A Peek at a Letter

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Since we started out this week with a spooky something or other peeking out at us, I thought I’d try to make a theme of it and the idea of peeking into things is always intriguing. Spaces that allow us to look into things beyond is like the revealing of a tiny mystery, a look into a place that we might otherwise be shut off from. When this is part of a design, I think it automatically will draw the eye. Whether you can keep a viewer looking is up to the rest of your design.

The idea of a partly revealed letter that Samantha Burroughs chose for this beautifully textured pendant is certainly alluring. Who doesn’t get a little bit of thrill from the possibility of seeing the inner thoughts of another person? We are also very drawn to text in general as our brain wants to immediately read and decipher it so it was a good choice for the interior content of the holes here. It also creates a contrasting texture to the organic surface of the piece.

Samantha has honed her skills in a variety of established techniques and looks to be fully exploring quite a few of them. You can find her work on Etsy.

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Light-Hearted Blue

teal waves earrings 430x415 - Light-Hearted BlueThe primary reason for blue being such a favorite is its ability to sooth our spirits. Blue is the color of peace and contentment as well as reliability and security. Those are things we all need to feel on a regular basis. So designs that include blue will give off those kinds of feelings.

I thought this simple pair of earrings by Warren and Robbin of Bali did that in spades. The sky-blue background of the drop part has rippling lines much like you would see on a peaceful body of water and what is more peaceful than sitting by a rippling pool or pond filled with the reflection of a blue sky?

I find the white sections above interesting in that the wobbly circles are energetic but reserved on their steady canvas of white. That little tick up in energy contrasts the bottom half just enough to emphasize its peacefulness plus the circles feel like they are floating, maybe on water, bringing that peaceful water idea full circle.

Robbin and Warren don’t always work in polymer but their designs are always interesting to process. Find more of their work in both natural materials and polymer on their  Flickr photostream and on their website.

 

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Boldly Big and Metal Bright

S Parenkova sheildsI have another bit of design contemplation for you today, this time in terms of color and finish.

This necklace, created by Svetlana Parenkova, as you can see by the watermark, has a lot of attractive details, things that on their own might draw the eye. The metallic shimmer of the shield like disks are a primary draw–human beings do like their sparkle and shine. The texture aids the shine by causing more varied reflection with dark contrast in the shadows of the texture. The blue and orange (copper in this case) is a classic color combination that has been enjoyed through the ages. The graduated size of the disks are also a classic necklace composition.

So with all these classic and long used elements, what makes this necklace stand out? Or perhaps you don’t think it stands out that much. If so, why not?

For my two cents, I think the bold size and clean finish certainly helps to carry it but perhaps it comes down to the centered notch in the sides of what would have been a background disk if it was not cut like two emerging fans.  This cut-away creates a space for the pieces to nudge up close to one another, for a more united front. The lack of spacing matches the sense of strength that shield like objects convey as well as working well with the bold size of the elements. What do you think?

This strong and bold look is fairly common in Svetlana’s work as you can witness on her Flickr and Livemaster pages.

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Ordinarily Wonderful

creasanscess green shapeletI very much enjoyed the comments and the interaction of last week. Maybe we’ll do that once a week or every other. Getting you to think about art is definitely one of my high goals!

So let’s ponder a few together this week. I find it curious that some pieces, even though very much like other pieces we see, will just strike you as working so much better than similar work. Like this set by Cécile Bouesnard. It is quietly striking although the shape is a common one these days and the composition of shape and focal point is what one might expect.  But the coloring and the marks keep it from becoming just ordinary. So why is that?

Success is not always easy to define, primarily because the success of a piece is really due to the sum of its parts. Key elements will often shine but if everything else didn’t work with it or support it as needed, those key elements would not have the same impact. So what is it here that is working? I think everything supports the overall feel. The soft shift of a rich green to that mellow yellow and the lime green snuck into the middle of it (did you even notice it was there?) gives the surface a glowing effect. The softness of the coloring contrasts with the perfectly trimmed shapes but those black marks, like the careless placement of a messy bottle contrasts with both the soft coloring and the clean shapes. These subtle but consistent contrasts make for an interesting and fulfilling piece to look upon.

That is my take on why this works. If you have other ideas, please add them to the comment section at the end of this post. In the meantime, you can see what else Cécile created with a similar combination of elements in varied compositions and colors on this post of her blog.

