Keeping it Subdued; Fall Issue coming September 7th

bettinaWelker subdued pinWe have finally gotten everything through and files approved for the Fall issue and it’s now in the printing presses over in Idaho. Spending so much time reading, writing and editing on a particular subject gets my mind almost obsessed with it. I had already started exploring simple design in my own work this year but now I’m really focused on it. That and mandalas since the Mandala article really got me intrigued. But more of that week after next when the issue comes out. We’ll have all issues in the mail and the digital edition in your inbox on September 7th, so not long now! Get your order or renewal in before that date to be sure you are one of the first kids on your block to get this truly amazing collection of tutorials and thought-provoking articles.

In the meantime, I have collected some nice designs where simple or subdued works particularly well. Simplicity in design is really a matter of relativity. Is it simple compared to what the artist usually does, simple for the kind of technique it is, or is it a very simple form compared to what most artists create? To illustrate this, I thought I’d pull out some of the better subdued designs I’ve found. These are simple on some level but aren’t basic or boring.

Bettina Welker’s pin here is a calm and subdued piece compared to much of what she produces although she is no stranger to simplicity. With a focus on the effect of translucency, she has added only what she needs to keep interest and focus. The white stripes give the translucence a reference for the depth of layers and something to peer in towards while those red dots give us a focal point. And that is all it needs.

Bettina’s designs are always beautifully thought out and are a definite source of reference for anyone who likes work with a graphics inspired edge. Go get inspired by her simple and involved work on her website and get her tutorials and classes on Etsy and Craft Art Edu.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a technique you really enjoy and try to minimize what you do with it. For instance, if you make kaleidoscope canes with six sides, try three or four or reduce the number of paths or colors in your design. If you create colored surfaces with alcohol inks, use just one instead of three. Take a look at the effect and determine a design that will work with the less complex version. Add focus if you need but try to keep it simple and see what you come up with.

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Happy Bugs

kilgast catepillarsHere is another pretty and much less creepy insect to admire this week, as well as being one  you can create for yourself with Stephanie Kilgast‘s instructions in this great video tutorial. Part caning, part sculptural, this tutorial actually has a lot of great ideas for all kinds of claying enthusiasts whether you like creepy crawlers or not.

Stephanie actually has quite a thing for happy bugs. In fact she has a whole line of them and other bug making video tutorials as well. Here is what she says about her Happy Bugs project:

“The happy bugs projects comes from a desire to sculpt happiness and not always focus on the desperate state of the world …  I need that fresh breeze of joy and you might too. Happy because laughing makes us kinder too and bugs because insects are a treasure of beauty, colors and textures.”

I completely agree with her sentiment! Find more on bugs, food, and hybrid plant-animals on her colorful and quite happy website.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Just create something that makes you happy. Let this be a happiness filled weekend.

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Blingy Bugs

christi friesen dragonflySo I finally found out what the crazy, giant, alien looking thing was hopping down the trail after me and my big black German Shepard the other day. It’s called a Tarantula Hawk although it’s a type of wasp and not a bird. I found a few images and one absolutely horrifying video of it trying to take down a tarantula even bigger than itself (and these things are already 2 inches /50mm long or more!) I’ve not seen a horror movie quite so scary since Halloween! These giant wasps are definitely the thing of nightmares, maybe more for tarantulas, but their sting is logged as the most painful sting/bite in the world next only to that of a bullet ant. One person said it felt like they were being struck by lighting for 3 long minutes straight. Yikes!

In any case, I am still freaking out over the things so the goal today was to find a pretty version of such a creature and I totally have it here with Christi Friesen’s Jeweled Insect. The creature I saw was seriously about the same size and had a similar body type but I am much more enamored of this one. I imagine many of us would be!

This insect is part of a journey Christi is on (and not the kind where strange insects start chasing you down the trail!) She and I are in similar places with realizing how little we do art for ourselves, being entrenched in the creative businesses we have. She and I have had some long talks about this as well as with others and have made recent re-commitments to our studio time. She got a jump on this much earlier than I (I’m still working it out) and created a number of things like this blingy bug created last month. You should read her blog post about her thoughts on this studio commitment idea and how it might apply to you on her blog here.

She is also teaching this as a project in Brisbane next week although I heard it was sold out. However, she may very well teach it again so keep an eye on Christi’s class announcements on this page and through her email ‘blathers’.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece that is just for you, that you have no intention of selling or maybe even showing to anyone else. Create without worry or inhibition and enjoy the process, giving yourself no limitations.

