Looking Back for Inspiration

A quick note on the Polymer Journey 2016 book … we’ve been able to extend the introductory sale through Friday, so if you haven’t reserved your copy or were waiting for payday, this is your chance!  Go to the website today before the price goes up this weekend.

TLilin deco butterflieshere are timeless techniques as well as timeless art. This easy but impressive looking technique, painting with mica powders on molded clay, was posted by Lilin in 2008. This particular construction harkens back to the art deco style with the enameled look of the butterfly wings against the stylized faces. It gives them an antique air. Lilin credits Donna Kato as her inspiration although she doesn’t say if that was from a book or class. But she gives her own brief instructions and tips, enough for you to get some ideas and run with a new design of your own.

The instructions for these are on this blog post. Lilin hasn’t posted since 2009 and I couldn’t find any reference to her moving her work to somewhere else. I am always curious how an artist progresses. It’s both encouraging and fascinating to see people improve their skills and to see what directions they chose. So I am curious. If anyone knows what Lilin is up to now, let me know and I’ll post an update here.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Find a new way to apply an old technique. Look through your older project books, back issues of magazines, or your favorite tutorial sites and find something you haven’t done in a while or never tried and use it with your present forms and color palettes. What do you do differently today that you didn’t when the tutorial was published or when you first used it? It’s interesting to see how your approach has shifted.


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Tracking Our History

Okay … a couple little notes first …

Thank you to all of you who jumped in and pre-ordered a Polymer Journeys book. It was very heartening to see how many people are interested in this kind of book and I so hope you all enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together. If you wanted to get in on the discounted pricing that we have through the 30th, just head over to the Polymer Journeys website.

Geena mosaicFor those of you who get this by email, you may have noticed a change in the look of your emails the last time or two. We moved to a new, more stable email service for you. You now have “like” buttons, so you can share it on 252 different social networks and online sharing services (Never knew there were so many!). Not all of them will transfer the image, if that is what you want to share, but you can click the post’s title in the email and it will take you to the post where you can share the URL address instead. If you have any questions or comments about the new format, just reply to the email and let us know!

This book has raised a number of discussions about looking at work retrospectively. I wanted to create Polymer Journeys as a series as a way to document what has been going on in polymer art as well as give us a more concrete way to understand where it’s going. The internet has endlessly muddled our sense of what is happening today because if something was posted anywhere at any point since the internet went public, it could pop up on someone’s screen for the first time, and it will seem like something new.

This mosaic is an example of something that came up while I was doing some research online that I had never seen before this past week. I thought it a beautiful example of how polymer can be used as a material for a traditional art form, giving the artist a bit more latitude and ease in creating the tiles for a traditional mosaic application. However, Geena Bregar, the creator of the mosaic, posted this some 13 years ago. I had never seen it and would have been at a loss as to guess its age if it weren’t for the dating of the blog post.

Of course, the question is, does it matter if we know when something was made? In many ways, no, it doesn’t. The strongest art continues to inspire, draw admiration, or causes someone to stop and ponder years, decades, or centuries after its creation. But I think the history of an art form, an artist, or even a piece of art itself has stories that we can learn quite a bit from or at least find wonder in them. I’ve been talking about how polymer has really reached out and touched so many other forms of art and is being used in conjunction with so many materials, but pieces like this are a good reminder that this influence and creative use of polymer is nothing new.

I think, really, polymer always been that kind of material. It’s just hard to get a good perspective on when and how this reach and influence occurred. If the Polymer Journeys books do well, perhaps we’ll be able to have a clear and educational perspective alongside a great collection of beautiful work to inspire us for years to come.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Look back at your oldest pieces in whatever medium you first created original works. Do you see new and inspiring elements even now? Take an element–a form, the way you used line, a technique, or color palette and combine it with your advanced knowledge and skill in a new design.


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New Book Cover and Very Special Pre-Sale Offer for You!

