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.2

melanie-west-trans-cane-pinOk … back to our regularly scheduled program here. Here is a touch more on translucents this week since I started last Monday with a  piece that was stated to be “in 3 parts” but got sidetracked the rest of the week. It’s rather hard to not complete the promised trio so here you are.

Here is a most magnificent brooch using translucents to create a visual illusion that will trip you out  almost as much as the post-election mayhem. It looks absolutely three-dimensional but also, compounded by the organic placement and directional lean of the cane’s illusion, you could swear these open pod forms are alive. This piece so wonderfully illustrates the illusory possibilities of translucent clays.

The brooch comes from the genius of Melanie West who has been playing around with familiar themes and applications but with some fantastically unexpected results. I know this will get some of your imaginations just reeling but for even more fun and mind bending beauties, take a look at Melanie’s website and her latest creations posted recently on her Facebook page.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Use directional line to create a very intentional sense of movement. Create texture or line up motifs or forms to show strong direction in whatever interests you. If you like orderly, create orderly designs but try it in different orientations to see how it feels. If you want more organic or chaotic movement, be more random. If you want soothing, try flowing line.


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A Greenberg Arrangement

I am getting into the week of Eurosynergy and I have a completely full schedule, so while I am collecting photos of the event and the wonderful art around us, I will fill this week with images from the art shared in the week before. But I will share a ton with you next week!
DGreenberg sets

Since so many of you just loved seeing Melanie West’s table of amazing work, I took more photos of the collected works that were shared in Durfort. This lovely little arrangement, by Donna Greenberg, was taken on an old fallen wooden door which became a favorite spot for shooting images of the work we had. Donna’s organic and expressive pieces seem quite at home on the weathered background. Donna was actually telling us how she has been experimenting with photographing her work with more objects and context. That can be a tricky thing as busy backgrounds and additional objects can be distracting as the rusted hardware here is threatening to be. But if the work can hold up to it or the objects used match the piece in a subtle and supportive way, including a bit more in the images of your work can create some really eye-catching photos that will make your work stand out.

Speaking of stand out work, jump over to Donna’s website to take in the wonderful range and luscious texture of her pieces.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take photos of your work in different environments and with (or on) a variety of objects. Take a look at the photos and see if the change in surroundings works visually with your work. Does it give you any new ideas about how to photograph and show your work?


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A Table of Color

MelWest tableI finally get to start sharing some of the things I have been seeing over here in the south of France. Yes, there has been a ton of beautiful countryside and villages to see as well as amazing textures in the moss covered rocks, old cobblestone streets, aged and worn walls, and rusting and painted iron and copper hardware. I will not bore you with the trip slides but rather, let you peek in on some of what we have been doing back at the house.

I may not have explained what it is I am doing down here. I was kindly invited to join a small group of my polymer friends and colleagues to enjoy a week of beauty and creativity in the tiny village of Durfort where the lovely La Cascade art center is located. Dayle Doroshow was the driving force behind this get-together as she owns her own little slice of France down here. The rest of us rented a house down the row from her. The days are full of creative and intellectual conversation, general silliness, and French style meals.  There has also been quite a bit of work as this was a chance for many of us to more efficiently discuss collaborative projects (mostly the business related kinds) and discuss our present direction as artists and entrepreneurs.

One of the things we have been doing to support each other has been to pull out our art, one artist a day, and discuss the work as well as the artist’s thoughts and motivations. Wednesday we had the pleasure of looking at all the gorgeous colors and impeccable finishes of Melanie West, which so works with the theme this week, so I snapped a few images for you to enjoy.

No words can express how wonderful it is to see such beautifully finished work laid out all together on a single table. It’s even more impossible to describe the delightful sensation of running one’s fingers over the velvety smoothness of these surfaces. I just wanted to pet them like they were precious little cats.

Now I have to get packing here for our trek to Bordeaux tomorrow for EuroSynergy, which starts on Sunday. My plan is to share beautiful things from there with you so keep your fingers crossed that the hotel internet cooperates! Have a beautiful, colorful weekend!


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Melanie’s Creatures

MWest chiton Brooch 08 15Apparently this is exploration week. A lot of people are out trying other artist’s techniques or pushing their own forms. And there has been a lot of sharing!

I was particularly excited to see this new work by Melanie West. Although it’s not a series of disks as we have been seeing this past week or so, we are still in the arena of stacked forms. Here’s Melanie’s description of this curious creature: Chiton Brooch in Brown and Crimson polymer, formed, carved and laminated, clasp is magnetic.

That’s pretty straight forward, not at all alluding to the otherworldly feel or mysterious intent of this particular entity. But she does call it a chiton, which is a form of mollusk with overlapping plates. But regardless of the mollusk inspiration, Melanie’s forms all tend to be this way–heavily organic and appearing to be living creatures, undulating and moving through space. This wonderful sense of movement comes from the structure of her forms, moving from small to wide and often back to a slimmer form again. That and her lines–sometimes literal in the canes she applies, sometimes showing themselves in the edge of her elements–which skate, slither and wriggle, are where we get that sensation that her pieces are alive.

Melanie has a lot of beautiful newer work on display around her website, so do go take a look at Melanie’s particular zoo.




