Sophisticated Form

Melanie muir pendantLast, but certainly not least, in this two week tour of our “best of” chosen artists for the Polymer Journeys 2016 book, we have Melanie Muir who is our sole representative of Scotland in the book. I think the draw Melanie’s work has is in its clean sophistication. She is so precise and has honed her particular set of techniques to absolute perfection.

Her mokume, although organic and flowing, has a feel of precision as well.  The clean lines in her mokume come from a stamp or texture impression technique like the one you’ll find in the tutorial by Angela Barenholtz in our Winter 2015 issue of The Polymer Arts magazine.

Her large necklaces are lovely, of course, but I am partial to her pendants where the focus is on the mokume design, framed and centered so that the intricacies of the pattern grab your attention all by themselves. I love the color choices in this one, a bit autumnal using white to set up the saturation of the color. I found this little beauty while wandering around Melanie’s Facebook page.

Her precise shapes also generally come from a set of tools–her own shape templates. Because, like so many of our amazing polymer artists, Melanie applies her talents in more than one area, in this case, the creation of textures and templates. If you haven’t seen her offerings, you can find them on her site here and you can also purchase them on Etsy.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Focus on perfection. Create a small piece using a technique you’ve worked with before but maybe have not been doing for very long, and try to create the most perfect version of it. This may take a little forethought and patience to figure out how best to handle the material so it is not marred or defaced with finger prints to finish it well. You might want to take such additional steps as multiple curings or refrigerating to let the work rest between manipulations. See what you learn from examining and changing up the way you work. Can you develop more careful steps in your process or do you even want to?

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Patterned Perfection

JSAnderson fish heads

I saw a piece of Jon Stuart Anderson’s, before I even knew what polymer clay was, in a gift shop in the Denver airport. It was a frog so beautifully patterned in a material I didn’t know and since it was nothing I could afford that was as far as my admiration was able to go. It wasn’t until several years later when I was starting the magazine that I found Jon’s work again. We were compiling our resource list of artists and my assistant found his work and couldn’t stop gushing over it. Then he saw Jon’s work in that same gift shop and called me quite excited about seeing it in person and it clicked into place that I had seen this work in person myself.

I got to interview Jon, the first person he ever agreed to do that for, a year later. In a phone call from Bali, I got to know Jon a bit and was even more impressed by his kindness and joyful nature not to mention his complete immersion and dedication to his craft. He is certainly one of brightest gems and it’s no surprise that the board found him to have some of the best work of the last couple years.  

Although Jon creates a lot more than animals, those are his best known pieces. I was going to pull out one of his sculptures or laminated guitars for you but these fish heads were too beautiful and fun and I don’t think they’ve really gotten around the web like his other creatures. The canes on top along with the varied texture of their underbellies show his wide range of fine caning skills and his brilliant use of color. 

Images are really not enough to convey the vibrant colors and the flawless finish of Jon’s work. His work is in galleries and gift shops all over the world so keep your eye out for his work or see if you can nab some gorgeous piece from his retailer directly. In the meantime, you can discover more of his pieces on his website and for your tea or coffee break, I suggest sitting down to watch his videos on how he makes his canes. It’s a treat to watch a master at work!

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make the theme of your next piece ‘pattern’. Create small patterns, textural or visual, that are repeated over and over lining up to emphasize form or create the feel of movement.  You could create with canes but you can also use handmade stamps, hand-tooled marks, or tiny tiles or shapes punched out of textured sheets of clay.  

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Large Expression

HCampgell Gallery-Off-The-Deep-End1We are going to spend this week on a few more of the artists who made it to the most notable position in the new Polymer Journeys book. Mind you, there is a lot of very, very notable art in the book but these six made a showing that really impresses people. Heather Campbell‘s work is notable for the way she makes a personal connection with the viewer, creating imagery that speak to ubiquitous experiences that, nonetheless, quite often feel very personal and unique. Her large wall pieces emerge from her experiences and dreams with the many details reflecting the complexity of life and emotion, something I think we can all relate to.

As she writes on her blog, “I consider my work an extension of life experience, designed with complexity while remaining beautifully simple …While creating myself or teaching others I emphasize imagination and self-expression.”

The piece here, a huge wall hanging at 36″x54″, is titled Off The Deep End. It speaks to a very essential question that many of us have struggled with. In reference to this piece, Heather says, “Being true to oneself is one of life’s greatest accomplishments, with rewards that parallel the most beautiful colors, the greatest adventures and the deepest questions. That world awaits us, with its danger, its uncertainty, its beauty and endless opportunity. The query is, do we take the leap, do we step into the unknown, do we trust ourselves?”

You really need to go to Heather’s website to see the wide variety in her work as well as read her thoughts about each. She certainly has something to say.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Let’s have a day of pure expression. Choose a small number of colors that “feel” how you feel today. Keep your favorite hand tools nearby, roll out your clay on a mid-range thickness or condition as you normally would to start a project and then just play. Don’t think about it and don’t worry about whether anyone else will see it. Just let you imagination go and create whatever the clay leads you to create.

