Memories for a Lifetime


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I know I showed you a bit of the sample “Into the Forest” installation last week, but I didn’t get in this mosaic created by Julie Eakes for the exhibition that will be installed in November. I think Julie gets the prize for the most intense and biggest piece to go into the installation. I uploaded a fairly large image of this so if you click on the photo, it should open up in a browser window and you can zoom in to see all the individual canes that make up the idyllic scene.

I wish you could zoom in on the screens you see here in the main assembly room as Ellen Prophater presented her talk on mokume gane. Oh, the secrets and the great tips and tricks she gave away during this talk! This kind of thing was happening all over and made the price of this event well worth it on that basis alone. The friendships and conversations, however, they make it priceless.

If you didn’t get to make Synergy and haven’t been to any major events lately or ever, keep them in mind. Save up your pennies and plan to get that time off from work for the next big event you can possibly work into your schedule. They are each an experience you’ll keep with you all life long.


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A Choir of Angels

barb McGuire faces 3 2017 430x386 - A Choir of AngelsExploring technique and design doesn’t ever end, or at least I don’t think it should. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working with a material, there is always more to learn. Barbara McGuire is a true and long standing polymer pioneer who may often return to signature techniques but she keeps expanding on what she has done, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in big leaps.

This collection of beads is one of her subtler explorations. Barbara has been making face canes for ages but she keeps changing up what she does with them. The angelic looking collection here gets its ethereal feel from the use of translucent wings and background cane slices. Past variations were commonly surrounded by opaque slices and balanced or radial backgrounds. The more freeform application here adds to the otherworldly feel of these little angels.

Barbara posts most of her recent work on her Facebook page while her products and news can usually be found on her website.



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Dramatic Blends

MNewberg - Dramatic BlendsOne of my personal favorite articles in the new Summer issue is the “Blended Beauty” article on creating dramatic color and light in canes, written by Meg Newberg. I have been trying to get a really good article for our caning enthusiasts but for some reason, it’s been a struggle getting anything submitted beyond specific cane patterns. Which are cool, yes, but not quite in line with the technique driven and skill building objective of The Polymer Arts

This article, however, is amazing. Meg gives concise and clear instruction on how to create the type of clay blends that give her canes that beautiful inner glow and dramatic color. But these ingenious Skinner type blends are for more than just caners, as you’ll see when you read it.

Meg’s focus on canes has allowed her deep and intense exploration into what can be done with canes. If you want to work on your caning skills or just want to create more interesting and colorful Skinner blends, read the article but also consider signing up for Meg’s monthly tutorial subscription (the mandala cane you see on the bottom here is this month’s tutorial) or buy one of her tutorials posted in her Etsy shop.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Let’s recharge this weekend! Sit back with a favorite beverage and take in your latest copy of The Polymer Arts or another magazine or book and let you mind process the art and ideas you find. Keep a sketchbook nearby to record any “ah-ha!” moments and if you feel charged up when done, go to the studio and have some casual play time, exploring what inspired you.


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Loveless Animals

loveless cane wall seahorse 430x989 - Loveless AnimalsLet us allow Jon Stuart Anderson’s cover piece dictate the theme this week … animals full of color and pattern. Although, unlike Jon’s bull on the cover of the upcoming Summer 2017 issue (due out end of May) is a three-dimensional sculpture, this piece is a wall mosaic by Mary Anne Loveless who just so happens to be gracing our pages as well in the gallery section of that same issue.

Even though this is a two-dimensional approach to using canes to create the shape and flow of an animal’s likeness, the mind-set is probably not dissimilar when the artists sit down to work out where the canes will go. What canes and where would they best serve the image of this animal they want to convey? Mary Anne is using mosaic and pointillism to create the form of the seahorse here while Jon uses a three-dimensional form. Does seem pretty different from that aspect but the patterns are what form the details of these animals in both cases.

I really enjoy picking out the individual canes in both cases. I am enthralled by Mary Anne’s choice of color juxtaposition in this. The aqua next to the reds and the beige and peach being the color the blues fade off to like in the chest area. It’s just beautiful.

Mary Anne really likes seahorses, as you will find upon opening her Flickr page which as of this post, is pretty much all seahorses. But she also likes fish and flowers and faeries!  But mostly she loves, and is very good at, pattern and color which you can see in full evidence on her Flickr pages and her Etsy shop.


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Going to the Dogs

IC pupToday, let’s look at when cute works. Because cute stuff is, of course, a legitimate form of art which, like any contemporary or statement piece, still needs to follow basic design guidelines, along with that touch of artistic inspiration, to work well.

This adorable cane covered pup, fighting the chill of a spring morning on a distant northern European coastline with a little neck muffler, has been in my queue for some time. It was created by France’s Isabelle Chatelain. I don’t know what I had in mind when I grabbed it and even after looking it over, mostly what I can say is that it just makes me smile.

