Adapting Nature

terra planters waste marble 430x638 - Adapting NatureIn my search for other creative planter ideas, I came across these amazingly lovely upright planters, of sorts. The work is by sculptor Jamie North. They are made of cement, marble waste, limestone, coal ash, organic matter and various Australian plants and stand about 5 feet(165cm) high. This scale is a bit bigger than what we usually work with in polymer but the planter could be scaled down if one is so inspired.

I mean, who says that we must create large, open-mouthed vessels for plants to live in? Out in nature, they creep and poke out of just about anything that will catch a couple of grains of soil and a spot of moisture. I have only to step into the yard of my house in Colorado where high desert plants grab every open opportunity. Over here in California, they are not quite so desperate but they still perch in the oddest places. So, when making vessels, why not head out and see what kind of pockets of opportunity nature has provided that plants take advantage of as inspiration for your own vessels?

You might also look to Jamie’s work for how to translate what nature has to inspire us with. Jaime was first inspired to make these structures when considering “the way in which our native Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa) sprouts from the cracks of building mortar in Sydney.” Contrasting the straight and geometric sides with rough and tumble sides, he makes us aware of how well nature will adapt to whatever structures we throw in its path.

These were created in 2014 but since then, Jaime has made quite a number of other forms. Enjoy a trip through his projects on his website and check out this interview for more on his inspiration and ideas.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Let nature dictate a piece. Go out and explore whatever natural world and formations you have close to you. Borrow forms, textures, lines, or even observed relationships between nature and man and bring those ideas back to your studio to inspire a new piece.

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Spring in Surprising Places

Melissa Terlizzi A delicate balanceOnto more thoughts of Spring. We had a perfect Spring day yesterday but today we are in the middle of a blizzard, so I went off to find something cheerful and found some fun sculptures, wall art, and jewelry by Melissa Terlizzi. Her creatures are beautifully sculpted, but it’s the situations she puts them in that really made me smile. This here is not the most unusual place to find a tree frog but it would kind of startle you to find one on your indoor plants. She also has frog peeking out of terrariums, mice in the pantry, and beetles in books. There is a bright playfulness in the faces of her creatures and in the way she sets up the shots. Many of her compositions, like this one here, are predominantly constructed from polymer clay components, but many others use natural settings and common household items to bring out the story.

Take a break from your common or gray day and peruse her Flickr pages for some Spring cheer.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create or adapt a piece of yours to live in an unusual place. Hang charms in the kitchen cupboards, replace blind pulls with beautiful focal beads, put a cute sculpted creature in the medicine cabinet (who doesn’t need a bit of cheer when opening the medicine cabinet?),  glue tiles to the inside of the mailbox  door, etc. Look for the most unusual and surprising place that will delight your family and visitors.

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Painting a Story in Polymer

Angenia CreationsI thought I’d continue with the theme of story which, visually, can be told abstractly or with much more literal images. Today, we’re going to look at a literal set of images.

Today’s bit of story was created by Angenia (also known as Tonia Angenia Lupo) of Italy. I am not posting this because of the mermaid, although she is nicely executed and the curled and wavy polymer of the tail has a particularly nice flow to it, but I wanted to show you this painting. Because it is all polymer. It is rather hard to grasp that at a glance, but if you take time to peruse her blog or even just go through her process photos on Facebook, you will be amazed at the detail and work involved. It appears that she applies this all with a toothpick from tiny dabs of soft polymer clay. It’s so well done, though, that it looks like it might be a print set in a frame simply to accompany the mermaid, but no, the real masterpiece is the painting. Granted, the image is actually one of Thomas Kinkade’s, but the execution in clay is a great testament to what can be done with polymer in a painterly fashion.

The story here is being relayed purely by imagery with juxtaposition providing another layer of story. The ship out on the ocean, hit with rays of sunlight as a storm breaks behind it (or gathers around it, as I might have thought had I not just researched the original image), has its own story of courage. The mermaid creates another element to the story, including the possibility of other dangers in the sea. But only because the myth of mermaids are rather dark, not cute like this one. A more sinister air or refinement for the mermaid would have been a better pairing, style wise, for the seriousness and subtly of the painting for the sake of style consistency, but Angelina’s talent is undeniable.

