Synergy Recap in Pictures

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First of all … the new Fall issue came out over the weekend! Get your texture fix with this issue, in a big way. If you have a digital subscription and have not seen your access email, check your junk mail folder. You should also be able to access it through your account here. If you have a print subscription, those went to the post office in Idaho on Friday so they are on the way too. If you do not have an active subscription or need to get your single issue copy, go to our website at

So this week we are going to have a parade of photos from Synergy 4 to include some beautiful art and some show shots for those who didn’t go but are trying to live vicariously through the community’s representatives that did.

The absolute best thing about going to these events is the people you get to meet and chat it up with. I think I may have said that last week but it’s true! The first picture here is just a sampling of the talent that was sitting behind me at breakfast one morning. How thrilled would you be to have the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Dever and Rachel Carren and listen in on their, no doubt, very insightful conversation? Or pull up a chair and say hello to Nan Roche and Melanie West? Or hang out at the same table with Christi Friesen, Bettina Welker, and Martina Weller? And you can at these things. People here, no matter what the skill level or how long they have been involved, are happy to talk to all the attendees. It is always illuminating what one can learn from others with the same passion.

I was grateful to get to talk to so many people but I was particularly happy to have a little time to sit down with our longtime polymer master, Marie Segal. She gave a talk about the new Cernit formulation–there has been improved strength, flexibility, and clarity that looks to rival the other better-known brands which got me quite excited to try it. If you like sampling clays to see what works best in what application, jump over to her shop and get yourself some new goodies at The Clay Factory.



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IPCA Auction … Join the Madness

2016-07-19_11.56.54 KDustinLive auctions are mad. There is such a scramble for the items up for bid because you know it’s your only chance to get that rare piece that caught your eye and you can feel that same energy from others in the room. Online auctions won’t have that same live energy but there is a scramble nonetheless! The IPCA, in an effort to include members that were not able to attend Eurosynergy this year, saved about half the donated items this year and created an online auction that you can participate in.

Have you ever dreamed of owning an original Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, a Melanie Muir, or a Bettina Welker piece? Those big names and others have donated their gorgeous work to help raise money for the IPCA projects. So it’s not only a chance to own a beautiful piece, like this unusual Kathleen Dustin necklace, but its money that goes to a cause dedicated to polymer artists. The IPCA has a lot of ambitious ideas on the drawing board but they need money to get them of the ground. So take a look at the items up for bid on the IPCA auction page.

Our contribution was a copy of Polymer Journeys signed by 25 of the contributing artists. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, this is the copy to have. Or if you have one but want one signed by so many of the artists you love, you can bid on this rare copy here. If you just can’t wait, get your copy from our website at 10% off the cover!



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Complexity in Simple Shapes

bettina welker shape pinsYou do not need a wide variety of elements, shapes, textures, or other complexities to create an intriguing piece. As I mention quite a bit, keeping it simple is often the most impressive and eye-catching approach. The trick is in developing or arranging the design in an unusual or energetic fashion.

With these beautiful brooches by Bettina Welker, there is not an abundance of variation besides size and that one shift in color at the apex of these little stacks. But the variation in position and size creates a swirl that draws you in. Simple but precise shapes, beautifully crafted and finished is all these brooches need, in addition to that visual energy, to go from fairly simple to fascinatingly sophisticated.

Bettina, also a graphic designer, creates a beautiful website as well as wearable art. Go enjoy her pieces and her presenation on her BeadWorx website, or if you want a condensed view of her brooches, check out her albums in Ipernity.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a simple shape and repeat it. You can give it as much variation as you like, but it must be the same shape. It can change in size, color, texture, imagery on it, treatment, arrangement, or finish. It can be separate shapes stacked upon one another or constructed into one object, like a necklace or a sculpture. Or work in two-dimension and treat or form your surface with the shape repeated on it in whatever fashion you would like. What can you get a simple shape to do for you?


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Wooden Canes and Turquoise Veins

Cara-Jane-Polymer-Clay-Faux-Turquoise-Ring-Polymania-2016-wmI was going to focus on mixed media this week, but I have run into a plethora of fabulous faux wood work, so I can’t resist showing some more. Where is this coming from? Is someone out there teaching a class or sharing a tutorial that I missed? Well, for whatever the reason, the trend has brought us some truly lovely faux wood like we’ve rarely seen before.

This ring by the ever-exploring Cara Jane Hayman just knocked my socks off. What a wonderful mahogany and inlaid look she achieved here. It’s dramatically paired with an almost graphical looking faux turquoise filled with a bold spiderweb veining. It’s terrifically real looking but aside from the impressive faux work, the pairing of visual textures in an uncomplicated form highlighted with a meticulous finish makes for a beautiful piece.

