Goodies, Giveaways and Friesen on the Brain

We sort of kinda interrupt this art blog to tip you off about a chance to grab a bundle of goodies, get some special discounts and have your opinions and wishes heard! Then we’ll talk art.

072415 goodie giveawayReader’s Wish List Survey

Take a little survey and let us know what you want to see on the blog, as well as in the magazine and in our upcoming projects as we plan for the rest of 2015 into 2016. As a thank you for your time, you’ll find these discounts and a Goodie Giveaway at the end of the survey:

The Polymer Arts 10% off code for subscriptions and back issues on our website.*

– 10% off code for your entire purchase at (featuring Lisa Pavelka and Christi Friesen products.)*

–A chance to win one of two Goodie Boxes that will include a variety of tools and supplies from Polyform, Staedtler, Jacquard, CF Originals, and more (each valued at $40+).* **

The Fine Print:  *Discounts and entering for the Goodie Box giveaways end at midnight PDT on August 2nd, 2015. Your promo codes will pop up on a Thank You page after you submit the survey. **Due to the unpredictability of out of country shipping times and circumstances, we will substitute clays and other sensitive materials with durable items for winners living outside the US.


cf mechanical botanicalsOkay … now for some art to end our week. Summer colors and summer fun had been the theme, but I have Christi Friesen on the brain so we’re going to try to combine this all with some “Mechanical Botanicals” by CF herself.

Why so much Friesen distraction? For one, both the discount and the goodie box you can get by taking the survey can help you stock up on CF Originals goods (Have you seen the new little Swellegant Sampler kit! So cool … you can try it all! It’s not in the Goody Box, but you can grab it at with that discount code mentioned!)

Also, I spent part of the day working on the latest article she’s whipped up for us at The Polymer Arts magazine … “Embellishments”! Boy, she can pack a lot of tips and tricks into a handful of pages! And the pictures! She is a generous contributor, I tell you.  (I know … I need to get the line-up for the Fall issue out to you all, but it’s been an interesting wrangling of content this quarter. Next week, I promise!)

The other reason everything seems to be coming up Christi is that, well Christi came up to see me on her way out of town Wednesday. We stayed up way too late and came up with way too many amazing ideas and even more questions. One of them was about how to categorize work. And even whether we should.

Take a look at these oil cans. They’re decorative. And they’re sculptural. There is polymer, but it’s at least half other materials. So is it polymer art? Mixed-media? Multi-media? For shows, books and even on blogs and in articles, we find ourselves looking for categories and labels and ways to put things into a particular box. But do we need to?

Don’t worry. We didn’t come up with the answer to the universe and everything or the definitive answers to these questions either the other night. We did decide that maybe backing off the labels and categories so we stop mentally boxing things in so often could be a good thing though. So, let’s not say that this is polymer art or mixed media or sculpture or decor. Let’s just say it’s bits of the artist that is here for all of us to enjoy. And most of the time, that should be enough.


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or an issue of The Polymer Arts magazine, as well as by supporting our advertising partners.

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The Future Faces of Polymer

sean mitchell smThis is Sean Mitchell. He’s 12 years old, home-schooled, and the youngest person to ever take a college-level polymer clay course.

Wait … is Sean the real news or is it the fact that this past year, the first college-level credit course in polymer art was actually accepted and implemented at an accredited American institution? Well, they are both news in their own way, aren’t they? Both Sean and the class are bright lights for the future of polymer art.

The class, “Art 200: Polymer Clay” was taught at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin by Diane Levesque who was also the curator for the exhibit at the H.F. Johnson Gallery of Art at Carthage CollegeA Re-Visioning: New Works in Polymer. Diane presented her overview and thoughts on the course at the Polymer 2.0 Symposium along with inviting a number of students who took the class to attend the presentation and symposium that day. Sean was one of them.

At 12 years old, Sean isn’t quite of college age and is not one of those kids skyrocketed into a university education at an early age, although I have to say, after hearing his participation in our discussions and talking with him myself, I think he could have been. He’s exceedingly bright, curious and well-spoken. It was fortunate that special circumstances and the need for a creative option in his home school curriculum landed Sean the opportunity to take this class in which he excelled. He brought this sculpture to share with us. That piece alone was pretty impressive.

So, I had to ask him … “Do you see yourself continuing to work in polymer?” His answer was yes, but he did confess that he was actually interested in going into industrial engineering. So, we may lose him to another creative area, but nonetheless, Sean as well as his fellow students, were very enthusiastic about their experience with the medium, which brought up the question, “How can we introduce polymer as an art form to more of the younger generations?”

Well, we can start with the kids in our own life. I’ve had quite the year of introducing the many facets of polymer clay to the young people in my family and beyond. I now have at least one niece that seems to be inextricably addicted to it, and she introduced it to her friends as well. Word of mouth works well in spreading the love of creating as well as in business! And, of course, if we can continue to push for college-level courses and maybe even introduce it into high schools and after-school programs, polymer can continue to expand its range and the world’s view of it as art, not just hobby craft. Wouldn’t that be exciting?


