A Pastel Presentation

mabcreaI was hoping to find a good example a of cool white but these are not often used or they appear to be merely gray and if you are going to play with grays, richer, deeper grays seem more committed and elegant. The alternative is pastels, which can be warm or cool. Cool green leaning whites, like the palest mint color are delicious but what do they express? Cool blue whites in their palest manifestations can actually look even more brilliantly white and those with a hint of purple definitely head towards looking gray or even silver. But pastels are more definite in their expression having strong associations for us with springtime, delicacy and femininity. However, cool versus warm pastels do have different connotations.

In this piece by Cecilia Button (Mabcrea), you can easily see here how the warm colors come across compared to the cool colors. The warm ones still retain some of the energy associated with their fully saturated hues but it’s very muted while the cool colors, associated primarily with calm and relaxation, still feel that way, maybe even more so with their paleness. Juxtaposing warm and cool colors usually makes for a riotous presentation but being all things graduate to white, there is a cohesive feeling of peace and a surprising sense of simplicity event though there is really nothing simple about this piece. But simple and peaceful are meanings we closely associate with white so it’s dominance here literally colors the whole piece.

If you have not discovered Cecilia’s intense explorations of polymer, you might grab a cup of something and spend some time wandering through her her Flickr pages and her blog site.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Mix some pastels (start with white and add pinches of color, not the other way around, as you usually need a lot of white compared to colors for a pastel) and play with them using some of your favorite forms or techniques. Compare the feeling of the pastel colored pieces to how a more saturated color palette works in that same approach. How does the tint of the color change the mood or message?

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The Off-White Canvas

marina-mayan-princess-1

Let’s look at a little more off-white today. In general, off-whites on the warm side tend to look older or antiqued. This would be due to most whites aging warm, not cool. Hence the term ‘yellowing’ for aged white materials, because they take on a yellow cast which is a warm color.

This is something to keep in mind if you choose to create something in a warm off-white. There is a very good chance it will look aged which, if you are going for the look of faux bone, antique ivory or are pulling inspiration from an ancient society, is precisely what you want. This piece here is an example of using that warm off-white to give a piece an ancient look. In the piece seen here, Marina of Clay Carousel looks to be drawing on inspiration from the Mayan culture, with the art work titled “Mayan Princess”. She created a perfectly symmetrical but still energetic necklace with an off white canvas for all her accents and details. The dangles are what really make the design work with their strong directional downward lines and, of course, their actual swaying movement while on the wearer. Choosing the off-white background allows the lines and accents to take center stage as well as automatically giving us the impression of age even when we aren’t aware of what it has been titled.

The link on the image here goes to her second version of this necklace since the first, not surprisingly sold already in her LiveMaster shop but take a look at how she changed up the design. I think the way an artist alters a design can be so interesting and so telling of what they were after.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: If you don’t still have that cool and warm white clay from the last post’s challenge, create a couple more balls, one warm off-white and one cool. Then create the exact same design, one with the warm clay and one with the cool clay. Can you see how the color temperature changes the look of the piece? Cool whites look cleaner and brighter. Where would you want to use a cool off-white?

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Not Quite White

kchapman-pendant-tasselsIf you’ve had a chance to read through your latest Fall issue of The Polymer Arts, you may have enjoyed the Color Spotlight article on Sonya Girodon whose work also graces the cover. In the article, our writer, Lindly Haunani, brought up an interesting point about working with white. She noted that Sonya’s work is rarely pure white but is rather just a touch off from white, being mildly cool or warm in color. To illustrate this, she included an image created with pastels over a variety of lightly colored washed paper, showing how pastel colors shift depending on what off-white paper they are placed on. It brings home the idea that moving beyond pure white can add richness and change the look or mood of the colors around it and the work itself simply by choosing to go a little cool or a little warm with the white.

Here is an example of going warm. Warm means the color exists on or leans into the warm color side of the spectrum. Warm colors include red, orange and yellow (think of the colors of fire and the sun) which in an off-white include things like ecru, beige, pale pink and other whites heading towards browns. This is the palette that Australia’s Kelly Chapman chose for this particular tasseled pendant of hers. The near whites give way to a couple of variations of beige in the polymer and eventually a series of browns in the tassels. The warm whites all blend together to give the pendant a rich but serene cohesiveness.

Kelly tends to work in quieter palettes although the occasional brilliant lime green or cobalt blue shows itself but never in a loud way. I can almost imagine that she starts with the idea of white and lets the colors grow from that. I think you’ll see what I mean if you spend some time with her work in her Etsy shop.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Start with two small balls of pure white and add just a small amount of  a warm color to one and a cool color (blue, green, violet, etc) to the other.  Now sheet or roll snakes from each and make them the background or frame for a finished cabochon, cane, or other element you have on hand. Can you see how the slight variation changes the way the colored element works? Now try using an off-white next time you want white in a piece to see how it supports or enriches your design.

