t grab just about anyone, and the singular lines and varied small bits of texture hold you as your eye follows the flow from one interesting point to another.

Patti also works in that Fordite we talked about week before last, as well as plenty of labradorite. If you want to get more ideas for framing some beautifully glowing focal piece, jump over to her Etsy site.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Consider the idea of flow … flowing lines, flowing textures, flowing color, etc. Design, create, or fix up a piece with the idea of flow either in the way the elements feel or in how it is composed, moving the viewer’s eye from one point to the next. Don’t try too hard, just keep it at the center of your thoughts as you intuitively create.


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Filling in the Story

alisa Maskaeva growing heartWell, you know there is a story in this piece. Question is, what exactly is the story? Well, I think this is definitely one of those pieces where the viewer provides the story. Alisa Maskaeva, for some reason, created a heart made to look like it is living wood, or maybe it is supposed to be a tree growing from a heart or a wooden heart giving way to new growth? It could be any of these things. The message is not clear-cut. And it doesn’t need to be, does it? But putting two disparate things together, well, like Wednesday post, it makes you think. Our minds want to find the connection, a connection for ourselves or to determine what the artist might have been trying to say.

I think that is an important thing to remember when creating. Although it’s wonderful when a work can visually convey a very particular message, it is also valid, and often even preferable, to give the viewer the ability to fill in the message or the story according to what they will see or get out of the work. I think your goal as an artist then is to simply embody a feeling, a sentiment, or just part of a story in your work, and leave all that room for the viewer to fill in the blanks, or not. A piece of art can simply make someone smile while it may make others think. That is the thing about visual arts … it is hard to direct the viewer to our thoughts and observations specifically through our work but then it does allow them to contribute to the art, at least for themselves, in a way you could not have anticipated or planned.

Alisa does not have a lot of things out there online, but if you want to keep track of her upcoming items, favorite her Etsy shop or follow her page on Facebook.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Use a random word generator (like this one here) and have it choose two words for you. You can have it generate up to 5 different sets but make yourself pick one of those five. You can also open a dictionary and, with eyes closed, pick out a work on two different pages you randomly open to. Create or design a piece with these two different words. Your mind will make a connection in concept or with a story. Let that direct what you create.


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Painting a Story in Polymer

Angenia CreationsI thought I’d continue with the theme of story which, visually, can be told abstractly or with much more literal images. Today, we’re going to look at a literal set of images.

Today’s bit of story was created by Angenia (also known as Tonia Angenia Lupo) of Italy. I am not posting this because of the mermaid, although she is nicely executed and the curled and wavy polymer of the tail has a particularly nice flow to it, but I wanted to show you this painting. Because it is all polymer. It is rather hard to grasp that at a glance, but if you take time to peruse her blog or even just go through her process photos on Facebook, you will be amazed at the detail and work involved. It appears that she applies this all with a toothpick from tiny dabs of soft polymer clay. It’s so well done, though, that it looks like it might be a print set in a frame simply to accompany the mermaid, but no, the real masterpiece is the painting. Granted, the image is actually one of Thomas Kinkade’s, but the execution in clay is a great testament to what can be done with polymer in a painterly fashion.

The story here is being relayed purely by imagery with juxtaposition providing another layer of story. The ship out on the ocean, hit with rays of sunlight as a storm breaks behind it (or gathers around it, as I might have thought had I not just researched the original image), has its own story of courage. The mermaid creates another element to the story, including the possibility of other dangers in the sea. But only because the myth of mermaids are rather dark, not cute like this one. A more sinister air or refinement for the mermaid would have been a better pairing, style wise, for the seriousness and subtly of the painting for the sake of style consistency, but Angelina’s talent is undeniable.

If you have a couple of moments, take a look at her blog or Facebook page to admire her processes and other mini paintings, as well as her doll art and other miniatures.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Today, play with juxtaposition. You can do this with elements you already have if you don’t have time to create from scratch. Take two or three disparate things and arrange them together. Can you find a satisfying, if imperfect, way to compose them? Try this with a few other items, keeping track of what you’ve done (take photos if you can). Now, which ones worked better? You will usually find that the pieces that end up working together have something in common–sometimes its a design element, like similar textures or complementary colors or similar styles like geometric or organic or tribal. The other thing that makes things work is the stories in our minds. Like seeing animals in the clouds, our minds will try and make connections between elements even if they were not intended to be related. Is there a story in the compositions that worked best?


