Graphically Different

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I can hear you already asking, if you read my introduction to the idea of soft or almost-triangle shapes on Monday, whether these beads by the elegant hand of Melanie Muir really qualify as versions of triangles. My answer is, that is up to how you want to see it.

To me, it is both triangular in that the space it takes up is about what a triangle would cover, and based on an oval since it is also an oval cut in half. But what this points out about triangles, or any shape really, is that they are just a step away from something quite different. Soften one angle on a triangle and you have the makings of an oval in hand. Basic shapes are just a couple of steps, simple lines arranged in simple ways. More complex shapes are usually a conglomeration of basic shapes.

As an artist, keeping this in mind means you are keeping your designs open to being pushed past the basics or as far and as complex as you see fit. Not that a basic square, triangle or circle are not valuable shapes. They certainly are! But the more options you see as you create, the more likely you are to come up with something that truly reflects your personal aesthetic and what you want to express.

Melanie, who is so well known for her organic shapes and thickly framed organic mokume veneers, has really been pushing her signature techniques, heading into more graphic waters and adding in a few more techniques. I am really enjoying the directions she’s been taking and look forward to seeing what else she has in store for us in the near future.

Keep up on Melanie’s work on her website and on her Facebook page.


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Mokume Squared

There seems to be an explosion of innovation in polymer design as of late.  Maybe as a whole we fell into a rut of creating within a fairly small circle of ideas but it seems that more and more, clayers are pushing the ideas or just going off into their own little worlds which creates some very unique design.

melanie-muir-vessel-setMelanie Muir sent me images of a new series she’s recently been working on and I have to say, it would never have occurred to me that Melanie might go in a home decor direction, not one with such a graphic look to it but it really does work well. After admiring her beautiful organic shapes and mokume patterns for so long it’s quite a shift to see the same type of mokume squared off like this but the contrast between the organic patterning and the very precise placement of squared off color makes for some lovely vessels.

I had the hardest time deciding which of the new vessels’ images to share here as she has them in different colors and mokume pattern sets as well as a series she calls ‘Coastline’ where the mokume is not framed at all but rather is blended into the background over the joint of two wide bands of color. Go see for yourself on her Facebook page here for the whole recent collection, debuting this week at the London Design Fair which starts tomorrow.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Do you work primarily in one style such as organic, graphic, tribal, floral, or something else? Take what you usually lean towards and contrast it with a style completely opposite from it. The key to contrast is making the contrast relate on some level. Melanie made her graphic versus organic relate in terms of color. You can also make the two relate through elements that have the same type of pattern, shape, size, lines or that create similar texture.


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Sophisticated Form

Melanie muir pendantLast, but certainly not least, in this two week tour of our “best of” chosen artists for the Polymer Journeys 2016 book, we have Melanie Muir who is our sole representative of Scotland in the book. I think the draw Melanie’s work has is in its clean sophistication. She is so precise and has honed her particular set of techniques to absolute perfection.

Her mokume, although organic and flowing, has a feel of precision as well.  The clean lines in her mokume come from a stamp or texture impression technique like the one you’ll find in the tutorial by Angela Barenholtz in our Winter 2015 issue of The Polymer Arts magazine.

Her large necklaces are lovely, of course, but I am partial to her pendants where the focus is on the mokume design, framed and centered so that the intricacies of the pattern grab your attention all by themselves. I love the color choices in this one, a bit autumnal using white to set up the saturation of the color. I found this little beauty while wandering around Melanie’s Facebook page.

Her precise shapes also generally come from a set of tools–her own shape templates. Because, like so many of our amazing polymer artists, Melanie applies her talents in more than one area, in this case, the creation of textures and templates. If you haven’t seen her offerings, you can find them on her site here and you can also purchase them on Etsy.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Focus on perfection. Create a small piece using a technique you’ve worked with before but maybe have not been doing for very long, and try to create the most perfect version of it. This may take a little forethought and patience to figure out how best to handle the material so it is not marred or defaced with finger prints to finish it well. You might want to take such additional steps as multiple curings or refrigerating to let the work rest between manipulations. See what you learn from examining and changing up the way you work. Can you develop more careful steps in your process or do you even want to?