If you like this blog, support The Polymer Arts projects with a subscription or issue of The Polymer Arts magazine as well as supporting our advertising partners.

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Revisiting the Masters

In a recent conversation with a couple rather big names in our community, I was asked why the community’s major blogs don’t feature the masters very often. It gave me pause. The thing is, I think we do … but part of it may be that there can be a difference in opinion as to what constitutes a master. But really what it comes down to is why we do these blogs. I know my reason is to bring inspiring ideas to you, things that will get you running into the studio or thinking about how to challenge yourself or tips that might help resolve a design issue. This requires a lot of new work and new ideas. The people we might call masters have perfected a set of techniques and/or approaches to design that most of us have become familiar with, so there is a question as to whether a reader will be very enthused by a post on something they’ve seen before. But what this question did make me consider is what we can get out of revisiting the masters.

We can become so familiar with some things that we just can’t see what there is to learn from it any more. The first time I saw Jeffrey Lloyd Dever’s work was years ago in Art Jewelry magazine. I was floored by his technique and finish (still am actually!) and tried out the tutorial in those pages. I wasn’t very successful but I did learn quite a few things along the way about back-filling and finishing. The thing is, if I worked through that same tutorial now, I would learn something different. What I was able to glean from my exploration of his work then, is not what I would glean from it now. Jeff was at Synergy and had a gallery table of his work so I was able to see his pieces close up. This time it was the color choices that I pondered. That didn’t even cross my mind years ago when I was so focused on technique.

You can see by the detail of his Racine Art Museum installation why his colors might be just a tad intriguing. But is that what intrigues you? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on where you are in your art and even where your thoughts are on this day.


The point is, we should keep revisiting the masters, even the same pieces. The best work does not have just one thing to teach us or for us to take away. Really wonderful art will have many facets that will hit us differently at various points in our lives. So, I’ve been thinking … I should make a point here and there of revisiting even the most familiar work on this blog, give us a chance to get reacquainted with it and find what is new and exciting for us because of where we are as a community today. I’d love to hear that many of you are or will do the same. If you have any great discoveries in doing this, do let me know. We can share it here.

By the way, I pulled this image of Jeff’s work from the Polymer Art Archive which is also a treasure of a source for work from our past as well as our present. It is well worth reading and visiting on a regular basis.

The Criticism We Need


A large part of the conversation this week at Synergy had to do with our avoidance of constructive criticism. The consensus was unanimous – criticism is necessary to our growth and improvement as artists and community, but the hurdles we have to overcome to change a culture of “Like” into a supportive culture of thoughtful examination are huge. According to surveys conducted for this convention, the vast majority of polymer artists create because it is a source of enjoyment, not because they are trying to make a living off of it or get into galleries or museums. With such a base and the pervasive nature of our internet dependent community, it will be difficult for us to get even a fraction of our folks into a habit of giving and graciously accepting criticism of our artwork.

However, avoiding criticism does reduce the effectiveness of our efforts to grow the polymer image from hobbyist craft medium, to a serious fine art form. More so, we still need our hobbyists, and the criticism is not going to be – and should not be – an integral part of their process. Sometimes we should just enjoy the process of creating. But for the serious artists in our community, criticism needs to be seen as essential and, someday, common. Because the inverse of the quote above is true … what we do will mean next to nothing if we avoid criticism and the opportunity to improve our visual communication with the world we present our work to.

Okay … I got all kinds of serious. Perhaps its because last night was so not serious. Our closing banquet was fraught with silliness, innuendo, and wonderfully warm camaraderie. Our sides and faces hurt from laughing but the conviviality assisted the auction raising efforts. I don’t have the numbers, but I hear we raised a record amount to help the IPCA continue its efforts and changes we are hearing about.

Now off to the American Craft Council show to see what else is going on in the craft world.

Color Through the Centuries

Have you ever wondered why certain colors become favorites for a period and then are abandoned almost overnight? The predominance of colors is often a result of social or global circumstances. I found this chart below and the accompanying post highlighting the change in fashionable colors over the decades quite interesting.


I don’t know that anyone can actually guess what colors will come from a change in global or local circumstances, but a historical view could give you a direction if you are looking to change up your line this coming year. Even if not, it is rather fun to see where we have been and where we’ve come to over the years in our society’s color preferences.


Artistic Collaborations

This year I’ve been doing a lot of chatting with other polymer artists, collaborating–or hoping to–on a variety of projects primarily related to promoting polymer and the image of polymer art. What I would really like to do is artistic collaborations. It is amazing what the creativity and input from another artist can do to push your work and get you think in different directions. You often end up with something that you would have never imagined. That synergistic effect of two or more minds trying to resolve individual visions into one can be so exciting and energizing.


You may have seen the beautiful work of  J.M. Syron and Bonnie Bischoff combining woodworking and polymer. Their large piece of furniture are well-known but I adore their lamps.