PJ2016 Cover frontWe set aside our usual art discussions today to announce the first big book project for TPA and the associated book publishing arm, Tenth Muse Publications–Polymer Journeys 2016 is just about ready for you! The release is set for April 14th.

This retrospective and peek-behind-the-scenes book is in its last phase of preparation for printing! Now that we have a publication date, we are offering you very anxious and enthusiastic folks a steep discount and a bonus to thank you for your patience and to give you the opportunity to get your copy straight off the press and into the mail!

We have an exclusive pre-sale price for just this one week. If you purchase the book on our website by March 30th,  you get 30% off the cover price of $22.95! That’s all of $15.95 plus shipping.

It is also available in a digital format, which will be $12.95, but this week you can reserve your copy for just $9.95.

But wait … there’s more! (I’ve always wanted to say that!)  I also worked out a way to reward our most enthusiastic supporters … be one of the first 250  people to pre-order a print copy and get a companion digital copy for FREE! Just put both a print and digital copy into your cart, then use this code to discount the digital copy: 1st250. (You’ll know others beat you to it if you get a note saying the discount is no longer valid.)

Want more info on what this book is? Go to the website here. In the meantime, enjoy the gorgeous cover art by Kathleen Dustin (top) and Jon Stuart Anderson (bottom).

We’ll be here if you have any questions for us. Otherwise, have a beautiful Spring and Easter weekend!



Like this blog? Lend your support with a purchase of The Polymer Arts magazine and visit our partners:

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Spring in Surprising Places

Melissa Terlizzi A delicate balanceOnto more thoughts of Spring. We had a perfect Spring day yesterday but today we are in the middle of a blizzard, so I went off to find something cheerful and found some fun sculptures, wall art, and jewelry by Melissa Terlizzi. Her creatures are beautifully sculpted, but it’s the situations she puts them in that really made me smile. This here is not the most unusual place to find a tree frog but it would kind of startle you to find one on your indoor plants. She also has frog peeking out of terrariums, mice in the pantry, and beetles in books. There is a bright playfulness in the faces of her creatures and in the way she sets up the shots. Many of her compositions, like this one here, are predominantly constructed from polymer clay components, but many others use natural settings and common household items to bring out the story.

Take a break from your common or gray day and peruse her Flickr pages for some Spring cheer.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create or adapt a piece of yours to live in an unusual place. Hang charms in the kitchen cupboards, replace blind pulls with beautiful focal beads, put a cute sculpted creature in the medicine cabinet (who doesn’t need a bit of cheer when opening the medicine cabinet?),  glue tiles to the inside of the mailbox  door, etc. Look for the most unusual and surprising place that will delight your family and visitors.


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Return of Spring

Daniela DUvaGocce in Verde e ViolaFirst, my apologies, to those of you who get this by email or RSS feed, for the erratic delivery last week. We had some odd technical issues, which we did finally resolve. We’ll be moving the email and RSS to a more stable service this week, so if there are any other oddities please forgive us and know that it is all in order to get you your thrice-weekly dose of art and design chatter as promised.

So yes, a few new things are on the horizon and it would seem that three of those things will be showing their new faces this week. One will be the new blog delivery service, so you’ll see that here. I will wait until Wednesday to reveal more. Onto art now!

We are not the only ones with new stuff to share this first week of Spring. I was so thrilled to see these beauties from Daniela D’Uva, who I have long admired for her dynamic wire and polymer work. She took a break from it for a couple of years so I have missed seeing her bright and swirly pieces, then these popped up on Flickr this weekend. She’s built polymer swirls around beads of glass as a base to show off layers of the translucent canes she’s been creating. It’s a perfect homage to the new season up here in the northern hemisphere and a pretty sight for a Monday, don’t you think?

