Heading Into the Forest

I am heading Into the Forest in November! The huge installation project put together by Laura Tabakman, Julie Eakes and Emily Squires Levine will be a monumental event for the polymer art community and I, for one, can’t imagine missing this. It is being installed into a gallery in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania with a gallery opening and party on November 10th followed by a Saturday forum on related topics. Coming down off the high I got being around so many amazing folks at Synergy in August, I am looking forward to a little creative recharge in November along with getting to see the work of 300+ polymer artists, all in one huge piece of global art.

So first … if you are interested in attending as well, you can jump over to the website and get all the details right here. I would love to see you and meet you there!

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The anticipation of this event has put me in the mood for forest-inspired work. Of course. So I rooted around the internet and found some amazing stuff to share with you this week. Here you see a very curious and delicately beautiful pendant inspired by both the flora and the fauna of the forest. The artist, Alina Sanina, started working in clay eight years ago as a curious teen but now, with a degree in art education behind her, she continues to sculpt and create a wide range of fantastical but rather realistic pieces.

I found this piece to be an eye-catcher at first glance because of its contrast between a skull, representing death, and the green and floral details of Spring foliage that top it off. But if you examine it for a minute, you’ll notice that the skull is not all a skull. The deer has live-looking eyes and fully fleshed-out ears. The contrast of life and death is within the deer head, not just the skull and vegetation here. It looks to me like a little representation of the cycle of life in a forest setting.

I have long been interested in societal views of life and death and how different cultures and even individuals work out how to handle the fact that these complete opposite states co-exist and are an understood, if not readily accepted, part of the cycle of life. I don’t know if that is what Alina had in mind when creating this but there are definitely metaphors on those subjects that one can discuss in regards to this little piece.

Whether you turn away or are intrigued by such difficult subject matter, I think you will want to see more of the beautiful work Alina creates. You can do so in her Etsy shop and on Instagram.


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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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Into the Forest

13576637_10154283234709491_7192967860885552779_oOkay, so this might just be a week of announcements but they are exciting announcements, let me tell you.

During her general assembly presentation at Eurosynergy, Laura Tabakman spoke about her projects, many of which are huge undertakings involving installations of her work and the work of others in anything from organic floor compositions in a gallery to entire bridges yarn bombed by the whole of the local community. So it wasn’t a complete surprise that she has a very ambitious project up her sleeve right now. The difference is that this project can include you!

Laura paired up with the very organized and motivated Emily Squires Levine to work on a project inspired by their time under the aspens in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Living here, I completely get what got their creative juices flowing. I am constantly amazed by the color, variety and just stunning beauty of the mountains here. I honestly have yet to find a place in the world I think is more beautiful than the scenery here. Laura and Emily were similarly impressed and started working out an idea for a large Rocky Mountain forest inspired installation. Later on they got Julie Eakes on board and between the three of them the seeds of the “Into the Forest” project was born. And just hours before Laura’s presentation, the threesome set up a Facebook page to help facilitate what is certainly to be an immense and fascinating project.

So what is “Into the Forest”? The image here is their first assembly based on the project idea and here is their description:

“An international collaboration of polymer artists and enthusiasts inspired by the high altitude aspen groves in the Rocky Mountains, “Into the Forest” is an evolving mixed media international installation organized by collaborating artists Laura Tabakman, Emily Squires Levine and Julie Eakes. Imagine yourself in a forest. On the ground beneath a canopy of branches and leaves, unexpected life exists. Look closely, be amazed at the variety of these organic forms. Be a part of our Forest and help it flourish! Create pieces which will form its life elements. We will combine them into living colonies of varying shapes, colors and sizes. We are looking for 1000s of elements, created by our international polymer community, to inhabit our Forest.”

To get involved, request an invitation to the “Into the Forest” Facebook group. There are already over 150 polymer artists and enthusiasts that have pledged to help. I know I’m excited. Jump over to the Facebook page to get more information and follow the project on Instagram (intotheforest17).


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Here’s a simple one … join the project! Make one element a day or at least every other day, to send off to the project. I started on leaves on the weekend and ideas for lichen and other creeping color. We have until April 4th of 2017 which, making one little simple piece a day means you could have a couple hundred to contribute by April!


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Around the World, One Square at a Time

Fimo50World Project 4x4

Have you been keeping track of the Fimo 50 World Project? Its been so cool to watch the tiles come in, posted to the Facebook group, and circulate around the web. We’ve seen some fabulous ones the last week or so. I picked a handful of them to brighten your Monday morning. We have, top left and going clockwise, tile contributions created by Cornelia Brockstedt, Page McNall, Julie Eakes, and Martina Buriánová. How incredibly different can you get? These all started out with the same simple instructions, but the results show very individual inspirations and styles. How wonderful.

If you aren’t too familiar with this project, it is Fimo’s 50th anniversary, and to celebrate they are gathering 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″) polymer tiles from polymer artists around the world. Anyone can participate. The submissions will be assembled into a globe that will represent polymer around the world, in a literal and symbolic fashion. Later, the tiles will be taken off and auctioned to raise funds for two of the community’s favorite charity projects, Dr. Ron Lehocky’s Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies and the Samunnat community in Nepal.