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Last Day of our Flash Sale and Art with a Story

Just a couple things to get out of the way here … The Polymer Arts is having a sale, and it’s probably the last of its kind for a while so, if you didn’t get the newsletter (you can can sign up for that twice-a-month missive with its bits of giveaways, eye candy, community news, and polymer tips on the left side of our homepage), here is the scoop:

We are on the verge of integrating a new shopping cart service on our website, but it will not, at present, allow us to do any more site-wide discount sales. So, while we still can, we are getting one in …!

Only one day left (Monday the 22nd) … 10% off anything on our Website! Yes, we mean it. Any subscription, renewal, back issue, or already discounted package, take 10% off with this promotional code–flash10

BrueggaermanAlso, today is the last chance to get on the mailing list for the first mailing of the new Spring issue, due out in just a couple of weeks. We are finalizing the list tomorrow for that first hot-off-the press mailing, so get your subscription, renewal, or pre-ordered print copy of the issue purchased today.

Now, lets look at something beautiful for a moment. I have no idea what I’m aiming for this week, so let’s go with the flow and see what my fingers tap out for you.

This falls into the category of things Sage really, really likes. I love texture and copper and compositions that include aged and marked things. Work like this, with a very particular composition, hints at a possible story and a certainty that the piece is trying to whisper some secret about the things it has seen. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, and you can probably guess I’ve been entrenched in a series of suspense novels the last couple months, but does this piece not seem to be full of some subtle story?

Karen Brueggemann has created quite a few of these lovely wall pieces along with visually textural and vibrant jewelry. And she has the most incredible Pinterest boards! So if you have the time today, go look around at the board with her art then prepare to get lost in all the colors and textures she’s gathered up on her other boards. What a nice way to spend a Monday!

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece with a story behind it–be it  or fiction a true story–yours or someone else’s. Don’t tell it literally, just keep it in mind as you choose, colors, forms, textures, and details. Don’t worry about what anyone else will think or if it follows the parameters of good design. Just create the spirit of the story.


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Unintentional Preciousness

forditeWhat kind of polymer is this you ask? Well, as much as it looks like a super well polished bit of polymer mokume, it is not. It is a material called Fordite. If you haven’t heard of it before, you’re now probably thinking this is a semi-precious stone, right? Well, precious it is, strangely enough, and although it was created in a process not unlike nature’s layering and compressing, it isn’t stone either. Maybe its other names will give you a hint–it’s also known as Motor Agate, Detroit Agate, or “paint rock”and was mined, not from some exotic mountain region in a little known area of the Amazon but rather, in the depths of automobile manufacturing plants. That’s right, its layered car paint. Pretty wild, huh?

This ‘stone’ is now being traded, sold, carved and set like a semi-precious stone even though it’s a manmade product. The reason it is so special is because it is an unintentional product and some of the paint in those layers are really, really old. As described on “It’s created by layer upon layer of slag-like material formed from spray-painting cars by hand. Each time a new car got colored, the oversprayed paint gradually built up on the tracks and skids holding the vehicle’s frame. Those paint layers harden as the cars entered “ovens” to cure the paint on the frame. After being baked hundreds of times, this agate would become an obstruction and had to be removed by hand.”

This meddlesome byproduct was thought to initially be something the plant worker’s pocketed as a curiosity but eventually it found its way into the hands of jewelers. Although there is documented use of this as a kind of stone as much as 30 years ago, it wasn’t until artist Cindy Dempsey of Urban Relic Design was interviewed by The New York Times that it really started to get noticed. And with demand going up but supply being finite (they don’t paint cars that way anymore), it is getting really expensive. There are even people talking about hunting down and mining the sites where the waste materials of the car plants were dumped. How crazy is that?

Okay, so it’s a cool story, but what does that mean for polymer? At the very least, it means that the mokume look is appreciated and in-fashion. We won’t be able to provide the sense of history or be identifiable by car types or time periods as these pieces are, but the way people are working with this and the kind of visual textures they are getting is just one source of inspiration for your own textural explorations. Plus, it’s just a cool story!

I choose this particular piece to share because the artist integrated the drips, rather than grinding them off or using a portion with less variation. The piece was created by a seller on Etsy whose shop is called “Walk On The Moon”. I am unsure if the artists who work in fordite commonly grind the stones from the chunk of compressed paint or if they get the pieces and just decide  how best to present it. In any case, it’s pretty neat stuff for something so wholly unintentional.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a look at your half-finished pieces or scrap elements and look for the beauty in it that you didn’t see before. If you cut it, grind it down, drill it, add a layer, hang it in a different orientation, or do something completely unintended, can you see the wonderful thing it can become? Study or play with the piece until you find a form or treatment that makes it work.