If you don’t recall Daniela’s prior pieces, a vast collection of her work, old and new, can be found on Flickr and on her Facebook page.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Let the season direct your muse! What is it about the change of season that you notice most or most enjoy? Keep in mind, this does not have to be nature inspired. It could be firing up the grill for the first time this year or the return of Peeps to market shelves. It could be that urge to clean out the studio or get that shorter hair cut. Focus on the feeling these thoughts give you and see if you can translate it into color and form for a simple homage of your own.


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When the Medium Does the Painting

alicia tormey daydreamerLetting the material determine the outcome of a piece by allowing it to flow and mix as it wants is an approach that can be used in a variety of mediums including polymer, as we saw on Wednesday.

This beautiful image here, as I am sure you surmised, is not polymer. It’s not alcohol inks or watercolor or any of the traditional mediums. Although it may not be surprising to find out it is encaustic wax, the way the artist gets these ethereal forms and textures just might be surprising. So, instead of listening to me blather about the technique, I will suggest you slake your curiosity by watching this wonderful video the artist, Alicia Tormey, recently produced to show her technique. It’s a beautifully done video, but it is nothing next to the gorgeous texture of the pieces she creates.

Visit this link for the video on her home page, then stay and investigate her website and the wonderful colors and forms she creates for her wall art.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Starting with a single white, translucent, or light-colored sheet of clay, work the surface with spontaneous, uncontrolled additions. Crumple paper or foil and press the texture into it. Drop inks onto it, splatter paint or rub gilders paste onto it. Spritz with alcohol and water and let inks and paints run, then dab or rub off spots with a bit of towel. Sprinkle mica powder or oxide powder over it or randomly adhere metal leaf. Do as much or as little of this as you like until you see a surface that pleases you. If you go a little overboard, let any liquids dry then roll the sheet one step down on the pasta machine once or twice. Pick out parts you like to make polymer elements for jewelry or add to the sheet to develop a piece of wall art.


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Painting with Edges

gloria Nilsson beachThe wide open canvas idea that the Fimo 50 project brought up on Monday got me looking around at polymer painting. It is not an easy thing to literally paint with polymer, and sometimes I think that there isn’t really any advantage to painting in polymer other than to see if it can be done. I mean, if you are familiar with the wide world of acrylics, you know so much of what we do as painting with polymer can be done in acrylics. Thick dimensionality, rich color, marbling, layering, and even sculpting is possible with acrylic paint mediums. And you don’t have to cure it. But then you see a piece like this and yes, the rippling effect would be harder to achieve in polymer. It does have its place. It just depends on the hands it is in.

The hands this was in were Gloria Nilsson’s. She works almost exclusively in paint now, along with creating some jewelry, so I don’t have too much information on what she did here. This is from an old web page site on the piece:

“I developed this rolling wave technique in several of my polymer clay jewelry pieces first exhibited in September 2010 at the Killingworth Library. The process of painting with clay requires an artist to be open to the clay itself. The design of the wave is established, but the detail and the movement is dictated by the spontaneous color mixing process. No two will ever be alike.”

She goes on to say that she planned on exploring this further, but I could not find any other polymer paintings. It was certainly a beautiful start to this kind of ‘painting’, although it might more accurately be called construction or layering. But let’s forget categories and labels. When texture and imagery blend so well that you get a little lost as you look at it, you know the piece has transcended begin defined by its medium and any associated labels. I think this is one of those pieces.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Work with very, very thin sheets of clay and layer them so the edges form the lines, shapes, and texture of the piece you are creating. It is okay if this process leads you in another direction. Just follow your muse.


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Around the World, One Square at a Time

Fimo50World Project 4x4

Have you been keeping track of the Fimo 50 World Project? Its been so cool to watch the tiles come in, posted to the Facebook group, and circulate around the web. We’ve seen some fabulous ones the last week or so. I picked a handful of them to brighten your Monday morning. We have, top left and going clockwise, tile contributions created by Cornelia Brockstedt, Page McNall, Julie Eakes, and Martina Buriánová. How incredibly different can you get? These all started out with the same simple instructions, but the results show very individual inspirations and styles. How wonderful.

