Synergy Recap in Pictures

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First of all … the new Fall issue came out over the weekend! Get your texture fix with this issue, in a big way. If you have a digital subscription and have not seen your access email, check your junk mail folder. You should also be able to access it through your account here. If you have a print subscription, those went to the post office in Idaho on Friday so they are on the way too. If you do not have an active subscription or need to get your single issue copy, go to our website at

So this week we are going to have a parade of photos from Synergy 4 to include some beautiful art and some show shots for those who didn’t go but are trying to live vicariously through the community’s representatives that did.

The absolute best thing about going to these events is the people you get to meet and chat it up with. I think I may have said that last week but it’s true! The first picture here is just a sampling of the talent that was sitting behind me at breakfast one morning. How thrilled would you be to have the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Dever and Rachel Carren and listen in on their, no doubt, very insightful conversation? Or pull up a chair and say hello to Nan Roche and Melanie West? Or hang out at the same table with Christi Friesen, Bettina Welker, and Martina Weller? And you can at these things. People here, no matter what the skill level or how long they have been involved, are happy to talk to all the attendees. It is always illuminating what one can learn from others with the same passion.

I was grateful to get to talk to so many people but I was particularly happy to have a little time to sit down with our longtime polymer master, Marie Segal. She gave a talk about the new Cernit formulation–there has been improved strength, flexibility, and clarity that looks to rival the other better-known brands which got me quite excited to try it. If you like sampling clays to see what works best in what application, jump over to her shop and get yourself some new goodies at The Clay Factory.



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Translucent Play, in 3 parts. Pt.1

jan-montarsi-transAfter finding the beautiful textured glass for Friday’s post, I noticed that my folder of art work to consider for blogs was full of translucent pieces, and almost all of them in the same basic color palette and all of them are fairly recent shares on Facebook. It could be because of the season but I don’t know how relevant that becomes when you set them side by side. So I thought I’d basically do that, presenting three pieces that are similar in color and using translucent clay but we’ll look at how it is used to create different moods.

This first one is a set of earrings by Jan Montarsi. The autumnal palette is there but the primarily vertical composition of the set, both in the direction of the swathes of color and the stacked squares lean towards a strong, organized atmosphere. Until you get to the visual and tactile texture. That reminds me of an energetic kid in a sandbox digging hole after hole. The circular shapes are jauntily wonky with colors blurring into each other, all with a very natural and organic feel. It says “I keep on the path but like to dance a bit on the way.” Well, that’s my read.

Jan created these in a class taught by Marie Segal at the annual Kentucky/Tennessee guild retreat this last month. He used his own ‘organic’ extruded cane technique as well. I guess he expected the colors to come out more muted because in the comments he made this observation:

“The amazing thing is the colors of these translucent clays were diluted by at least half with regular translucent clay and then placed on a translucent background and the color is still vibrant.” It’s good to know just how rich those packaged translucent colors can be.

Jan is our Americas Regional President for the International Polymer Clay Association as well as being an active clayer and contributor to a variety of information and educational outlets including The Polymer Arts magazine. His work can be found on Facebook and on Flickr.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Pick a set of colors and then pick forms that seem quite disparate from the color palette you picked. Light and bright colors combined with severely geometric shapes or dark, rich colors with light hearted squiggles. What does the contrast in shape do to the mood of the colors and vice versa? What can you add in terms of texture, line, or motifs that will further illustrate the mood you see within that juxtaposition of disparate elements?


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Colorful Fun

marie segal earringsThis is that one week every quarter where my brain just goes to mush. We are taking care of the last details as we get ready to release the fall issue of The Polymer Arts (if you haven’t renewed or pre-ordered your print copy, you will need to do so before the end of today in order to get on the mailing list for the first shipment out. Go here to order), so I have been working non-stop for a couple weeks now and a lack of sleep is catching up with me! I also have a little traveling to do in a few days, so it’s going to be a wacky week. We’ll see how that translates here, but I thought, since “play” (our fall issue theme)  is on my mind, I would add some fun stuff to the queue. These things have not quite fit into our other themes, so we will use this week to just have fun. I will post some pretties that offer you new ideas for you to play with in your studios.

Perhaps, you’ve seen some of these great earrings and flowers Marie Segal has been posting the last week or so on Facebook.  There are just gorgeous colors in her combinations of opaque and translucent canes and, in this case, it looks like a bit of Sutton slice, too. The colors are so juicy, and the disparate visual and tactile textures come together due to how sparely they are all used.

Marie, of course, is one of our pioneers. We owe a lot to her early exploration of the medium and her books. Most recently, she put out a great compendium of techniques called The Polymer Clay Artist’s Guide: A Directory of Mixes, Colors, Textures, Faux Finishes, and Surface Effects This is a great “jumpstart” book; something you can flip through when looking for new ideas that will change up what you’re presently working on or to get you going on your own clay play day.

You can also add a bit more fun to your Monday with a trip through time and Marie’s work on her website here.


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Polymer Pioneers

One of the truly exciting things about going to an event like Synergy is getting the chance to meet the people who you admire and aspire to be. Although you may have the opportunity to meet a great polymer artist by taking a class, there is nothing like a lengthy event like this, a retreat, or a workshop to give you the opportunity to chat and hear their stories.

At Synergy, we had the opportunity to not only talk to a large number of highly talented and innovative artists, but we were also treated to their presentations and panels. One of my personal highlights was the closing banquet’s presentation with three of the most influential polymer pioneers – Nan Roche, Kathleen Dustin and Lindly Haunani. They told stories of the good old days, how they started in polymer, and how they started organizing polymer artists and the hurdles they encountered in the early days. A lot of funny personal notes and anecdotes were included as well. It was just great fun to hear of our polymer beginnings from these very important artists who were there.


I have my own personal anecdote about Nan Roche from this past week. For those of you who might not know, Nan wrote the first book on polymer clay, The New Claypublished back in 1992. That book precipitated the advent of polymer being considered a true art medium, and really pushed the public awareness of it. And today, it is still considered one of the best books on polymer for beginners. So this genius of woman comes up to me the first day of Synergy, all bubbly and kind of bouncing and says, “Oh, I just love your magazine!” I was floored and started babbling back about how much I admire her and what she has done for the polymer communtiy. I knew she subscribed (she gets both the print and digital versions of The Polymer Arts) but I thought it was just a matter of keeping track of the industry. As it turns out, Nan had to back away from doing polymer for a number of years, so she actually considers herself far less talented than many of the folks she is often grouped with, and finds The Polymer Arts inspiring. Whoa. I get some really touching compliments but a comment from someone like her … its hard to explain how much that meant to me.

As you take a closer look at the picture here, note all the pretties down in front of the presenter’s table. Those are the pieces that were auctioned off at the banquet–they include vintage pieces by Marie Segal, Jeffery Lloyd Dever and Lindly Haunani. Most of the larger events run by guilds have such auctions, giving the attendees a chance to buy some really wonderful work while supporting the organization – just another reason to make it to a retreat or other big polymer event. Check your local guild to see what they have going on and keep track of others through the IPCA newsletter, or by checking The Polymer Arts Resource list.


Double down on Extruder Discs

Today … just a simple but clever idea for all you extruding fiends out there. Marie Segal has an extensive set of pages on her website on creating African trade beads and within those pages, on Part 5 she talks about making new shapes for the extruder by doubling up the discs. Genuis!


Of course you could put more than one disc in if it continues to pleasantly change the shape. Just need a little something to hold them in position as she demonstrates in her post. But how fun. This would certainly multiply your extruder shape options for the low low cost of  … well, nothing. Who doesn’t like that?


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