It does work design wise though. There is a limited hue palette made up of various greens and a splash of orange and the eye and button have you playing a bit of eye tennis as you glance back and forth between these two obvious focal points but you’ll still stop to admire the patterns and the overall ‘cuteness’ of this guy with his little neckerchief. Isabelle has a whole set of these guys on her Flickr page but this one, by far works the best. Why is that?

I think it’s very, very simple. The button. The button is a darkest point against the lightest background which creates the most contrast aside from the eye. That makes it the primary focal point and gives us a very calm but certain spot to rest between checking out all the pattern. Is there anything else that you think really makes this one work so well? I have a couple other thoughts but I’d love to her yours!

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Go back to basics. Create something without worrying about pushing the design. Chose classic color combinations you enjoy, basic shapes, and easy finishes you find attractive. Don’t reference anyone else’s work though and don’t worry about what others might think. Follow your own whim on this classic creative road.


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Encouraging Stories

agozonar-encourageOur profiled artist for the Winter 2016 issue is the delightfully enigmatic and poetic Alev Gozonar whose work is far less defined by the material than by the stories she has such an overwhelming desire to tell. She works predominantly in polymer if you are looking at the last few years but she takes many detours and one may even wonder if she’ll be wandering back this way at moments.

In the article we feature and discuss her pointillistic cane wall pieces but that is only one part of this ever exploring artist. The work you see here is water-color on paper with little wire and polymer people pushing up the painted shapes to reveal the white and words behind the painting. There is an obvious metaphor of revealing the ideas behind the work but the struggle of the little guys also brings to the forefront the idea of just how hard it is to convey one’s meaning. And, if you know Alev’s work, you know there has got to be a story in this — probably something personal or close to her. In any case, the muted color palette is just beautifully harmonious each open shape just begs you to examine it. I find it an irresistibly intriguing piece and did so wish we had room to discuss some of her pieces like this. But that is both the beauty and the shortcoming of a magazine format –you only have so much time to delve into the most interesting subjects.

Think of the articles as an introduction to subjects and ideas that serendipitously fall into your lap and do go investigate the most interesting ones further. If Alev’s stories and inspiration sparks your interest, go take a look at her beautiful website, especially the section on her book which you can read online (the English is next to the Turkish so don’t let the show of foreign words turn you away).


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Pick up a magazine or scroll through Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram or whatever you have handy. Find something that really grabs you and do a bit of investigating. Keep a notepad or sketchbook nearby and start making notes on what you find inspiring. After you’ve done this, go play in the studio and let that inspiration help you start on your next project. If you detour from the inspiration, that’s fine. Just let it get you started and see where it takes you.


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Canes Gone Wild

olga-perova-flickr-2014While researching the translucent canes last week, I came across a lot of amazing cane pieces. Some were delicately beautiful, some extraordinarily skilled and some were just wild. This vase is a case in point.

To be honest, I am not sure what Olga Perova did to this but it completely sucked me in because the details are tremendous. I believe the work is a combination of extruder caning and extruder mokume with micro beads and maybe some post cure carving going on. Not absolutely sure but what a lot of work this must have been. A part of me wants to see the form itself more controlled–straighter upper edges and cleaner openings in the body–but then I am not sure that the feeling of complete abandon would be quite as strong and that could diminish it overall. Maybe my eyes and mind just need a place to rest that is simple and ordinary while looking at this. Of course, bedlam and a riot of color and texture may very well be Olga’s intention. In which case, she certainly did that.

To really appreciate the detail and intensity of this piece, you need to pop over to Olga’s Flickr photostream and see all the shots. Then look through the rest of what she has. You’ll see that most of her work is very well controlled but she doesn’t shy away from being experimental either.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create chaos. Work completely intuitively for at least 15 minutes. Let chaos rules the work that comes from your hands. If you are itching to put order to your chaos after 15 minutes, do so. Otherwise keep at it and see what comes of pure intuition.


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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.


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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A Stroppel Ocean

stroppel cane Dev80

I was going to share the new Fall Cover here but have a couple of bits of information we would like to confirm before we do. Creating a magazine is all details, details, details and they are never-ending! We’ll have it on here by Monday but if you’re just too curious, we’ll send it out in our newsletter tomorrow morning. (Don’t get our newsletter yet? Sign up here–it’s the box on the left of the page–for twice monthly news, tips, eye candy and other fun chatter.)

In the meantime, who would have thought that a Stroppel cane, often used in very graphical designs, would be so reminiscent of the ocean? This beautiful collar by Mara Devescovi, which is all Stroppel cane, certainly looks like the undulating water of a crystal clean ocean as you might see it on some tropical beach. Who would have thought that random cane morphing would emulate in the way the movement of the water distorts the world beneath it. It really gets one thinking about a summer escape, I must say!

Mara goes by Dev’Art60 on Flickr where her progress in polymer art over the last decade can be followed and lots of great ideas can be found along the way.  


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