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Structurally Wild (… and Polymer Journeys is here!)

Yes, the book made it out! I can’t tell you how surreal it is to actually have the book in hand and out in the world. It has taken 3 years to make this project a reality. Many, many thanks to the wonderful board who rode through this with me, digging up artists and contact information and shifting through the 600+ artist list we ended up with and the 1400 images we had to judge and discuss. This crew was with me for the whole thing … Anke Humpert, Cara Jane Hayman, Iris Mishly, Deb Crothers, and Christi Friesen. What fabulously generous and patient souls they have been!

WinterGrowth108 copyIf you are owed a digital copy of Polymer Journeys but haven’t seen it, check the junk mail folder of your email. If it’s not there, you can write us here or find the contact form on the website at www.polymerjourneys.com Print copies are in the mail. I am not sure how long those will take as this if the first time I’ve mailed by book rate but they are well padded and en route! If you still need to order your copy, go to the website where I’ve left the 15-20% off sale prices up through the end of the month.

Maggie Maggio is another of our artists to be found in the best art work recognition section. Her work stands out for her bold exploration into structural polymer not to mention her subtle but brilliant use of color. This piece did not make it into the book although it was my personal favorite. As you may know, I really admire well done simplicity and this piece is such an elegant example of it. Just the slight variation in the greens, accented by red tips and another blush of red peeking out from along the underside shows an understated energy that, as subtle as it is, catches your eye.

The simple circular form is actually functional in that the single wrap of polymer can be unwound to be put on and off but securely holds the piece on the wearer with no findings whatsoever. This “no findings” exploration has been on Maggie’s table for going on six years now and just keeps pushing it as you’ll see in the wild pieces chosen for the book.

Catch more of these structurally sound but wildly creative designs on Maggie’s website to augment your present reading of the book or to hold you over as you wait for it to get to your mailbox.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a functional piece of jewelry or decor made with absolutely nothing but polymer clay. If you already do this, challenge yourself to move the design out into a broader space than usual.

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Chasing Organic

Whispers-of-Eve_bkThe second artist in the Polymer Journey book’s recognition for the best polymer art of 2014-2015 is Jeffrey Lloyd Dever. Who doesn’t like his colors, soft lines and seemingly flawless finish? His organic forms feel alive, mostly due to the graduation of color and their reaching and opening forms.

I cruised around on his site before writing this up and found that he has a class coming up in Maryland in May. This piece here is one of the ones shown as examples of the type of techniques being taught. The class is called “Botanical Wonders—Miniature Polymer Hollowware for Jewelry” and is for intermediate to advanced students of polymer. It is a technique class not a project class so the focus will be on building skills not creating a particular project … my favorite! This kind of class leaves plenty of room for your own exploration and expression.

How amazing would a class with Jeff would be! I pondered going myself but this is already one crazy year on the travel schedule. If you are fortunate enough to find time in your schedule and can scrape up the pennies to get there, I would highly recommend it. Jump over to this page on his website to get the information and see if slots are still available for you. But just go look at his beautiful site on your next break. Or now. Now is always good.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece focused on graduated colors and/or reaching or opening forms. Do not emulate Jeff’s work but rather look at what you have been creating recently and find where graduated color or more active forms could add life and expression.

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Polymer Idols

TVShrine48As you may have seen on Friday’s post or through another avenue, we recognized 6 particularly talented artists in a featured section of the Polymer Journeys 2016 retrospective book. I thought we’d take a day to look at each of them this week and next, see what they are up to and maybe where they are going.

Georg Dinkel was the first of the group in the book. His work just continuously amazes and entertains. His work is beautiful and fun and, at the same time, it makes a serious statement about the questionable idolization of technology and manufacturing the brands. I happen to have a bit of an insider’s view on a new project he will be unveiling at Eurosynergy, although I cannot share details. But suffice it to say, it’s quite the undertaking in both detail, size, and complexity of movement.

The reason we are so in the know is because Georg is also the artist we are profiling for the next issue of The Polymer Arts. We have an in-depth interview on his process and how he came into polymer from an unlikely side door in his photography career. His story is as fascinating as his work, so you won’t want to miss the next issue if you’re a fan. You can go to the website to get a subscription or just keep your eyes on this blog and we’ll let you know when individual pre-sales are available.

I love this photo with Georg next to his TV Shrine. It helps to see the scale of his work. This piece in particular has so much detail and to imagine he did all but the support structure and electronics in polymer is pretty mind-boggling. There is so much more to see when the doors of the piece are open, too. Go to this page on his website to see more detailed shots of this piece (see if you can make out the TV celebrities in the pictures that look like saints and holy men on the inside of the door). And, if you have the time, just wander through his site and watch his videos. There is so much to take in!

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Have you ever tried to make a statement with your work? What is on your mind these days? Design or create a new piece that addresses an issue close to you. You don’t need to be literal. It can be very, very subtle, represented by related colors in your work or by creating a related image or form. Let the idea marinate for the day if you can before getting down to designing it.