If you aren’t too familiar with this project, it is Fimo’s 50th anniversary, and to celebrate they are gathering 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″) polymer tiles from polymer artists around the world. Anyone can participate. The submissions will be assembled into a globe that will represent polymer around the world, in a literal and symbolic fashion. Later, the tiles will be taken off and auctioned to raise funds for two of the community’s favorite charity projects, Dr. Ron Lehocky’s Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies and the Samunnat community in Nepal.

For all the specifics, go to the FIMO 50 World Project Facebook page or to the Staedtler website. If you are in the US, Cynthia Tinapple is helping out by allowing US artists to send their tiles to her instead of to Germany, then she will pack those up and send them to Staedtler at the end of April when all tiles are due for the project. US artists can send entries to: Cynthia Tinapple, 1 Hartford Court, Worthington, OH 43085. But remember to register your entry on the website first.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make a 4×4 tile for the Fimo 50World project or just for yourself. The canvas of a simple, open, basically two-dimensional space without the engineering of jewelry or structure needed for sculpture can be a very freeing form to work on. Just give it a try assuming it will be not be shared so you really let go.


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The Paper and Polymer Advantage

izabela-nowak-upcycling-collierMy little contribution to the Spring issue of The Polymer Arts is an article on ways to combine paper with polymer. I did a lot of research to see if there was anything else I could share with readers beyond what I had done in the past with paper casting and collage style techniques and … wow! There are tons of ways paper can be used to kick up your work. It offers ways to make production less expensive and pieces lighter for castings and as cores for large beads, it can add interesting textures both tactile and visual, and, because it can go in the oven at polymer clay curing temperatures, it can be used over, under, inside of, and just about any way you want it with your raw clay and it all can go into the oven together.

My foray into paper and polymer came initially from looking for less expensive and less noxious ways to cast sculpted pieces I had created in polymer and wanted to duplicate. I went on to use the material as a substrate, to make light sculptural and bead cores and to make hollow beads. But the things they are doing with paper in the craft world is amazing, and looks a lot like polymer sometimes. From mokume-like carved stacks of paper to rolled beads to textured, stamped, and molded paper–the work is beautiful and a very direct source of inspiration for polymer artists. If you haven’t seen what I am talking about just google something like “paper jewelry” or “paper craft” on Google, Pinterest, Etsy or Flickr. It’s fascinating.

The other super cool thing about paper craft is that much of it is being made from recycled and upcycled paper sources. I do all my paper casting using junk mail and old newspapers and my collage work is from magazines I would otherwise just throw away. But those are not the only sources of paper we can recycle and combine with polymer pieces. This necklace by Izabela Nowak is a beautiful example of where using a paper source rather than polymer has a distinct advantage.

All those discs are cut from milk and juice cartons. Creating something like that with polymer would be intensely time-consuming and curing extremely thin polymer and keeping it flat takes a few tricks. I am not saying its impossible–I’ve done it myself–but why do that if you can get a similar effect while keeping more trash out of a landfill? And  … it’s cheap or free! You gotta love that.

Izabela actually does a ton of work in paper and upcycled materials. She doesn’t often combine her polymer and paper but I find the pieces in which she doe, more interesting than the paper alone. The polymer adds solidity and texture the paper can’t and the paper offers crisp edges and smooth surfaces that are more difficult to do in polymer. So together, they make quite the pair!

Get your copy of the Spring 2016 issue of The Polymer Arts for this and other great article sure to get your creative juice flowing!


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Search for paper craft, paper jewelry, or recycled art and find a piece you are drawn to. Don’t spend a lot of time looking. Then figure out what that one thing is that is really drawing you to that piece. Use that element … whether it’s the way the work was created (rolled, folded, molded), the form of the piece, or even the combination of colors, and use it to design or create your next piece.


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