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Teeny Tiny Surprises

julia butterflies collectedThis week is going to be full of little surprises, I decided. And nothing starts off a week of little surprises like the absolute smallest butterflies ever. They are not made of polymer, of course. Right? Well, actually, they are!

Julia Cissell of God’s Flying Flowers on Etsy takes miniatures to a whole new, well, height I guess you’d have to say. Butterflies are small enough in our own world so who would ever think of making them to Dollhouse scale? Well, apparently Julia did. And wow are they amazing. The detail is incredible, down to the nylon little legs and antennae! Oh my goodness … she must have amazing eyesight and really fantastic magnifying glasses to work under. And no, they are not painted. They are canes. Beautiful and incredibly detailed, they would be amazing at 10 times the size.

You can look over her collection, all slack-jawed with amazement, in her Etsy store. Also stop by Linda’s Art Spot where I found this story about Julia and her teeny tiny art pieces.  You can see an example of her canes there and some other ways she presents her little treasures.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Change the scale of your work. If you usually work small, create or design something 5-10x as large as you usually work. If you work big, make the smallest, most delicate piece you can. How does changing the scale affect how you design?


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A Burst of Love

12662002_10209061699323923_5686152188712076481_nThis last Valentine’s week post is a bit of a Valentine itself, being sent out to this amazing artist and friend whose work I am posting– not because I know her but because she is so inspiring.

Paula K Gilbert has been in the polymer art community for twenty-some years now. She has kept at it through a series of very difficult times that included health issues that made it hard to think clearly, much less hold a tool steady. But she kept creating and, not only that, kept sharing. And she still does. She has been a regular contributor to The Polymer Arts and has assisted us in research and administrative tasks, on and off, for nearly the entire existence of the magazine, much of it in a self-imposed volunteer status. She is one of the most generous souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

This past year, Paula turned to an alternative source of art related to her work in polymer, one that could be more easily handled regardless of the kind of day she’s having. She started, if I remember correctly, making alcohol ink designs on small glass tiles for pendants. I don’t know why she was so surprised that they sold so fast. They were beautiful little gems. Eventually, she turned to painting tiles with alcohol ink in these beautiful abstract designs, and loosely-formed imagery bloomed onto them. Her sense of color and intuitive application has resulted in some amazingly energetic and entrancingly beautiful pieces. Although she has dabbled in more involved techniques, including scratch-off etching and stamping, I think her uncomplicated and obviously impassioned application, like what you see here, really shows her love for art as well as her persevering spirit.

Paula doesn’t have a website at the moment but she has been posting her work on Facebook. Nonetheless, she has a waiting list for her painted tiles, so if you are interested, well, line up behind me because I am on the list myself! If you want to contact Paula but can’t do so through Facebook, you can write us here and we’ll pass it on.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create something for someone you love. Make it something small and uncomplicated. Don’t think about making a great piece or impressing them. Don’t even try to make something you think they would like. Just keep them in mind and pull materials and colors that remind you of them. Create spontaneously and without self-criticism, and see what your love for another and for yourself comes up with.


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Subdued Passion

kejka sperky SadaI know it will be hard to top Monday’s piece. The energy in that sculpture was unreal. But intensity of that kind is not the only thing that visually defines passion. How about that low but long burning fire many of us have? It may be a passion for art or for our family or friends. It might be how we feel getting out in nature or the desire for adventure. It is not crazy but it is always there and that kind of passion, that persistent, ever present emotion, is sustaining and keeps us focused on the things that are good in our lives and good for ourselves.

So, to represent that slow burning passion, I picked this mellow yet fiery caned earring and pendant set. There is not the chaos of movement we saw Monday but you can still feel the energy. The Czech Republic’s Kejka creates the energy through both the purely warm color palette and the tapered but parallel and highly directional lines. The gradation from dark on the outside to light in the middle on the pendant also gives it a glow.

Kejka made a series of these flame-like canes in various colors. Take a look at the purple and blue one as well on her Facebook page.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create or sketch in a completely warm color palette. That means from reds to oranges to yellows. Try either creating a subdued feel with your design for these highly energetic colors or see how insanely energetic you can make it.


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