The Paper and Polymer Advantage

izabela-nowak-upcycling-collierMy little contribution to the Spring issue of The Polymer Arts is an article on ways to combine paper with polymer. I did a lot of research to see if there was anything else I could share with readers beyond what I had done in the past with paper casting and collage style techniques and … wow! There are tons of ways paper can be used to kick up your work. It offers ways to make production less expensive and pieces lighter for castings and as cores for large beads, it can add interesting textures both tactile and visual, and, because it can go in the oven at polymer clay curing temperatures, it can be used over, under, inside of, and just about any way you want it with your raw clay and it all can go into the oven together.

My foray into paper and polymer came initially from looking for less expensive and less noxious ways to cast sculpted pieces I had created in polymer and wanted to duplicate. I went on to use the material as a substrate, to make light sculptural and bead cores and to make hollow beads. But the things they are doing with paper in the craft world is amazing, and looks a lot like polymer sometimes. From mokume-like carved stacks of paper to rolled beads to textured, stamped, and molded paper–the work is beautiful and a very direct source of inspiration for polymer artists. If you haven’t seen what I am talking about just google something like “paper jewelry” or “paper craft” on Google, Pinterest, Etsy or Flickr. It’s fascinating.

The other super cool thing about paper craft is that much of it is being made from recycled and upcycled paper sources. I do all my paper casting using junk mail and old newspapers and my collage work is from magazines I would otherwise just throw away. But those are not the only sources of paper we can recycle and combine with polymer pieces. This necklace by Izabela Nowak is a beautiful example of where using a paper source rather than polymer has a distinct advantage.

All those discs are cut from milk and juice cartons. Creating something like that with polymer would be intensely time-consuming and curing extremely thin polymer and keeping it flat takes a few tricks. I am not saying its impossible–I’ve done it myself–but why do that if you can get a similar effect while keeping more trash out of a landfill? And  … it’s cheap or free! You gotta love that.

Izabela actually does a ton of work in paper and upcycled materials. She doesn’t often combine her polymer and paper but I find the pieces in which she doe, more interesting than the paper alone. The polymer adds solidity and texture the paper can’t and the paper offers crisp edges and smooth surfaces that are more difficult to do in polymer. So together, they make quite the pair!

Get your copy of the Spring 2016 issue of The Polymer Arts for this and other great article sure to get your creative juice flowing!


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Search for paper craft, paper jewelry, or recycled art and find a piece you are drawn to. Don’t spend a lot of time looking. Then figure out what that one thing is that is really drawing you to that piece. Use that element … whether it’s the way the work was created (rolled, folded, molded), the form of the piece, or even the combination of colors, and use it to design or create your next piece.


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A Burst of Love

12662002_10209061699323923_5686152188712076481_nThis last Valentine’s week post is a bit of a Valentine itself, being sent out to this amazing artist and friend whose work I am posting– not because I know her but because she is so inspiring.

Paula K Gilbert has been in the polymer art community for twenty-some years now. She has kept at it through a series of very difficult times that included health issues that made it hard to think clearly, much less hold a tool steady. But she kept creating and, not only that, kept sharing. And she still does. She has been a regular contributor to The Polymer Arts and has assisted us in research and administrative tasks, on and off, for nearly the entire existence of the magazine, much of it in a self-imposed volunteer status. She is one of the most generous souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

This past year, Paula turned to an alternative source of art related to her work in polymer, one that could be more easily handled regardless of the kind of day she’s having. She started, if I remember correctly, making alcohol ink designs on small glass tiles for pendants. I don’t know why she was so surprised that they sold so fast. They were beautiful little gems. Eventually, she turned to painting tiles with alcohol ink in these beautiful abstract designs, and loosely-formed imagery bloomed onto them. Her sense of color and intuitive application has resulted in some amazingly energetic and entrancingly beautiful pieces. Although she has dabbled in more involved techniques, including scratch-off etching and stamping, I think her uncomplicated and obviously impassioned application, like what you see here, really shows her love for art as well as her persevering spirit.

