Beauty in Old Clay

crackle beads old clay 430x323 - Beauty in Old ClayIf you haven’t seen this technique, created about a decade ago by France’s Dominique Franceschi, you really have to try it. Like Monday’s post, this too came out of an accident, one many of us have probably experienced to some degree. It was from dry, crumbling clay, once again ruining our expectations. Well, Dominique took that experience and ran with it and what a beautiful texture arose from playing around with this stuff.

Basically, she extruded some older clay and it cracked all up and down the length of it. Instead of tossing it, she wrapped it around base beads, flattened and smoothed the clay, and ended up with these beautiful, organic looking textures. Wonderful stuff.

Her full technique was shared and translated on Parole de Pâte way back in 2006. But just because it’s an older technique doesn’t mean that it can’t be new or newly played with. Try it out and maybe you’ll even have some pleasantly unexpected outcomes by using it slightly differently such as laying it on a sheet to create surface designs that can be made into jewelry or wrapped around boxes. Or what would these cracked snakes look like and how would you use them if you tried just smoothing out the snakes alone? In any case, it would certainly be fun to play with.

Find the simple steps and a couple of options for these beads on Parole de Pâte here.

Happy Accidents

CMcGee torn mosaic 430x430 - Happy AccidentsAlthough they are not always pretty, not at first, happy accidents can lead to wonderful techniques and inspiring design. I keep bumping into pieces recently that came from just such incidents, such as this ripped mosaic technique Cindi McGee happened upon.

This feels like the beginning of a foray into this approach to mosaics for Cindi and I am hoping we’ll see more of what she does with this. I think if larger pieces or more intricate pieces were created, you could have some really amazing visual textures not to mention using up lots of scrap clay!

Have you had any happy accidents lately? I find with polymer that nearly every accident is an opportunity to not just learn about how the material and one’s approach works but to find more techniques and effects. Take a close look at the present Winter cover of The Polymer Arts and Emily Squires Levine’s vase. Do you see the “accident” it had? It got scorched in the oven but you hardly notice because it makes for a natural coloring of the organic color palette. Not that I recommend trying to burn your polymer (burning polymer gives off toxic fumes) but before you get upset that something didn’t work as you wanted it to, ask if it is just leading you down a new path with new ideas.

You can find more of Cindi’s adventurous work through her blog pages and her Instagram account.

Pasteled and Fractaled

Troy Thompson fractal pastel jeweltones 430x736 - Pasteled and FractaledFor our last day of rich color, I thought I’d take it down a notch saturation-wise. This isn’t polymer or any kind of dimensional material but it is a fabulous fractal design and what lovely colors and light it has. Fractals have been a fascination of mine and many other artists for a while now. Their intricate patterns make inspiring textures not to mention that the color choices of these designers can be a great source of ideas for polymer work.

If you are unfamiliar with fractals, these are both a natural and math-based design where one form is repeated over and over, usually getting smaller as it progresses and even forming the same shape in the way it is laid out. Found everywhere in nature, fractals have moved into the realm of art with people developing designs based on natural formations but using math as a kind of paintbrush to help create the composition.

This stunning piece is by a gentleman who goes by Troythulu online while stating that his real name is “either Troy Loy or Troy Thompson.” Not sure why he is confused but I imagine just he wants to remain mysterious, and quirky. His fractals are amazing, though. This piece, in particular, could easily be translated into pearl clay with some mica powder painting to color tips and edges. I think it’s something worth playing with, especially if you like both shiny and colorful pieces.

See more fractals by Troy whatever-his-name-is on his Tumblr page.

Searing Color

mountain pearls seering color set 430x323 - Searing ColorSaturation is the color characteristic that defines how pure a color is, how far it is from its base hue, with full saturation being a pure hue. Most colors in nature have contrasting colors or black and white mixed in, toning them down. But when the color hasn’t been toned down at all, it can be really striking, or really garish, depending on how the colors are combined.

Here, Natasa Hozjan Kutin has managed to create a palette with full saturation and using very bright colors without any garishness. In fact, it looks quite sophisticated as well as just stunningly beautiful. It’s like a sunny day and the best colors of a sunset, all rolled into one piece.

The Skinner blends help with the harmonious feel because we aren’t cutting quickly from one color to the other but rather we get all the other colors in between in a gradual transition. This is how light works in nature as well so it feels soft and organic instead of jarring.

Graduated color dominates much of Natasa’s work. You can see more of her softly sophisticated pieces on her Flickr photostream and in her Etsy shop.

Jewel Tones for Days

clya monet pitcher2 430x567 - Jewel Tones for Days

Even those of us who lean towards neutrals and toned down color probably have a soft spot for jewel tones. I know I do. Who could ever look at a peacock’s tail and not see its amazing beauty? And the abundance of such rich colors can feel like it’s going overboard but sometimes you want that, like reaching for ambrosia salad rather than the mixed greens. Sometimes you just want to indulge.

Teresa Stepp  indulges in a riot of bright, rich colors quite a bit and I am always pleased to come by them online. This pitcher, baroque in its decorative detail, is definitely the sweet, whipped-up version of an artistic salad, but just checking out all the detail is like a journey into some small wonderland.

To see the pitcher from different sides, extending the journey, just click on the image here. To see more of her intricate and colorful pieces, go to her website or Instagram account.

The Many Faces of Leaves

wmoore red leaves 430x410 - The Many Faces of LeavesPattern in nature is everywhere and not just on the surface but in the groupings as well. I know for certain that Wendy Moore, the creator of this lovely riot of red leaves, is heavily influenced by the patterns and energy in nature. You can hear it in the things she writes on her blog and her focus on repetition of natural shapes in her work which you can find on her Instagram account.