If you happen to be in the UK next year around, say, March 18th-20th, you absolutely will need to go to Polymania 2016 where Cara Jane will be teaching this ring as a workshop. You will also be able to take workshops with Claire Wallis, Bettina Welker and Donna Kato at this 3-day event. Check your calendars and get more information on this event and the skinny on this ring on Cara Jane’s website.

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Graphically Designed

Talk about color accenting! This bracelet plays with everything else before that cane of purple even begins to register. The wonderful shape of the beads, the contrast in value (which is all black and white are), the visual and tactile texture and the negative space where the beads cut away instead of butting against each other makes for an intriguing and dynamic bracelet.

Of course, this is a Bettina Welker bracelet, so well engineered and designed. Her graphic design background is really showing it’s best side in this lovely piece.


Of course, Bettina is the queen of bracelets. If you haven’t gotten your copy of her lovely book Polymer Clay Bracelets, you really should, even if you don’t make a lot of bracelets. She has some wonderful tips just on working with polymer and on engineering jewelry, not to mention that the layout and photos are gorgeous.


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Bracelet Form Blending

So today let’s talk bracelets. Bracelets have a consideration that necklaces and earrings do not in that they will regularly be knocked and rubbed against a wide variety of objects so they need to be durable and their surfaces need to be able to take some wear. That is probably why the three primary constructions used in polymer bracelets are a string of beads, the bangle and the cuff–good standards and well suited for showing off bead work and surface designs as well as being strong.  But what other approaches can we take?

The more exciting construction designs I’ve seen combine common approaches. Below we have a modified cuff made of two halves that could be called beads since they are strung together with a band of elastic through their center.  (There is a tutorial on how to make these in the July 2010 issue of Art Jewelry magazine and on AJM’s website.) So it’s a combination of cuff and bead really.


You may have recognized these bracelets as the work of Helen Breil, an amazing artist with an intensely creative yet practical approach to jewelry art. She is the author of one of the most unique how-to books for polymer, Shapes. Her sophisticated bracelets popped directly to mind when I started thinking about what we have to consider when constructing bracelets.

Bettina Welker was the other that came to mind. I introduced you to one of her more ingenious bracelet constructions in February. Bettina has quite a number of interesting and problem solving ways to build, hinge and close a bracelet in her book Polymer Clay Bracelets. If you have an interest in pushing beyond the usual with bracelets, you’ll really want to get your hands on this book.

By the way, both Helen and Bettina’s books were reviewed in our Spring issue of The Polymer Arts magazine with sample pages and titillating previews of some of the ideas inside. Get your copy at


Slimming Down the Bangle

The bracelet is such an fantastic form to work with in polymer clay simply because of the range of possibilities. It can be small and dainty or big and bold. It can consist of beads of nearly any shape and size or be laid like a broad canvas around the wrist for showcasing favorite surface treatments or even a narrative scene. And best of all, you can wear bracelets with anything, anytime.

So I was definitely excited to see Bettina Welker’s new book Polymer Clay Bracelets come out late last year. You’ll see a review of the book and some sample interior pages in the new Spring 2013 issue of The Polymer Arts magazine. I really like that she address ways to make bangle bracelets without having to make them so big just to get over one’s hands. She has a couple solutions in the book but since I can’t show you that, how about this simple solution in a bracelet shown in the Shout! online exhibition. Its made with a spring hinge.


This is such a beautiful piece with the subtle texture and then just the small spots of brilliant green peeking through. And with the simple embedded hinge the construction of such a piece can keep it slimmer than a traditional slip on bangle. The lower profile of the bracelet makes it more wearable in more situations. There is nothing wrong with big and bold but if you just want to jazz things up a bit while you run errands or go out for a casual lunch, you don’t want your jewelry to get in the way of rummaging through the bargain bins or have it dipping into your soup. Or is that just me that has those problems?

If you’d like to order Bettina’s book, you can do so from her website here.

Retro Blend Gone Wild

So, if you haven’t heard about (or seen) the latest community craze, you may want to check out Bettina Welker‘s pixelated retro blend cane and all the creative work that has come out of it. It really took off after Cynthia posted Bettina’s work and the link to her free tutorial on Polymer Clay Daily.

Here is just one take-off on the use of this as a base and accent for these beads by Polymeramoi.


To see a wide variety of applications for this technique, check out the busy Pixelated Retro Blend Flickr group formed just to share this very thing.


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