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Beautiful Bugs

joyce-fritz3Ok, so you know what is on my mind this week? Bugs! First something nipped on me several nights in a row while I slept then later this past week these brilliant green bugs keep popping up in one of the bathrooms (turned out to be stink bugs … yuck!), then I was chased down a desert trail I regularly run by the biggest and strangest hopping beetle/mosquito looking thing the other day. Now, I am not a squeamish girl and I actually really like bugs–they are amazing creatures–but I’ve nearly had enough. So to resurrect my love of bugs, let’s do beautiful bugs this week. We’ll see what I can find.

Joyce Fritz came to mind first, of course. I have been admiring her bugs since nearly day one of my polymer inspired existence. I remember reading an interview about her use of recycled telephone wire for the legs to make appendages as colorful as the clay canes most of her bugs are built from. I thought that was so clever. The antennae and other parts are made from wire and beads. She sells almost exclusively through wholesaling which means she makes a LOT of bugs, and yet they all look so fun and inspired. I love that this one has an entire landscape scene on its back, perhaps carrying an image of its ‘native’ environment. That would be a very interesting bug to find while out on a trail.

While I go looking for more beautiful bugs, enjoy a little gallery showing of Joyce’s work on her website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a more appealing version of something you tend to find ugly in nature. Bugs, snakes, fungus, weeds … just come up with something you regular try to avoid and see if you can’t create a beautiful version of it or let it inspire form, color, texture or motifs for a new piece.

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Simple Sterling DIY

Gloria fort tutorial

To encourage further play with metal and polymer, I dug up a very easy tutorial for you that requires no significant metal working skills. Gloria Fort has step by step instructions for creating a fun, modern necklace with nothing more than polymer and metal rings. Easy peasy and quite appealing, you can choose your own color palette and use any kind of metal rings or findings you have on hand. Even large metal aluminum washers will work for this design.

If you don’t have anything on hand or want to create your own interesting shapes, just pull out some thick wire and create open metal forms by wrapping the wire around sturdy items such as tool handles or interesting parts of kitchen utensils. Or form them by hand. I would recommend you give your wire forms a good tap all the way around with a rubber tipped hammer to harden the wire so you can press the clay in and on it without deforming it. Don’t have a rubber tipped hammer? Then just lay the wire forms between layers of leather or heavy felt and use a nail hammer with a moderately gentle touch.

Or just go at it with the nail hammer to flatten the wire. Be aware, however, that the wire will spread and change the form including probably opening the point where you expect the wire to meet. Bending flattened wire is difficult if not impossible. A little overlapping (or a lot if you like!) can guarantee a continuous metal band and a touch of epoxy, if you don’t solder, can be used to hold the ends together. But play around! That’s what this week has been all about!

Gloria has tons of mixed media tutorials on her website so if you want tips and ideas on polymer mixed media or even something completely different, browse her site for all kinds of ideas.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: You guessed it … try the tutorial or create your own version of the metal layered onto polymer. But mostly, this weekend, just play!

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Sculpting Metals

bronze polymer mixed

If you haven’t yet heard, the range of precious metal clays available has expanded tremendously over the last handful of years, even into the availability of not so precious metals including copper, bronze, and even steel. What this means is that experimenting with these art clays can be done without the huge investment that the cost of silver necessitated back when that and the insanely priced gold clays were the only options. There are just such tremendous possibilities to expand your designs and the value of your pieces.

Art clays do require some specialized materials but nothing terribly expensive and there are versions of all these metal clays that can be fired with a hand torch so you don’t even need a jewelry kiln. Although who would object to acquiring one if, say, a kindly significant other or family member should want to bestow one on you? If you don’t get into it, they can always be re-sold. I try never to miss out on the opportunity to see if another material might light up my creative passion, although I do prefer it not break the bank in the process.

In any case, you can start by making simple components such as these disks sandwiched with a pretty polymer bead created by Anna Fidecka, who primarily works in metal clays as you’ll see on her Flickr photostream. Once you get how the clay works and are confident of your honed firing skills, you can move onto making your own bezels, bails, backings and beads for your polymer components, creating work that allows you a more complete mode of expression versus buying pre-made metal components. Also, $5 in beautifully wrought copper clay could allow you to increase the price of a pendant by $25 or more over making the same components in polymer and that kind of margin is nothing to sneeze at.  There are also durability and detail options you’d have with metal clays not available with polymer.

Ready to give it a try? You can find all sorts of introductory videos online or just pick up your copy of the Spring 2016 issue of The Polymer Arts to find a beautifully detailed tutorial on creating in metal clay by Dawn Stubitsch, with tips and notes you just won’t get in those YouTube videos. It will give you a very clear idea of whether you are ready to dive in as well as showing you just how easy it can be. Then hop on over to our advertising partner Fire Mountain Gems where they will sell you a complete kit for less than $90 with literally everything you need including a torch and the metal clay to get you started. Then you can return to buy and try other metal clay when you find yourself addicted to it!