Paula doesn’t have a website at the moment but she has been posting her work on Facebook. Nonetheless, she has a waiting list for her painted tiles, so if you are interested, well, line up behind me because I am on the list myself! If you want to contact Paula but can’t do so through Facebook, you can write us here and we’ll pass it on.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create something for someone you love. Make it something small and uncomplicated. Don’t think about making a great piece or impressing them. Don’t even try to make something you think they would like. Just keep them in mind and pull materials and colors that remind you of them. Create spontaneously and without self-criticism, and see what your love for another and for yourself comes up with.


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The Energy of Passion

forest rogersI only now realized that this week ends with Valentine’s day and I had to stop and contemplate whether I should do a theme.  Last year’s personal love stories just can’t be topped, though, so let’s dial it back to the essence of what Valentine’s day represents. Or try. What it represents is rather personal though, isn’t it? I know for most people it represents romantic love, but I like to think of it as being about passion. And that passion can be towards anyone or anything that you feel intensely about. It’s definitely a more all-inclusive day if it is a holiday in which we can celebrate all the things we love so dearly as we all have someone or something that is lucky enough to get so much of our passion.

It is hard to say what passion looks like in art, but I think we all know it when we see it. High energy and maybe even a little tension works. A dash of red doesn’t hurt either. So, today I am sharing something I shared a while back on my personal Facebook page because it is so amazing and embodies what I see as a multi-faceted sense of passion.

This polymer and mixed media sculptural work is by the amazing Forest Rogers.  The energy in this piece is so intense, it’s rather mesmerizing. The energy is in the heavy directional lines of the torn fabric, the horizontal arms, the flung back wings of the crow, and the slant of the weaponry on the ground. To really bring it home, there is that streak of blood-red streaming behind the figure whose implacable sense of forward motion seems to be leaving everything behind. Forest did not leave a lot of breathing room here, but we aren’t distressed by it because we recognize the emotion. It’s a full and intense passion, maybe sheathed in fury or defiance, but passion nonetheless for whatever cause this creature is flinging herself into.

I think this also embodies Forest’s passion for her work. All of her pieces have an unearthly energy to them, an energy that comes not just from her skill as an artist, but from a real sense of how fully invested she is in her craft and her vision. I feel this in that spot right below the ribcage when I get lost in my work, when the art just seems to spill from my fingertips. It seems most present when I am just creating without purpose or caring what anyone else will think of it. A passion for one’s art comes from simply needing to do it, from letting it become instead of struggling to create. I don’t know if that makes sense to all of you, but this piece very much calls to mind that truly intense passion for creating. If you have had that feeling for your creative work, then I feel sure you can see it too.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Use high energy directional lines to design or create an energetic or passionate piece. You can use Forest’s example to inspire your energetic lines or look to other work that you think is particularly energetic and passionate. See if you can discern the lines in the work that help relay this and try to recreate that energy in an original design of your own.


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Further Shaping Complexity

40-polymer-clay-tutorial-mixed-mediaIf you read Wednesday’s post, and especially if you took on the challenge, you might very easily find the connection between what you see here and what I talked about then. This is a great example of a repeated shape creating complexity. In this case, the repeated shape is actually a circle and most of the circles here are created with jump rings. As a way to create complex faux enamel with the wire boundary lines, this use of jump rings is pretty darn clever.

The piece and short tutorial are by Muchi at Muchi Creaciones.  Something like this would have been a perfect exercise for Wednesday’s challenge. No, it looks nothing like Bettina’s stacked shapes, but it is built on that same set of ‘rules’, and in these challenges I really hope you will use the rules as the most skeletal frame to build off.

Here the repeated shape has a fair amount of variation to it which creates a cohesive as well as interesting piece. There are three types of circles (the pendant shape itself, the jump rings, and the crystals) but in different sizes and colors and yet they all look like they belong together. See, using the same shape over and over could get a little mundane, but on the other hand changing up every element in a piece makes it feel chaotic. If you have one strong, repeated element, it won’t matter how much variation there is between them as there is a common characteristic and therefore we see them as related. As long as we find a relationship between elements, we feel there is some level of order and intention. Intention-less art is simply not interesting. And although you can make something chaotic, it should be obviously intentional if you want people to have an interest in it

If you want to check out the brief instructions to making this type of faux enamel, hop on over to Muchi’s blog post here then stay to check out her other clever little tutorials and creations.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a single, simple shape or form and create at least 10 different variations, making them as different from one another as you can imagine. Don’t think about what you will make from them, just create the elements. Once you have your 10 or more pieces complete, put them together in one piece or create a series from them. Don’t forget, you can share what you come up with while participating in these challenges on the Flickr page!