If you have a couple of moments, take a look at her blog or Facebook page to admire her processes and other mini paintings, as well as her doll art and other miniatures.

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Today, play with juxtaposition. You can do this with elements you already have if you don’t have time to create from scratch. Take two or three disparate things and arrange them together. Can you find a satisfying, if imperfect, way to compose them? Try this with a few other items, keeping track of what you’ve done (take photos if you can). Now, which ones worked better? You will usually find that the pieces that end up working together have something in common–sometimes its a design element, like similar textures or complementary colors or similar styles like geometric or organic or tribal. The other thing that makes things work is the stories in our minds. Like seeing animals in the clouds, our minds will try and make connections between elements even if they were not intended to be related. Is there a story in the compositions that worked best?

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Last Day of our Flash Sale and Art with a Story

Just a couple things to get out of the way here … The Polymer Arts is having a sale, and it’s probably the last of its kind for a while so, if you didn’t get the newsletter (you can can sign up for that twice-a-month missive with its bits of giveaways, eye candy, community news, and polymer tips on the left side of our homepage), here is the scoop:

We are on the verge of integrating a new shopping cart service on our website, but it will not, at present, allow us to do any more site-wide discount sales. So, while we still can, we are getting one in …!

Only one day left (Monday the 22nd) … 10% off anything on our Website! Yes, we mean it. Any subscription, renewal, back issue, or already discounted package, take 10% off with this promotional code–flash10

BrueggaermanAlso, today is the last chance to get on the mailing list for the first mailing of the new Spring issue, due out in just a couple of weeks. We are finalizing the list tomorrow for that first hot-off-the press mailing, so get your subscription, renewal, or pre-ordered print copy of the issue purchased today.

Now, lets look at something beautiful for a moment. I have no idea what I’m aiming for this week, so let’s go with the flow and see what my fingers tap out for you.

This falls into the category of things Sage really, really likes. I love texture and copper and compositions that include aged and marked things. Work like this, with a very particular composition, hints at a possible story and a certainty that the piece is trying to whisper some secret about the things it has seen. I know that sounds terribly dramatic, and you can probably guess I’ve been entrenched in a series of suspense novels the last couple months, but does this piece not seem to be full of some subtle story?

Karen Brueggemann has created quite a few of these lovely wall pieces along with visually textural and vibrant jewelry. And she has the most incredible Pinterest boards! So if you have the time today, go look around at the board with her art then prepare to get lost in all the colors and textures she’s gathered up on her other boards. What a nice way to spend a Monday!

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece with a story behind it–be it  or fiction a true story–yours or someone else’s. Don’t tell it literally, just keep it in mind as you choose, colors, forms, textures, and details. Don’t worry about what anyone else will think or if it follows the parameters of good design. Just create the spirit of the story.

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Unintentional Preciousness

forditeWhat kind of polymer is this you ask? Well, as much as it looks like a super well polished bit of polymer mokume, it is not. It is a material called Fordite. If you haven’t heard of it before, you’re now probably thinking this is a semi-precious stone, right? Well, precious it is, strangely enough, and although it was created in a process not unlike nature’s layering and compressing, it isn’t stone either. Maybe its other names will give you a hint–it’s also known as Motor Agate, Detroit Agate, or “paint rock”and was mined, not from some exotic mountain region in a little known area of the Amazon but rather, in the depths of automobile manufacturing plants. That’s right, its layered car paint. Pretty wild, huh?

This ‘stone’ is now being traded, sold, carved and set like a semi-precious stone even though it’s a manmade product. The reason it is so special is because it is an unintentional product and some of the paint in those layers are really, really old. As described on www.thenewswheel.com: “It’s created by layer upon layer of slag-like material formed from spray-painting cars by hand. Each time a new car got colored, the oversprayed paint gradually built up on the tracks and skids holding the vehicle’s frame. Those paint layers harden as the cars entered “ovens” to cure the paint on the frame. After being baked hundreds of times, this agate would become an obstruction and had to be removed by hand.”