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Never Boxed In

Here is another artist that is pushing the boundaries of his usual forms. Not that Jon Stuart Anderson has ever keep strictly within a certain form although he is widely known for his intricately patterned animals. He has also put his cane work to guitars, shoes, vessels and sculptures but all have had some reflection of his flowing forms and repeated patterns.

jsanderson-lamps

These box lamps seems like a huge departure for Jon but one that definitely suits his love of pattern. They are copper boxes just shy of 7″ (18cm) square, with translucent patterned ‘lenses’ as he call them. One would assume the lenses are canes but I suspect there is a bit more going on. It’s just really hard to tell. Maybe a layering of canes or something related to some transferring techniques he had been working on. Not that it matters too much. They are just lovely.

But back to the main point … they are some rather simplified patterns for Jon–a matter of relativity being that they aren’t simple in and of themselves. The difference is that these forms have no lines of repeated canes working their way expertly around the form to create another pattern from their arrangement. Instead, one beautifully patterned convex circle shows off Jon’s sense of balance in both symmetry and color. Some have different patterns on the lenses of a box while other’s are the same on every side. You can sense the exploration as you examine one box after the other. See what I mean by looking through his first images of this series on his July 8th postings on Facebook.

Jon has never stopped exploring and pushing what he does, making exploration the one strong thread of consistency in his work. If you enjoy his creative meanderings, the best place to keep up with his adventures is on his Facebook page although his website is always worth a visit. He also has a great little video of his cane making which is pretty entrancing.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Break out of your usual form. But instead of just trying a form you don’t usually work with, try to expand on forms you already work with. So if you create primarily flat jewelry elements, go more dimensional with half lentil forms or free form the shapes in waves. If you create round beads much of the time, try squares or twisted oblong shapes. If you like making round bowls, what about boat shapes or  cones? Where can you push your forms?

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Mokume Squared

There seems to be an explosion of innovation in polymer design as of late.  Maybe as a whole we fell into a rut of creating within a fairly small circle of ideas but it seems that more and more, clayers are pushing the ideas or just going off into their own little worlds which creates some very unique design.

melanie-muir-vessel-setMelanie Muir sent me images of a new series she’s recently been working on and I have to say, it would never have occurred to me that Melanie might go in a home decor direction, not one with such a graphic look to it but it really does work well. After admiring her beautiful organic shapes and mokume patterns for so long it’s quite a shift to see the same type of mokume squared off like this but the contrast between the organic patterning and the very precise placement of squared off color makes for some lovely vessels.

I had the hardest time deciding which of the new vessels’ images to share here as she has them in different colors and mokume pattern sets as well as a series she calls ‘Coastline’ where the mokume is not framed at all but rather is blended into the background over the joint of two wide bands of color. Go see for yourself on her Facebook page here for the whole recent collection, debuting this week at the London Design Fair which starts tomorrow.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Do you work primarily in one style such as organic, graphic, tribal, floral, or something else? Take what you usually lean towards and contrast it with a style completely opposite from it. The key to contrast is making the contrast relate on some level. Melanie made her graphic versus organic relate in terms of color. You can also make the two relate through elements that have the same type of pattern, shape, size, lines or that create similar texture.

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Simple Grace

aliceballard-leaves-and-podWhen putting together the Simplicity article, we contemplated showing a few non-polymer pieces because there are just so many beautiful designs in other materials that could be inspirational to polymer artists but alas, there was only so much room and much to discuss.

Alice Ballard was a top pick on my list for this because her work shows simplicity that somehow doesn’t appear simple. These ceramic leaves and pod are not super minimalistic but the white center piece is definitely about the essence of the form and image. The colored leaves feel like they are the color and impression of the center piece, taken out and set aside, as if saying the form is first and the color is secondary. It’s the pod set in the middle that brings both a focus to the trio and a bit of mystery. Why is it there? This is not a common arrangement, not in nature, but it does feel natural. For all that this is minimal in form and color, there is a lot to explore.

I find the last statement to be true of the best of simplified design and Alice’s work in particular. Grab a cup of something comforting and take some time out for a visual stroll through her beautiful gallery of work on her website.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create in white alone. Focus on the essence of some object or image that catches your eye and think about the form before creating it. What can you remove aside from color and still make it recognizable? After you decide that, what else can you do without? Ask this until you have in your mind that essential form of it. Then create that in clay.

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Simply Personal

jibby-and-juna-longest-year-marbledI have been absolutely in love with Genevieve Williamson’s work since I first discovered it some 6 years back. It is so personal, the artist’s hand so apparent, and the design so expert. Perhaps it is more a connection that I have to these muted colors, the scratches and the imperfectly cut shapes, but the work has a high sense of emotion and vulnerability.  So when Wendy Moore (of the Samunnat Nepal women’s project) sent me a link to this heartbreaking and inspiring post Genevieve wrote earlier in the year, I knew I had to reach out.

Genevieve graciously agreed to share her story and her work in more detail in the Fall issue’s Muse’s Corner section of The Polymer Arts magazine. Muse’s Corner is the section on the last content page of the magazine where we have a personal story illustrating how art and life intersect. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read it yet but like many of the contributors that write for that section, personal challenges spill out into expressions in clay with beautiful results both in terms of the pieces and the therapeutic and cathartic process these brave people find in the creative experience.