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Creatures from the Deep

AHumpert deep-sea-creatures-10As artists, we think of our imagination as a major muscle, if not the primary one used when we’re creating. But how much do you stretch that muscle?

In craft art, because we also have to create steps, a process, and consider function and durability, our minds spend a lot of time in the purely logical, problems solving sections of our brain. Not that the imagination and problem solving are not connected; they absolutely are. But pure imagination is something we don’t always practice. So, here is a little something to push you to do so.

These fun bracelets are the work of the ever creative Anke Humpert. Using translucent clay in a unique design and decorating it with sea creatures she made up is just the start here.

As she explained to me, “The bracelets have a design that glows in black light! That is why they are called deep-sea creature bracelets. You would not normally notice the night side of them, only if you go to a night club or something similar. They also have a special hinge. Most of it is made with polymer only very little metal involved.”

These bracelets, as it turns out, are the centerpiece for one of the three classes she will be teaching at the Cabin Fever Clay Arts Fest next month. In describing the class for prospective students, she says, “Since we do not know much about the deep seas, we will have fun and let our imagination run wild creating plants (or even animals?) as we imagine them.” And that freedom and use of the imagination is what inspired me to share this today and create a bit of a different challenge for those following along.

By the way, I do have a Flickr page for sharing the results of the challenges I’ve been posting, only I haven’t had time to snap pics of what I’ve done, so there’s nothing on it yet really. But if any of you want to get on while I catch up over here, I would love to see what you’ve been up to. Go here to join in!

Does Anke’s class intrigue you? She is also teaching her Big Beads and fun hand tool texturing techniques. She’s joined by a slew of amazing talent including Lisa Pavelka, Maureen Carlson, Dayle Doroshow, Lindly Haunani, Doreen Kassel, Jana Lehmann, Ann and Karen Mitchell, Nan Roche, Lynne Anne Schwarzenberg, and more. There is still room in almost every class, so, if you are interested, jump in while you have your pick of classes still. You can find the classes on this PDF and registration on their webpage.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Let your imagination run wild and recreate an image, motif, shape, or a faux effect you might otherwise recreate as it is seen in nature or as we expect it to be, making your own version. A rose with black petals, a plaid cat, turquoise in pink, purple leather, a square pendant with a chunk missing in the corner, or a peace symbol with Mickey Mouse ears. Just change it up and make it your own.


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Outside Inspiration: Elemental Variation

jacquesvesery spoonsSometimes the thing that binds a varied set of art or craft work is not visual elements but the concept they encompass.

The spoons here, created by Jacques Vesery, are bound by the fact that they are spoons, naturally, but every detail beyond that makes them look so different, including the fact that it appears each spoon could be made from different materials, or by different artists even. Of course, they are by the same artist and they are all the same material–carved wood.

The binding concept here is nature and its broad elemental categories, but not the traditional Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire. Rather, Jacques combines the idea of nature with a bit of myth.  The spoons are titled, from left to right, “Barking at the Moon”, “Fair Tales”, and “Seaspoon”. I like that the sea is red for a change, perhaps to convey the energy of the ocean, with the idea more directly conveyed in the undulating and repeated lines.

His work originally caught my eye because I thought it could be polymer. I think many of you will find his beautiful forms and the delicacy of his carvings quite inspiring. You can find more of his work on his website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Choose a concept and use it to design and create variation between the elements in a single item or in a series. Sketch or write out your ideas if you do not have time to create.


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The Line Between Art and Craft

I found this video on the TedEd website (TedTalks educational series of lessons rather than talks)  fascinating. Because being able to deem certain work as art versus craft gives the creator a frame work through which to price and market their work as well as offering a certain status for those deemed artist, there have been many a long debate on this subject. What most people probably don’t realize is that the idea of being an artist rather than just a skilled craftsperson is a relatively new concept for mankind, and in some parts of the world is still not a widely used concept.

This short 5 minute video goes over the history of the concept of art and how we might define craft versus art. I was not surprised at the conclusion but it does very succinctly illustrate the problem with trying to create a black and white definition. (Click on the image to get to the video.)



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