When Simple Is Complex

amethyst studio burgundy petal cane 430x360 - When Simple Is Complex

After all that blathering to you on Wednesday, I thought I’d keep it simple today. Let’s just enjoy some relatively minimal but beautiful canes to spark some ideas for your creative time this weekend.

Spain’s Pilar Rodríguez Domínguez creates lovely, dynamic flower petal canes. The soft but dense sets of radiating lines that dominate her designs help to create a sense of complexity with relatively few elements. I chose this one because you can see how much energy is created with the just these brushed-looking lines, three oval marks, and a vibrant burgundy red.  You don’t need a lot of different stuff to create complexity and energy.

She works similarly in almost all her canes although more commonly with highly contrasting colors to create finely controlled finished flower canes. Enjoy a good eyeful of color and pattern in her Etsy shop,  and on her InstagramFacebook, and Flickr accounts.

Also, since you all couldn’t click-through to see the work of Cécile Bos last week, as she went on vacation and shuttered her shop right after I drafted the blog on her work, take this opportunity to click-through to her website now to see her delicately detailed pieces.

How to Make It Your Own

Katie Way Alices cane mapping 430x388 - How to Make It Your Own
I know I just featured Katie Way in February, but this is such a great example of taking a technique and making it your own that I didn’t want to pass by this opportunity. This seemed particularly apropos after an incident came up a week or so ago that I was consulted about involving a student submitting something to a contest that they created either in a class or based on a class. The problem was not in taking something that was learned in a class and creating from that knowledge but using the design choices that the teaching artist used. So, let’s just review what that means. In a way, it’s very simple – you can replicate technique, but you cannot use the design decisions of another artist.

I think part of the issue is that there is some confusion as to what’s is technique and what is design, so let me try to define that.

Technique is how you manipulate the material including how you apply texture, the process of forming/sculpting, the mixing or application of color treatments, the creation of mechanisms or use of materials for constructing the piece, etc. In other words, it’s about the process of creating.

Design is about the specific choices you make about how something is going to look. So, your choices about the type of texture (not how you apply it), the shapes you create (but not how you create them), the colors you choose (but not the source of the color), and the arrangement of your construction (but not the mechanisms used to put pieces together), are all design choices. If the majority of your choices are based on someone else’s examples, then you’re in danger of copying their design. Changing the color or shape is simply not enough, nor is it fair to the artist that inspired you and, equally so, it’s not fair to you and your creative growth to skip the exploration of what a piece could be by not making the design decisions yourself.

In the piece we see here, Katie Way took a class with Alice Stroppel and made a piece that is uniquely her own. You can see the influence of both artists in this work. The big, bold cane work shows Alice’s influence, but the color choices and all those bulls-eye circles are absolutely Katie. I would’ve known this was Katie’s right away, but it would’ve taken me a few moments to realize where her change in technique came from if she hadn’t made note of her influencer. And that’s really how it should be.

You can absolutely copy the work of the teaching artist in class as a way to learn. Most of them do prefer that. But when you go home, don’t make that same basic piece ever again. Have enough confidence and belief in your artistic self to work out your own designs. It is far more fulfilling to create from your own sense of aesthetic and ideas than to simply be successful with someone else’s design.

Okay, getting off my soapbox now. If you’re intrigued by Alice’s cane mapping class, go to her website to check out where she will be teaching next. And if you’ve somehow missed Katie’s work, check out her Etsy shop and her Instagram page.

 

Pasteled and Fractaled

Troy Thompson fractal pastel jeweltones 430x736 - Pasteled and FractaledFor our last day of rich color, I thought I’d take it down a notch saturation-wise. This isn’t polymer or any kind of dimensional material but it is a fabulous fractal design and what lovely colors and light it has. Fractals have been a fascination of mine and many other artists for a while now. Their intricate patterns make inspiring textures not to mention that the color choices of these designers can be a great source of ideas for polymer work.

If you are unfamiliar with fractals, these are both a natural and math-based design where one form is repeated over and over, usually getting smaller as it progresses and even forming the same shape in the way it is laid out. Found everywhere in nature, fractals have moved into the realm of art with people developing designs based on natural formations but using math as a kind of paintbrush to help create the composition.

This stunning piece is by a gentleman who goes by Troythulu online while stating that his real name is “either Troy Loy or Troy Thompson.” Not sure why he is confused but I imagine just he wants to remain mysterious, and quirky. His fractals are amazing, though. This piece, in particular, could easily be translated into pearl clay with some mica powder painting to color tips and edges. I think it’s something worth playing with, especially if you like both shiny and colorful pieces.

See more fractals by Troy whatever-his-name-is on his Tumblr page.

Keeping Dragons A-Round

vanillamaart dragon bracelet - Keeping Dragons A-RoundI thought this week, we’d just check in with what our fellow clayers are posting this first week of the year and I found quite a few pieces of new work on Flickr.

This detailed and whimsical bracelet is by Dorota Kaszczyszyn. The individual ridges that make up the dragon’s back work so perfectly as separate beads fitted together to create the bracelet and I love how she integrated the closure into the design. The closures usually end up on top of the wrist in large bead bracelets anyways since the weight of the beads, being heavier than the clasps, spin to hang downward so why not just design for that eventuality? I thought it was a great way to finish off a well sculpted and textured set of beads that is sure to draw some attention.

This is not Dorata’s first dragon bracelet but is, thus far, my favorite. I do like the toggle clasp on some of the others versus a lobster clasp but the face on this guy is beautiful. See more of her dragons (and owls … another favorite creature of hers) on her Flickr photostream.