 

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Childlike Abandon

LynTremblay fun necklaceI don’t have a theme set for this week but I thought I’d just pull the first thing that grabbed me when opening Pinterest today and see where we go from there. It wasn’t a huge surprise that I grabbed this fun and colorful piece by Lyn Tremblay. This is really the antithesis of things I am entrenched in right now but my mind is definitely storing up lots of information on color as our next issue’s theme is “Color!” and it is shaping up to be more than just another great issue but rather an indispensable reference on color in polymer design. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to share with you the amazing articles our contributors are whipping into shape right now. But good things come to those that wait. Be sure you have your subscription up to date and keep checking in here to see the cover and get the release date.

In the meantime, let’s see what besides all the color grabs one’s attention in Lyn’s piece here. Fun is definitely a theme, not just in the colors but the playful forms and the perfectly imperfect placement of dots and spirals. There is a childlike quality in just about every aspect here yet it is well-balanced, with just enough contrast in color, texture, and form to keep it interesting while still establishing a relationship between all the disparate parts.

Do you notice how everything is of, or bows to, the circle form without being obvious because it is shown in so many widely varied ways? That’s the overriding relationship between the parts which allows us to take in its joy and the childlike abandon without it running all helter skelter over us. It just invites you to settle in and enjoy its playtime.

Lyn Tremblay’s primary outlet for showing her work looks to be her Facebook page where you can enjoy pieces that range from colorful to tribal to organic without leaving behind that sense of joy and exploration so well represented here.

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Scratching Through

sgraffito vaseTo finish up a stretch of blog posts on vessels, I have for you this interesting ceramic vessel done in a style easily translated into polymer. The technique is referred to as sgraffito. The beautiful texture and imagery are created by scratching into a surface that reveals a contrasting surface beneath it.

This vase is the work of Terri Kern whose choice of large bold scratches add to the illustrative and dreamy quality of her imagery. The way she has to work in ceramics makes the process all the more impressive. “Black is painted on in a small section and while it’s still wet, a carving tool is used to carve away the black to reveal the color underneath.  It normally takes as long to apply black as it does to apply all the other colors combined on any given piece.”

This is where polymer would have the advantage. Although I have only done this in small decorative swathes, it is quite easy to lay a very thin layer of clay on top of a thick contrasting color, run it through the pasta machine until the top layer is even thinner and then you can scratch or carve the raw clay. It has got to be faster than the process necessary to scratch wet glaze out on ceramic clay. You can also shape and cure the polymer layers and then scratch or carve the surface afterwards since cured polymer, especially when still warm, is quite easy to carve.

The two approaches yield a different kind of mark with soft edges in raw clay and very sharp and smooth edges in cured clay. Although I have not tried it, I imagine you could apply a very thin layer of raw clay to a cured piece and scratch the raw clay which would create a uniformly shallow mark. It would be fun to try and I have it on my to-do list!

I was thinking you could also go over the scratched areas with paint, the way you apply an antiquing effect. I got the idea while I was analyzing Terri’s work since it looks like some colors would have been laid back in after scratching. That could really add up to some beautifully complex and intriguing color.

You can also use oil paints on raw clay as shown here by Kate of Kalinkapolinka. This is actually the page through which I found Terri’s very intricate work. Want to see more from Terri? Go to her website here.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Scratch out a little something this weekend. Whether you try one of the sgraffito ideas listed here or just scratch at the clay for textural purposes, let you mind go as you doodle-scratch your way to some interesting effects and imagery.

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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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Just A Little Glitz

janpurpleglitz fossA little glitz and glamour is always welcome as we ring in the new year. There is just something about starting out feeling and looking great but that doesn’t mean you need to go crazy with the sparkle and bling. Unless that is your thing, of course. But for many of us, just a touch of pizzazz is more comfortable and easier to pull off.

The key with sparkle is contrast which, as you know by now I’m sure, is key with most designs. You need to decide just how much contrast you want in order to express your vision. A little black dress with a big showy necklace works because the dress is minimal while the necklace is energetic. A shimmery dress can do with a simple chain or solid pendant which acts as a quiet accent. But how about a nicely cut, sophisticated outfit? You don’t want the adornment to compete or overshadow the rest of the outfit, but you want some sparkle. So go for a small sprinkle of glitz to show you are in the spirit while keeping that sophisticated tone. This is edging more towards less contrast which works well when understated is the goal.

And that is what we have in this pendant and earring set by Kristie Foss. The very strong lines of the cane are upstaged by just a smattering of sparkles. It is not big or showy but it is dressed up and after a long and busy holiday season, celebratory but subdued may be just the ticket.

This little collection of New Year’s glitz (as she aptly named this blog post of hers) shows a number of similar examples to the one shown here. Enjoy the light shimmer and shine and have a joyous and safe New Year’s eve tomorrow.

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