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Recognizing Inspiration

DesertWalkingGownfull120I have a little something different for you this morning and I will get to this amazing piece you see here at the end. This announcement will go out on a few channels between yesterday and today so I hope not too many of you get hit over the head with this but … with the Polymer Journeys book coming out next week, we wanted to publicly announce our board’s picks for artists whose work and contribution to polymer art during the years 2014-2015 were particularly significant and inspirational and so were highlighted in the featured sections of the book.

We are certainly not saying our opinions are the end-all and be-all on this subject, but our consideration came from our own vast experience and education as well as gauging the impact and response we have seen in the polymer and craft communities. Although the creation of this book was in no way a contest, we did feel that making specific note of these artists and their work will further help us understand the direction and history of the medium in years to come. Here are our two featured categories:

Best Polymer Art of 2014-2015–these are artists and art that pushed the boundaries of what can be created with polymer. All these artists have been recognized for their masterful skills as well as the messages and vision found in their work.

Recognizing Generosity–We also wanted to recognize the generosity of the artists and the resulting programs that have become such a big part of the community. To that end, we included these amazing people as well as stories on how they have helped others.

So what is this unusual piece I have to show you here? It is a special and rather personal project created by the amazing Wendy Moore, who you see was recognized in the book under the section highlighting our charitable artists. Wendy is a primary force in the success of the Samunnat Nepal project. Bringing polymer clay to the women there gave them a joyful and colorful way to create financial independence when they so desperately needed it. She continues to return to teach and helped the project grow.

Wendy feels like Nepal is as much home to her as her native Australia. This robe of Wendy’s was actually part of processing a farewell to a part of Australia that she had to move away from. I won’t say much more on that, though, so those of you who are waiting on the book can read her short but poignant story.

If you have not pre-ordered your book but would like to, we have extended the 20% off sale until the 20th due to the delay with our printing that put the release of the book off until April 21st. Jump over to the Polymer Journeys website to take advantage of the early discount.



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Clean Mokume

SONY DSCOn Polyform’s website, there are numerous free lessons. If you have admired Melanie Muir’s clean mokume technique, you can get the basics and create your own from this great little tutorial on Polyform’s website. It’s nice to see the tutorial emphasize the importance of color contrast–light and dark, but there is also bright and dull, warm and cool and picking from opposite ends of the color spectrum.  All of these will give your color palette some level of drama. However, there is nothing at all wrong with choosing analogous colors, colors with similar saturation or value or anything else. It will create a different feel, and the less contrast, the less visual pop and drama you will see. But, we’re not always after that, are we?

So, why not choose a color palette that fits your mood, an outfit or reminds you of a great time or place and try Melanie’s approach? There are some great little tips in this lesson, which makes it worth at least a quick read for anyone into polymer surface treatments. And the resulting sheets or pendants could really get you ahead on creating for your gift giving list!


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Arrows and Plumb Lines

This came up on Pinterest and was too excellent an example to pass up. Whoever originally posted this as their inspiration did not tell us who created it. After a little research, we found this piece was created by Melanie Muir. She explains that she made this piece as a challenge to herself as well as to submit to a show. This is a striking example of symmetry that is precisely and dramatically applied.


The high gloss solids atop the bold print base of the arrows along with the layout of the total design of the necklace show off the strengths of symmetrical design. Each bead on the left is matched to each bead on the right. To be further inspired by Melanie’s work, take a look at her website and Flickr pages.


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Inherent Squiggles

As I looked around for more wild lines today, it occurred to me that the predominant squiggle source in polymer is actually found in mokume gane. Although the lines in mokume can be controlled and consistent if you want them to be, I think the real joy in the technique comes from the mystery of an unknown outcome and the wandering lines the hidden layers reveal.

This bracelet by Melanie Muir is quite the mokume gone wild. High contrast colors and variation from bead to bead make this bit of clay “doodling” quite intriguing.



Melanie is also quite the master at finishing her work. The careful edges and high polish are definitely something to aspire to. Take a look at some of her latest pieces on her website here. If you are still in the mood for more wild lines, I would suggest diving into her archive gallery, where the modest squiggle can be found quite readily.

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