This necklace here is a variation on the line of jewelry shown and discussed in the article. This “Longest Year” line came out of Genevieve’s first year of struggling with an autoimmune disease. As she says in her blog, this work has “come to fruition not in spite of but because of my autoimmune disease diagnosis.” Although the struggle is not apparent here, the beauty of the masterfully simple design is and it just sings with intention and a gracious presentation of the artist’s hand. Like a lot of her recent work, it is also reversible for those times when just the black and white is all one wants or needs for adornment.

The simplicity of design and beauty of intention is apparent in all Genevieve’s work as you can see on her website or in her Etsy shop as well as in the latest issue of The Polymer Arts magazine.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make a simple piece that is all about you. Use the suggestions made on Monday’s challenge to make very intentional decisions, weighing every tiny choice, but instead of focusing on the design, focus on the expression. Choose colors, shapes and textures that are simple but at their essence represent you or a personal story of yours. Be careful not to judge what you do, just be sure every choice is true to who you are or what the story is about.

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As Simple as Can Be

The key article in the new issue of The Polymer Arts is probably the one on Simplicity in Design. As mentioned in it, simplicity is a very difficult concept to master for a variety of reasons. For one, people underestimate just how much goes into creating really good, simple design. It takes a lot of thought and intention as well as skill because with simple designs, every single decision and mark made is so obvious and visible. There is nothing to hide, distract, or camouflage the elements and condition of the work, especially in the most simplified designs.

rachel-wrightman-not-tuesday-collageRachel Wightman’s work is a great example of this. When you first look at her jewelry you might think, anyone can do that. Her work is not even perfectly finished. But what you sense, if not readily realize, is that her choices are all very intentional. Colors don’t match in any standard sense but they do work together. Her spheres, tubes, and drop shapes are just slightly off but not sloppy. The surfaces are free of fingerprints but they have a nice matte finish and are strung on a perfect center or a well placed high point. The consistency in surface and stringing as well as consistent imperfections shows her intention. Her odd but interesting choice of color and balance makes it apparent that there is thought behind her choices. And as I am always saying, intentional and well-informed design choices will make a great piece, no matter the approach.

You would have seen Rachel’s work in the article but unfortunately, she doesn’t keep high-resolution images of her work. This is not a criticism since her focus in on wholesale and online retail sales so that kind of thing is not necessary for her business. But it is something to keep in mind. If you hope or foresee any reason your work might end up in print, keep high resolution files of your work, preferably the original images straight from the camera. You can simply keep them in the same folder as your adjusted and re-sized images by creating another folder marked ‘Originals’ and then you will have them to offer should any magazine or book editor come querying.

If you enjoy Rachel’s simplicity, take a look at her other simple but well supported choices on her website or in her Etsy shop.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make the absolute simplest shapes with great intention for a piece of jewelry, sculpture or to attach to home decor. Think through and carefully determine shapes, colors, sizes, finished texture (keep it simple too … matte, shiny, or lightly and consistently textured)  and arrangement, asking with every small decision if that choice is consistent with your other choices or supports your overall intention.

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Mixed Medium Mandala

crocenzi_orbitsSo, business first … the Fall issue of The Polymer Arts came out yesterday, September 7th, and already there is all kinds of cheering online about it and many, many comments in my inbox, all overwhelmingly positive so far. I’m so glad people are already enjoying it so much–I absolutely loved putting this one together as the idea of simplicity in design is something I have always been fascinated with and serenity is something I am always hoping for more of! And I know I am not alone on either point.

If you ordered a print copy or subscription before the 6th, your issue is on the way.  We’ll be shipping again over the weekend too. If you were due a digital copy but did not see it in your inbox, check your spam/junk mail folder, and if it’s not there, write us at connect ( at ) thepolymerarts.com. If you are wondering about the status of your subscription, you can go to our brand spanking new Subscriber’s Account page logging in with your email (if you paid with PayPal, it may be the email PayPal has on record) and your password or use the ‘Forgot password’ link to set one up. On this new service, you can check the status of your subscription, change your address, see your order history and get links to your digital issues for subscription purchases from this year on. Pretty neat stuff.

Now onto this great piece you see here. It is one more example of an atypical but wholly legitimate mandala based creation. The basic concept behind mandalas may be symmetry but what you end up with doesn’t have to be symmetrical or with obvious radiating lines or sections. The point of creating a mandala is to let go so if the process leads you to something different from what you or someone else might think of as a mandala, so be it. It’s much more about the process than the outcome. But what an outcome it can be!

This piece, Orbits, was created by Susan Crocenzi and is primarily tempered glass with a polymer clay tile centered on it and bits and bobs and images scattered here and there. I just love the colors and the playfulness in this combination of elements. For those of you with a penchant for mixing mediums, this will give you a good idea of just how far you can go with other materials, alone or combined with polymer, when creating mandalas or just any intuitive craft work.

Susan has more mandala like pieces and more polymer heavy work to be found on her colorful website.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Let another medium inspire your polymer. Whether you plan on doing a mandala or simply want to play, pull out some other mediums or found objects and put them on the work space with your polymer. You don’t have to use them if it doesn’t feel right but just contemplating the idea may move your clay play into areas you didn’t expect.

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