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Outside Inspiration: Ruffled Organics in Felt

rudmanart felted scarfWhen talking ruffles, most likely fabric comes to mind first as a source for outside inspiration, but do you think of felt as a particularly ruffled fiber? Instead of flouncy and fluffy, felted ruffles offer substance and a more solid and open canvas for dramatic textures and colors.

This scarf shows some of the potential of using felt to create undulating edges. Felt has been making a bit of a come back in the fashion world and felt crafters are coming out big and bold with it. I thought this work by Irena Rudman would intrigue polymer artists as the composition of the work looked immediately to me like wonderful inspiration for leaf-shaped beads or the facing ends of a curious cuff bracelet.

There is something kind of Melanie West about this scarf. I can also see a thin polymer component with a center of slices taken from stacked circular extrusion canes or mokume surrounded by ruffled Skinner blends or mica dusted polymer. It got my wheels turning. Is it intriguing you?

Irena is really big on the ruffles in her work, which you can see in her Etsy shop. If you are just dying of curiosity as to how she accomplished this or simply have a budding interest in felting (which can and has often been combined with polymer pieces), Irena has a number of tutorials for scarves and collars in her shop, as well.


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Making Your Own Fire



Especially for those of you who are still dealing with those extremely low temperatures and tons of snow, how about ending this week of warm creations with a warm creation of your own? I looked around at canes of flames and found this lovely version. This tutorial is by Russia’s Viktoria, who goes by Nika on Livemaster.

The translator says she calls it barbed wire, which could have been her intention, but you only see that effect when the cane is set back to back, as in the bracelet and necklace set below. Then it kind of resembles Melanie West’s cephalopod eye canes, which might have been her inspiration, but definitely with more of an edgy flame construction.

Êîìïëåêò "Îñåííèé"It’s not a difficult cane. However, when it’s used in consciously chosen compositions, it makes for some complex textures and patterning, as you see in her application here. And changing up the color combinations, as you’ll see at the end of her tutorial, creates some pretty cool results as well.

So go have fun and stay warm!





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Workshops in Malta

Stopping to write a blog in the midst of all the fantastic conversations I’ve been having this first day in Malta has been a challenge so this will be a little short–we’ll let the photos speak for the most part.

I was lucky enough to have time to drop in on workshops being given by Kathleen Dustin and Melanie West. The energy in the rooms was amazing and the dazed look as the students left the day long workshops attested to some exhausting but exciting creativity going on. Melanie West’s class was “Make It Big And Organic!” and focused on the idea of process more than on the creation of any one thing. Kathleen was divulging her signature “Translucent Layering Techniques” in her packed classroom. Here are some shots of these masters at work demonstrating and sharing their pearls of wisdom. Then you get a close up view of Melanie’s ingenious necklace–a reversible pendant that is engineered with a magnet and a removable center piece.

Kathleen Dustin explaining technique during her workshop.
Kathleen Dustin explaining technique during her workshop.
Cara Jane Hayman's project in the middle of hte process in Kathleen's class.
Cara Jane Hayman’s project in the middle of the process in Kathleen’s class.


Melanie West talking color choices with her workshop attendees.
Melanie West talking color choices with her workshop attendees.
Melanie West's fabulous reversible necklace.
Melanie West’s fabulous reversible necklace.
The other side of Melanie's necklace showing the magnet design (isn't that wonderful!?)
The other side of Melanie’s necklace showing the magnet design (isn’t that wonderful!?)

I am going to leave you to enjoy these images for now. I’ll be touring Malta in the morning and posting those images on Facebook so if you don’t already follow The Polymer Arts on Facebook, you can get more EuroSynergy peeks there as well!

Wow … day one and I’m already filled to the brim with ideas to ponder and write about and create from! What will I be like come Sunday?

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Wild Rings

While searching for items for this blog, I come across a lot of cool and wild pieces and just save them for later, hoping they will fit into theme. The one form that doesn’t find it’s way into themes quite as often as I gather them are rings, especially the really wild ones. So this week, let’s look at some wild rings.

When creating a ring you want to consider wearability and durability. Or wait … do you? There are a lot of artists out there that just create the form to suit a vision making for some less practical but quite wonderful pieces. The thing about rings is that these forms can be inspiration for pushing what is done with pendants, bracelets, earrings, pins and all kinds of decor items. So even if you don’t make rings, consider what you like about what you see and maybe try and incorporate those ideas into your own style and designs.

Here is actually a reverse example of that concept–taking something more commonly seen in other forms and trying it with rings. You are probably familiar with Melanie West’s flame like cane (she calls it a cephalopod eye cane–get the tutorial here) that she creates bracelets and other jewelry from. Well, Lillian de Vries tried out the cane using Melanie’s tutorial but went wild with a ring instead. It’s got a wild look but the form is actually somewhat standard for polymer rings these days. Still, the wild, organic nature of the cane contrasts well with the balanced, reserved form.


Lillian is an exploratory clayer, amassing all types of forms and techniques as she plays with and pushes what she is learning through other artists and discovering about her own style. Sometimes the work she posts is straight from a class or tutorial, some depart completely from the form or application learned while other pieces look to be completely her own vision. I find it interesting to watch the journey other artists’ take and Lillian’s is quite the wonderful wandering path as seen on her Flickr page and her blog.


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