Silkscreens for Days

ezscreen 430x262 - Silkscreens for Days

Here is another great company whose products you’ll want to check out. The silkscreens seen here are from a new partner of ours, EZScreen. This mother-daughter business has been working with silkscreens for years but recently they have been researching the needs of the polymer community and now offer a line of great silkscreen designs—dozens and dozens of them—ready for you to snatch up. But what is unique about them is that the pre-made screens are not their primary product.

The central product for these ladies is actually a DIY silkscreen kit that allows you to make silkscreens of your own design or, if you prefer, they will make the screens for you, from artwork you send to them. Cool right? Now, that is my kind of thing! There is nothing like having your own signature patterns to work with because you absolutely know no one else is going to be popping up with those same patterns on their work.

I have not yet gone through the process of ordering these custom-made stencils or trying their kit but I’ll be ordering some when I get home to California next week. You can get started by going to their web page here for their DIY kits or here for the custom-made stencil information or this page for pre-made designs.

If you get our newsletter, you may already have seen the discount available there but if you missed it, just punch “PA15” into the promo code box in your cart. Go have fun! Keep in mind, they have a customer gallery on their webpage and there’s no polymer work there yet. Let’s get some up there!

 

Aztec Accents

LVogel aztec accents 430x478 - Aztec AccentsMy forays all over Instagram also got me caught up on the beautifully delicate work of Lorraine Vogel. These last few years, she has really hit her stride, showing off her fine sense of color within a series of signature techniques that focus on surface design with stamped or stenciled texture.

Here she lets the color flow and layer across the surface to create an ancient look using what I think is a version of the raised surface coloration technique which she shared in a tutorial in our Winter 2016 edition of The Polymer Arts. It looks a bit more involved but if you want to try something similar, get the issue on our website.

Her techniques are easy and fun and you can get great results with just a little care. She sells additional tutorials on related techniques in her Etsy shop, along with her wares. You can also take look at the history of her work by dropping in on her Flickr photostream and, of course, her Instagram page.

Scarf as Necklace

scarf jewelry 430x542 - Scarf as NecklaceAs you may have immediately noticed, these scarves are not polymer. In fact, most of them are mass-produced or use mass-produced components. So why am I showing you this? Because the popularity of these kinds of bedecked scarves are not seen in the polymer community, not at least that I could find, which means there is a wide-open opportunity for some of you out there.

Just look at the two-fold use of these. Not only can you have a warm and cozy bit of beautiful fabric to dress up your day, you can have jewelry that can be seen while wearing a scarf. I have never liked having to pick between a scarf and a necklace and with this kind of merging of the two, you don’t have to.

Now, you could just stick with the single pin or charms like we saw in the last couple posts to get some fun and fancy decor on your chest but what about when you want to get a bit more flashy or formal? I just think these designs really open up a lot of possibilities for us as polymer artists. For one, how fun would it be to turn a boring basic scarf into a snazzy infinity scarf that doubles as a necklace AND gives many a bead in that stash of beautiful odds and ends, a beautiful place to hang?

Hopefully, these also give you all kinds of ideas for alternate ways to hang polymer pendants or has you thinking up new wide tube designs or all the above. It would not take long to make the components if you don’t already have them and basic scarves are cheap. I bet you have one or two in a drawer somewhere that you never wear. Just think of how you could dress them up!

I would love to be able to give attribution to each of the pieces here but I somehow managed to find all but one with a broken link or dead website. However, the designer of the Atelie42 scarf piece in the upper right does have a website but even there, most of the text seems to be image based which means it can’t be translated online. But the variation on jewelry scarves is worth a couple of minutes even for those of us who can’t read the text. Head over to the website here or this article that has a nice selection ready for you to pore over.

 

 

A Bevy of Bezels

spirit necktar 430x433 - A Bevy of BezelsThe other thing about looking beyond the standard bezel for stones is that you are opened up to using stones and shiny bits of all kinds of shapes and sizes. It is one of the reasons we love polymer clay so much! It is so amazingly flexible.

You can see just how wonderfully it can hold onto and embellish already very interesting stones and crystals in this array of examples from Canada’s Martina Gutfreund. Not only can you get really creative with the bezels and caps, you can combine all kinds of stones, even with wildly disparate forms.

Some visual relationship between the stones should be present in deciding what stones to pair up, such as similar or complementary colors or textures. (Do you see how the most satisfying designs here are the ones with a very evident relationship between the stones?) After you have that, the clay can help you bring them together physically with all kinds of room for creative design work.

See more of Martina’s stone (and shell) setting designs in her Etsy shop and on Instagram.

 

Variation on Time

pieces clock 430x823 - Variation on TimeI spent a lot of time looking for differently constructed clocks in polymer and couldn’t find much that really illustrated the point I was hoping to make. What I wanted was to show that a clock does not have to be on a flat surface. It can be made of many parts, attached or not, and fully dimensional. As long as you have something that can house or hide the clock mechanism while holding out the hands, the rest is wide open. You can have the hour markers designated by any form and attach them with sticks or wire or be free floating–whatever suits the piece and your inclination.

These two examples are commercial designs rather than polymer art but I think they give you the basics of this idea of moving beyond the flat clock face. Not only do these kinds of clocks make for really interesting wall pieces, they give you the freedom to use pieces you may already have such as large hollow beads, faux stones, unhung pendants, small figurines, flowers, etc.

As a gift, giving a clock that has separate pieces might be best attached to something that can be hung as one piece, like a backing of Plexiglas or painted plywood. Or include instructions for a template to mark on the wall where each piece goes. There is little to no construction to deal with but you will have to make concessions in the design for how the individual pieces will be hung. Alternately, go for a design where the elements are attached like the flowers you see here.

The sky is the limit with these kinds of designs. For more ideas, try searching “DIY clocks,” which was the keyword set that brought me to these two pieces. I hope these sparks some ideas and I look forward to seeing inventive clock designs this month!

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