This piece was actually a commission but from one of the people most certainly to be a heavy influence on her as well–her mother. I’m thinking now that perhaps this connection to nature is also one her mother has and maybe she influenced Wendy’s appreciation of the natural world. Or maybe it’s Wendy’s life in Australia and her time in the outback or her years in Nepal and her continued visits there to support the Samunnat women‘s project.

I only ponder this because how much we interact with nature and how connected to it we are has been on my mind lately. I am so immensely lucky to have a wide swath of nature right outside my office and studio here. I have tried to make a point of spending time out there every day. Recent trending reports on “forest bathing” and how short immersive excursions among trees can really help reduce stress has led me to consider how important such moments of connection and relaxation are to creativity.  The more I get outside, the more inspired I feel.

So, weather permitting, try to get outside this weekend. If weather is not being cooperative, perhaps there is a greenhouse or enclosed botanical garden not too far away. Or spend some time tending yohouseplantsnts. Notice the textures and patterns in nature, breathe in the smell of the growing things and just connect to the most constant thing we have interacted with in our history as a species–mother nature. I think you’ll find it invigorating, relaxing and inspiring!

Versatile Nature

sandrinearevalo pinklily tube 430x417 - Versatile NatureIs this pattern from cobblestones, beehives, bubbles on the surface of sudsy water, or the mash of cells under a microscope? I have no idea, but I do know this kind of pattern is all over the place in nature. I cannot be sure which, if any, of those guesses inspired the surface design of Sandrine Arevalo Zamora’s tube here but what I do know now is that you can take that fun natural pattern and add a great color palette and you have the formula for a piece of adornment that the eye will gravitate towards.

I think I gravitated towards this not just because of the color and pattern but because it is just a tube. And I wondered what she created this for. I was thinking napkin ring (we’ll blame that on a recent visit to Ikea), which, I think, you still could use it for but she is selling this as a versatile scarf and necklace component. It really does make a great scarf piece and is very easily tossed onto a chain or leather thong for an eye-catching necklace. Click the image to get to her Instagram string of images for how she suggests this is used.

I tried translating the French commentary she posted with this and got something about balloons so perhaps she was not inspired by nature but being Google was translating, one just doesn’t know. Nonetheless, if you look, you’ll see this pattern all over. Sandrine plans on teaching this technique in Provence Easter week at the Polymériades event along with Christine Dumont, Karine Barrera, and Mathilde Colas. Check out Sandrine’s Instagram and Facebook page for more of her work.

The Pattern of Nature

Sburroughs branches necklace 430x418 - The Pattern of NatureIt’s been freezing or wet or muddy or blistering hot this last week, depending on where you are in the world, but the crazy weather does not stop us from getting out and seeking inspiration in nature. Well, maybe for a day or so here and there. Nature’s patterns are the most beautiful and amazing visual and tactile textures that will ever be created and regardless of the crazy weather, they seem to be on the mind of many artists lately. So here is a week of pieces translating patterns we find in nature.

This necklace really caught my eye because it is not a version of nature’s beautifully organized or symmetrical patterns we are so often in awe of but rather it’s the chaotic fractal pattern of weather-dependent growth in the form of tree branches. The reaching arms of tree branches are a history of the climate, too complex to decipher but I think we recognize the intentional rhythm of this chaotic order nonetheless.

I can only assume that instinctual recognition was at least, in part, behind Samantha Burroughs‘ choice of pattern here. Because even though the pattern doesn’t repeat, it does look intentional while remaining natural. She does add a bit of her own organization with the consistently angled wider branches, adding a regular beat on top of the beautiful chaos. The variation in the browns also adds variety but within that limited, natural range of color.

Natural patterns are dominant in Samantha’s work as you can see in her Etsy shop. Her pieces are sold under the moniker Jessama which is a mash of her name, her sister Jessica’s and ma for her mom, as the running of the business is a collaboration between all three although Samantha is the artistic powerhouse behind the designs. She offers tutorials, technique advice, and other information through her website Jessama Tutorials.

Sonya Rings in the New Year

SonyaGiordan rings 430x288 - Sonya Rings in the New YearHere are a couple more interesting pieces posted in the first week of the year from the prolific Sonya GirodanRandee Ketzel sent me this before it popped up on my Flickr stream. These rings do really grab your attention. They might also grab your knitted sweater but that is beside the point.

These are an intriguing and different use of familiar techniques. The beads were inspired by classes she had with Celine Charuau, who we looked at on Wednesday, and Christine Dumont. In both cases, her instructors generally use these techniques on elements created as pendants or brooches rather than rings. Laying the beads down in a horizontal plane makes them feel a bit more placid than they would be in the about-face position of pendants and brooches.

Sonya brings back any energy lost by the change in orientation, however, by adding thin and reaching elements beneath the beads to draw the eye out and back from the body of the rings’ designs. It may make for delicate looking pieces and not everyday rings but you have to admit, they would grab your attention.

I do wonder if this announces a new direction for Sonya as I’ve not seen anything quite like this from her. Not that Sonya taking a left turn in her work is surprising. She seems to constantly be reinventing her style.  Just take a look at her body of work. Her progression can be very explosive at times and her need to explore and push design is evident everywhere. It’s an inspiring journey and you can catch it all pretty quickly by taking a visual stroll through her Flickr photostream.

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