This meddlesome byproduct was thought to initially be something the plant worker’s pocketed as a curiosity but eventually it found its way into the hands of jewelers. Although there is documented use of this as a kind of stone as much as 30 years ago, it wasn’t until artist Cindy Dempsey of Urban Relic Design was interviewed by The New York Times that it really started to get noticed. And with demand going up but supply being finite (they don’t paint cars that way anymore), it is getting really expensive. There are even people talking about hunting down and mining the sites where the waste materials of the car plants were dumped. How crazy is that?

Okay, so it’s a cool story, but what does that mean for polymer? At the very least, it means that the mokume look is appreciated and in-fashion. We won’t be able to provide the sense of history or be identifiable by car types or time periods as these pieces are, but the way people are working with this and the kind of visual textures they are getting is just one source of inspiration for your own textural explorations. Plus, it’s just a cool story!

I choose this particular piece to share because the artist integrated the drips, rather than grinding them off or using a portion with less variation. The piece was created by a seller on Etsy whose shop is called “Walk On The Moon”. I am unsure if the artists who work in fordite commonly grind the stones from the chunk of compressed paint or if they get the pieces and just decide  how best to present it. In any case, it’s pretty neat stuff for something so wholly unintentional.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a look at your half-finished pieces or scrap elements and look for the beauty in it that you didn’t see before. If you cut it, grind it down, drill it, add a layer, hang it in a different orientation, or do something completely unintended, can you see the wonderful thing it can become? Study or play with the piece until you find a form or treatment that makes it work.

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An Artist’s Tail

ClayByKim on Etsy Mermaid tailBefore I get into my little thoughts about today’s intriguing piece, I wanted to put out a couple of thoughts for all of you who are attempting to do the challenges. I’ve had some questions and concerns about getting them done. First of all, you don’t need to do all the challenges presented to gain insight and benefit from them. The goal is to push yourself to look at your work differently, to explore, and to see what there is to discover. A regular challenge will certainly help you do this because you would have committed to a particular goal. But you do not have to do 3 a week. Some people have the time to do so but certainly not all of us. Maybe just one a week, choosing whichever challenges I post that appeal to you most. Or take one night or one day a month and choose a couple to explore. Make your goal reasonable for you and your schedule. I can already tell you that three a week is really taxing me. I am barely managing the sketch suggestions and I have yet to take photos so I can share, but I do plan on doing it. If you thought you’d try to do them all and can’t, readjust your goal to something manageable.

Also, remember that these challenges do not require that you finish a piece each time. Being able to finish is extremely important and that is where sharing on the Flickr page can be a motivator. But maybe you do one challenge a week and aim to have one completed piece to share come the end of the month. Do what works for you and, please, do not give yourself a hard time if you are not able to keep the goal you set. Readjust and just keep trying. Keep your personal end-goal in mind. Mine is to have more regular studio time and, although I haven’t completed anything yet, I have at least been at my work table a lot more than I had been. Those are small steps, but they’re important. As long as you are moving forward and not stalling or going backwards, those are accomplishments to be happy about.

Speaking of small things, do you see what small adjustments were probably made here to create this mermaid’s tail? I am guessing, from the look of Kim Detmers flowers petal canes, that these cane components started out floral but, somewhere along the way, they suggested fins to Kim. I chuckled at the form being just the tail of the mermaid. Did she shed this when granted a wish for human legs? Is this the mythical aquatic version of a rabbit’s foot worn for good luck? I don’t know but I liked the whimsy and the re-purposing of the canes, if that is what she did.

Kim is all about fancy and fantasy as you can see in her Etsy shop. And what is fantasy but re-envisioning our common world?

 

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: If you want to try a challenge today, how about taking a cane, a motif, a form, or some element that you regularly create with and try to imagine it as something else. A bead could be a dolls head with the addition of a body and a hat. A heart motif could be petals on a flower or cut in-half to become tear drops. I’m looking at my vine motif that I usually use vertically and I’m thinking I could set them horizontally to become stylized wind motifs. But that is just a first thought. Let’s see where I can go from there. How about you?

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