Cynithia Toops regularly collaborates with jewelry smith Chuck Domitrovich. Chuck set  up a wonderful Flickr page with their in-progress and finished work.



One of favorite collaborations is this very interesting wood and polymer piece by Porro Sahlberg  and Peter Sahlberg Leppikallio.  The “Trilobite Cabin” was included in “500 Cabinets” by Lark Books. Click on the photo to go to the page with the detail of the side which is just wonderful.

So … have you considered collaborating?

A Day to Say Thank You

Today I FINALLY got out to go see the group at our local Mile High Polymer Clay Guild here in the Denver, Colorado area. They were finishing up their annual Spring retreat. I wandered in around noon, into a colorful, chatty room to be warmly greeted by some 30 or so smiling faces. How fantastic it was to meet so many people, whose names I knew as subscribers to the magazine, but hadn’t had a chance to meet in person. I was heartily reminded, as they directed me to various tables to check out the art work being done and as I watched people bounce from table to table to help each other out, just how wonderfully sharing our community is.

I’ve worked in a few other creative communities and I don’t think I’ve known such generosity and eagerness to help and support each other. Our efforts to grow as a community, to get the word out about our fantastic medium, and to help elevate the perception of polymer as a fine art medium is rooted in this essential aspect of how we communicate and interact. It is also a huge reason why The Polymer Arts magazine has done so well, as new as it is. It’s  because so many of you write to let me know what you like and even what you think is missing so I can improve the content as well as spreading the word about the magazine through your groups, networks, blogs and websites. How wonderful you’ve all been.

So I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your support, enthusiasm, and especially your generous spirits. Thank you in particular to all our readers, especially the ones that write to offer suggestions and keep me on track. Big warms hugs to all the “midwives” at the PCAGOE that helped form the magazine to start with. And today, thank you to the MHPCG for being so gracious and welcoming to a stranger who just wandered into the middle of your event.

We  really have an amazing community.

Encouraging Constructive Criticism

Yesterday I posted observations about an organically inspired necklace. Beautifully done, it still had room for improvement and I mentioned my thoughts on that. It felt rather odd to do so. Our community doesn’t really spend a lot of time talking about the missed opportunities in our art work. Usually we praise (and usually deservedly so) the work of our fellow artists which certainly helps bolster confidence and enthusiasm in the artist. But how much does it help them improve their work?


A week or so ago I had a great Skype conversation with Christine Dumont of Voila (see the interview/article on Voila in our latest magazine issue). One of the very unique things about her site is that members get constructive feedback on work they submit in their gallery. Much of the Voila concept is built around ways to help polymer artists improve their work, not just receive confirmation that they are going in the right direction. I think this is a concept we all need to embrace further.

The hard part of with working more constructive feedback into our conversations is that most of us have not been through the training and educational experience of art school or other exposure to critical commentary on our heartfelt work. But in an artistic and educational environment, constructive criticism is a major part of the learning process. Not only does it help to hear other people’s opinions and ideas about how to improve what you do, but honing a critical eye through observing the work of others can help you more readily see ways of improving yours.

I would certainly love to see more of this kind of exchange in the community.  Do you think you have a thick enough skin to hear people express what might be done to improve your work so you can learn and grow your artistic skills from it? And can you give others helpful and supportive advice on opportunities you find in their work? If so, perhaps try including small suggestions in your conversations about other artists’ work. And try Voila if you haven’t already done so.

Organic Cohesiveness

Nature inspires the art of many of us but how often can you say the entire piece reflects the aesthetics of Mother Nature?

beatriz Cominatto_c

This piece by Beatriz Cominatto is striking not only because of its unexpected and yet still elegant choice of forms for a necklace but because there is no true break from organic construction anywhere along the piece. We are looking at vines twisting down to mature open pods presenting their treasures. From the focal forms all the way around the neckband the piece reflects the shapes and organization of nature.

There are, however, minor breaks from authentic organic here–one that really makes the piece and one that is a departure that could be seen as a missed opportunity.

First the interior of the pods and seeds are metallic–this isn’t a natural version of seed pods but it works because it puts emphasis on the ‘treasure’ aspect of the organic forms, mixing our sense of what treasure is with what nature holds as its most precious gifts. This juxtaposition is what takes this form being just a direct translation of seed pods into something with instilled meaning and added beauty.

The other break from nature is in how the vines are twisted. They are very uniform. This is not normal in nature–not unheard of but not as organic as we usually encounter. A slight variation in the plaiting of the vine forms would have added to the organic theme and interest of the piece. I think it can be helpful to stop before completing a piece and ask if it can be pushed just a little and in this case, it probably could have been. The trick is to know when to stop pushing it. And for this piece, its final form is actually a decent stopping point.

What do you think? And how do you feel about a blog post that both praises and presents constructive criticism of a piece like this?

Beatriz Cominatto hails from São Paulo, Brasil. You can find more of her work on her Flickr page and her website.

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