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Give metal clays a chance. Or at least read the article or read more about it online. If you’ve already tried metal clays, try a type you have not used before to compare properties and possibilities.

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A Touch of Metal

rebecca geoffrey bezelsHave you ever considered combining polymer and metal but shied away because you just don’t have the metal working skills? Well, you don’t have to be a metal smith to have fully integrated polymer and metal pieces. I thought I’d share a few ideas for you to consider if you have been hesitant to try adding more than a metal chain to your jewelry or even if you do some metal work, might want some ideas for easy but sophisticated projects to stock your store or next show booth.

Here is probably the easiest and one of the best ways to bump up the perceived value of your polymer jewelry. Get yourself some good quality precious metal bezeled jewelry elements. Pendant bezels are plentiful with a wide variety of designs and sizes. Creating the right sized polymer cabochon or inlay doesn’t take much more than impressing your finished sheet or veneer with the bezel itself, cleaning up the polymer edges, and then, after curing and properly finishing/sealing your polymer, glue it into the form with a compatible glue such as E6000 or Gorilla Super Glue Gel.

You may want to build up and round off the element to give it more of a cabochon shape as Rebecca Geoffrey does here with these beautiful sterling and polymer pendants. To do this, cut a thick piece of polymer scrap in the same shape as the bezel but trim it down, cutting slivers of clay off the edges that are the same width as the treated clay sheet is thick. Then you can round off the edges of the scrap clay, lay your treated polymer sheet over it, and smooth it over the shape.

I use deli paper over the treated clay as I smooth so my fingers do not smear or dislodge any of the surface treatment. You will also want to check that it fits the bezel before curing. If it is too big, press the sides in. If too small, gently press the cabochon to spread it out, going around the edges first and then move towards the middle until it fits. You might want to practice with a few scrap clay versions to see how it works with your new bezels before working on some precious mokume veneer or painstakingly treated sheets.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Try a metal bezel! If you’ve done bezel pendants before, try a ring or bracelet with a channel or try a more complex bezel set purchased through fine jewelry suppliers. Better yet, collaborate with a metal smith to create unique bezels. If you do wall art or decor, try bezeled polymer as elements or accents.

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Outside Inspiration: A Tall Order

untitled seascape Amy LongcopeAs promised, a little weekend dose of art is here for you. This piece is a mixed media painting by Amy Longcope and definitely something that would bring joy and energy to a room. I’m going to let an excerpt from her biography speak for her process:

“Amy Longcope’s approach when creating a new piece is not to paint something specific, but rather to unleash her intense desire to create with beautiful colors and varied shapes that encourage and evoke meaningful thoughts in both her and the viewer.  Amy uses various mediums and gels to build layers and textures of color.” 

Tall canvases are wonderful to create on (ones just about this size, 4′ x 1′, are what I often worked on in art school) as they allow you to explore strong vertical elements and imagery that even portrait orientation could not.  They also fit in those odd spaces  between furniture, next to a door or even on a door.

Amy’s intuitive color choices are stunning and fearlessly saturated. Take a look at her website or spend some time going through this great gallery of her work.

I am going to switch up blog days this week so I won’t have one for you two days in a row. I know how much we all have to read these days! So we’ll see you Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Work on a piece that emphasizes the vertical. Tall and thin can certainly do this but how imagery or elements are laid out will emphasize vertical composition as well. Follow any path on this idea that playing around with it leads you.

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Curative Clay Doodling

Tammy DurhamI tried to get something up on Wednesday but fate was not going to let that happen. I have, however, been relieved of my elderly parent watching duties until the end of next week so I should be able to keep up and will try to plan ahead. Plus, I’ll sneak in a little something more over the weekend to make up for that missed day. So look for that by Sunday.

Wall art to cheer the poor souls who have to stay put and convalesce is still on my mind. I do think this lovely Klimt inspired piece by Tammy Durham would be just the thing to add a bit of cheer and a sense of fun to just about any place. I really liked this side view because you can see just how dimensional the piece is as well as getting a bit closer on the detail, at least from this one end.

All the winding trees look like a kind of doodling. I can imagine rolling snakes of clay and just adding whorls and curls, letting the trees grow by instinct. Just a bit of clay doodling which would be great for the artist and almost as much fun for the viewer. You can even see this in the process that Tammy has posted, including a full front view, with a dozen or some images throughout her feed on Facebook.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: You know what I am going to suggest … clay doodling, of course! Roll snakes, balls, and/or pods of clay. Wind snakes into swirls, squish balls into dots, press pods into leaf shapes, or just whatever you like, and start building your clay doodle on a sheet of clay. Let you mind go and enjoy the process!

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