For all the specifics, go to the FIMO 50 World Project Facebook page or to the Staedtler website. If you are in the US, Cynthia Tinapple is helping out by allowing US artists to send their tiles to her instead of to Germany, then she will pack those up and send them to Staedtler at the end of April when all tiles are due for the project. US artists can send entries to: Cynthia Tinapple, 1 Hartford Court, Worthington, OH 43085. But remember to register your entry on the website first.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make a 4×4 tile for the Fimo 50World project or just for yourself. The canvas of a simple, open, basically two-dimensional space without the engineering of jewelry or structure needed for sculpture can be a very freeing form to work on. Just give it a try assuming it will be not be shared so you really let go.


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Framed Opportunity

julie eakesI think we are all rather familiar with the idea of a decorative frame. We’ve seen them on old paintings, antique mirrors and even around windows and doors. Frames can be a work of art unto themselves. So when framing your own work, why not go ahead and consider pushing the decorative aspect just as you might with your bails, clasps, spacer beads or any other element added to your work? Just how far can you take it?

Well, one possible answer as to how far you can take decorative framing can be found in the work of Julie Eakes, who is the featured artist in Maggie Maggio’s “Color Spotlight” section of our winter issue. These highly-detailed and deeply, layered frames may not fit a lot of work since the business of the frames would compete with the image it is surrounding, but in a case like this, it rather matches. Julie is best know for her face cane and pointillism, so the images she frames are the strongest types of images we are drawn to (we gravitate to faces before any other easily, recognized imagery), and her canes are quite complex, so the frames work with these images rather than drown them out.

How far could you take your frames so that they work with what you are framing? Or could fun with complex frames push you to create more complex images? You can read more about why and how Julie creates these canes and frames in the article and read more about her work on her blog.


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Cane Components–Breaking it Down

When it comes down to it, canes are not much more than components that we collect into a visually cohesive whole. It sounds simple. Bring a number of shapes, colors and/or lines together and you have a cane. But its the intention of the design, the way you choose components and how you arrange them that makes the cane worthy of becoming that important part of a piece of art.

One of the best ways to learn about arrangement of components for a cane is to actually do it backwards; start with any visual item of a recognizable image you wish–an illustration or  a photo–and break it down into its components. Identify each color, each shape, every line that makes up the image. From these components you can reproduce the image in a cane. But first you need the analytical  skill to break it down.

A big box of colored pencils can help you break down the colors in the image. Make sample ‘swatches’ of the colors with the color pencils on the side of  a print out of the image. Yes, you could do this with polymer as well; but the color pencils keep you in a narrow focus of just analyzing color, not creating it, and speeds up the process. Same goes for not using a computer aided analysis of the image … you need to walk yourself through this, going through the process of comparing each color to the selection you have available.

To break down the shapes and lines, a bit of tracing paper upon which you outline each block of color and each complete line you would need to duplicate in a single polymer color will help you see the individual components.

This analysis you go through in order to reproduce the image will force your brain to do something it purposely and necessarily does not normally do … see an image as the bits and pieces that make it up, not the whole of the image itself. It can be quite a hurdle to get your brain to stop trying to make a recognizable image out of the pieces before it. But this is what you must do to reproduce an image as a cane. And learning how components work together will help you in creating even the most abstract canes. You learn how shapes, lines and colors work together, and that is the basis of every cane you will ever make.

Canes are not that different from pointillism or representational mosaics. An artist puts different colored dots or shapes together, and when you back away from the surface so you can’t see the components a complete image emerges. Take a look at any of Julie Eakes incredible examples of caning to see this exact effect.


If you want to really dig into this concept, read through Julie’s blog and/or get one of her CraftArtEdu classes on caning.



Portraiture in Canes

Julie Eakes is unique among polymer artists. She works with canes but with an end result far beyond what most of us even dream to attempt. She works at developing realistic images in mosaic like canes.

This piece below is even unusual for Julie. This is an image, completely created with patterned canes, all in black and white and using the eye’s natural tendency to mix tones and merge tiny details into larger imagery; very much the same as is done in pointillism. Our distance from details causes this to happen. You may have noticed this when looking at thumbnails of a piece online only to click on the image and find it is hardly like what you imagined it would be. And that is something to consider. When working on a piece, it might serve you well to step back and observe your work at the distance that it will most often be viewed to get a clear idea of the impression it gives.

chuck 1


The portrait here is of the artist Chuck Close, who is a very apropos subject being he creates portraiture in the very same mosaic like manner. Chuck, however, paints on a grid format, sometimes monochromatic as well as in color, each block of the grid usually being a series of rings, not unlike extruded canes. It’s no wonder Julie was inspired to create his portrait.

Julie created Chuck’s image using a photo that had been printed on the front of New York’s Village Voice, the image actually being a 3D model of Chuck Close that her brother made of the artist. You can see the close up of the canes as well as a video documenting Julie’s creation of the piece on her blog here.


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