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Recognizing Inspiration

DesertWalkingGownfull120I have a little something different for you this morning and I will get to this amazing piece you see here at the end. This announcement will go out on a few channels between yesterday and today so I hope not too many of you get hit over the head with this but … with the Polymer Journeys book coming out next week, we wanted to publicly announce our board’s picks for artists whose work and contribution to polymer art during the years 2014-2015 were particularly significant and inspirational and so were highlighted in the featured sections of the book.

We are certainly not saying our opinions are the end-all and be-all on this subject, but our consideration came from our own vast experience and education as well as gauging the impact and response we have seen in the polymer and craft communities. Although the creation of this book was in no way a contest, we did feel that making specific note of these artists and their work will further help us understand the direction and history of the medium in years to come. Here are our two featured categories:

Best Polymer Art of 2014-2015–these are artists and art that pushed the boundaries of what can be created with polymer. All these artists have been recognized for their masterful skills as well as the messages and vision found in their work.

Recognizing Generosity–We also wanted to recognize the generosity of the artists and the resulting programs that have become such a big part of the community. To that end, we included these amazing people as well as stories on how they have helped others.

So what is this unusual piece I have to show you here? It is a special and rather personal project created by the amazing Wendy Moore, who you see was recognized in the book under the section highlighting our charitable artists. Wendy is a primary force in the success of the Samunnat Nepal project. Bringing polymer clay to the women there gave them a joyful and colorful way to create financial independence when they so desperately needed it. She continues to return to teach and helped the project grow.

Wendy feels like Nepal is as much home to her as her native Australia. This robe of Wendy’s was actually part of processing a farewell to a part of Australia that she had to move away from. I won’t say much more on that, though, so those of you who are waiting on the book can read her short but poignant story.

If you have not pre-ordered your book but would like to, we have extended the 20% off sale until the 20th due to the delay with our printing that put the release of the book off until April 21st. Jump over to the Polymer Journeys website to take advantage of the early discount.

 

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Lines that Lead to Contrast

LelandJewelryMod earringsLines are largely directional elements. We see a line and our eyes run along its path to see where it will go or where it has been. Combining lines that go in various directions will have us glancing over and back, jumping from one to the other as we try to follow them all. Our busy eyes are what make us feel that the lines are energetic. Energy can be good if that is what you are after, but unless you want to leave the viewer feeling ungrounded, you might want to have a place the eye can rest.

In this set of earrings by Lela Todua, you get that moment of rest in the strip of textured clay down the center. You also get this kind of mirror image of the criss-cross lines on one side being mimicked by the lines of changing color in the mokume gane surface on the other. Although not really the same kind of lines, the type of patterning and direction of lines are close enough that our minds see a likeness. It helps ground the two otherwise contrasting halves in a subtle relationship alongside their physical kinship being the same mirrored shapes connected to the same long central bar. The result is that our eye jumps from side to side, with a quiet moment we can take in between on that dividing bar. The dividing bar is actually a line as well, but she adds these simple dots at the end that keep our eye from sliding off and so our glance returns to trying to take in the broader surfaces. It gives us a sense of a full and complex composition in a small amount of space.

Lines and contrast seem to be the staple of Lela’s work as you can see by what she has to offer in her well stocked Etsy shop.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Find various styles of lines in everyday or natural items and find two that you see any kind of relationship between. Use these as inspiration for creating contrasting textures for a new piece. Alternately, create multiple textures with lines in a preferred set of materials and techniques, ones that develop random patterns (mokume, marbling, scratches, splashes of paint or ink, etc.), then find patches of texture that work together because of a suggested relationship your eye finds. Create a piece from them.

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A Relationship of Lines

12768184_370844913085808_8932626980699712895_oI have had this in my collection to share for a few weeks, but I hadn’t been able to figure out who the artist was until today. The image came from a Facebook post … that’s all I knew. Now, I am excited to introduce a new artist! Well, an artist that is new to me, I suppose. I haven’t learned a whole lot about her or her artistic story and history just yet.

I was intrigued by the mix of surface textures and the energy of the various lines used. The surface is both impressed with a controlled and deliberate pattern, probably hand tooled, then a central bit of random cracking, then a predictable pattern of swirling copper. They are all highly energetic lines, each doing their own thing independent of the others but nested the way they are and all in a muted orange of some sort, they work together.

The use of line and its energy as well as warm muted colors are even carried into the stringing and connectors of this piece. It makes for a lot of interest and movement but with a very cohesive feel.

After searching and searching, using Google image searches and looking through Facebook for artists with the initials MB, I finally got a hit and the mystery was solved. This necklace was created by Martina Burianova. You can find her on Facebook or check out her work on her website.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a surface texture with at least three different types of lines in it. Create cohesiveness by choosing another element or two (color, material, texture, etc) they all have in common. You can make three separate elements, each with different line qualities, then work on arranging them so they have a visual relationship that creates a balanced design, or just dive in working on one surface with line qualities intermixed.

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