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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Lines that Lead to Contrast

LelandJewelryMod earringsLines are largely directional elements. We see a line and our eyes run along its path to see where it will go or where it has been. Combining lines that go in various directions will have us glancing over and back, jumping from one to the other as we try to follow them all. Our busy eyes are what make us feel that the lines are energetic. Energy can be good if that is what you are after, but unless you want to leave the viewer feeling ungrounded, you might want to have a place the eye can rest.

In this set of earrings by Lela Todua, you get that moment of rest in the strip of textured clay down the center. You also get this kind of mirror image of the criss-cross lines on one side being mimicked by the lines of changing color in the mokume gane surface on the other. Although not really the same kind of lines, the type of patterning and direction of lines are close enough that our minds see a likeness. It helps ground the two otherwise contrasting halves in a subtle relationship alongside their physical kinship being the same mirrored shapes connected to the same long central bar. The result is that our eye jumps from side to side, with a quiet moment we can take in between on that dividing bar. The dividing bar is actually a line as well, but she adds these simple dots at the end that keep our eye from sliding off and so our glance returns to trying to take in the broader surfaces. It gives us a sense of a full and complex composition in a small amount of space.

Lines and contrast seem to be the staple of Lela’s work as you can see by what she has to offer in her well stocked Etsy shop.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Find various styles of lines in everyday or natural items and find two that you see any kind of relationship between. Use these as inspiration for creating contrasting textures for a new piece. Alternately, create multiple textures with lines in a preferred set of materials and techniques, ones that develop random patterns (mokume, marbling, scratches, splashes of paint or ink, etc.), then find patches of texture that work together because of a suggested relationship your eye finds. Create a piece from them.


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Hidden Patterns in the Newly Released Winter 2015 Issue – Hidden

lehocky Propaher heart pinThe Winter issue of The Polymer Arts was released yesterday, to much fanfare and much relief from myself and the crew. Thank you so much for the many kind comments and compliments  you’ve already sent in. It’s always great to know we’ve done well for you. Digital access was sent to everyone who subscribed or pre-ordered prior to yesterday and all the print issues are in the mail or will be as of this afternoon.

If you don’t see the digital issue you expected in your inbox, check your spam folder, and if it’s not there, write Kat at and she will look into it.  If you don’t have your copy ordered or an active subscription you can do so on our website here.

I was so thrilled to have the genius of Ellen Prophater in this issue. She doesn’t post her work online, which I keep forgetting, but I’ve had the fortune of getting to see a lot of her work, both finished and in progress, at Creative Journey Studios and at events we’ve both attended, so it feels familiar to me. I thought I’d share a little Ellen that I own today while we wrap up things over here.

This is Ellen’s mokume, but it’s a Ron Lehocky heart pin (like you couldn’t guess that!) and the only reason it’s available is because it happens to be in my collection, a kindly gift from Ron. This is an example of my favorite of Ellen’s mokume methods where she uses embossing powder to create a beautiful granite-like look. She has so, so many methods and combinations for mokume, though. And we are such lucky kids that she shared nearly two dozen of her ideas in the Variations in Mokume article in the new issue. It’s not a step-by-step, but after the three sections that precede it – important secrets to great mokume, a very detailed tutorial by Angela Barenholtz on creating contour line mokume (sometimes referred to as impression mokume), and the new wild and twisted mokume Anke Humpert created a tutorial for – you’ll pretty much be ready to venture out on your own and try Ellen’s methods by recipe.

If you aren’t familiar with Ellen’s biggest creation, Creative Journey Studios, which she runs with the very kindly Sue Sutherland, do go over and take a look at all they do and have for you. They are a polymer supplier, but they also have one of the largest retail collections of filigree findings, and they are an absolute must as a place to visit on any polymer person’s bucket list as the studios house the most extensive retrospective collection of polymer art in the world. It’s amazing. If you are ever anywhere near Buford, Georgia (just north of Atlanta), you have to go there. It will knock your socks off. Or, you can make it a destination … they also do workshops all year long with some of the biggest names in the community, so take a look at their schedule and start planning!


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Polymer Color Recipes in an App? Why, Yes!

color MixrSo I spent my day at Sandy Camp in San Diego with a wonderfully enthusiastic group. I taught a mokume gane workshop with my little clayers coming up with some gorgeous results. However, I was too busy chatting and answering questions to direct my in-room photographer (thanks Mrs. Friesen!) to get some close up shots of the really wonderful color combinations and patterns that filled the tables. But what I did get, as did the rest of the lucky attendees, was a first look at a great new app created by our community’s own Nancy Ulrich. It may not seem like digital apps would have a place in hands-on craft, but this one was created just for clayers like you and me. Especially if you like color.

Well, that’s a silly thing to say. Who here doesn’t like color? But who here dreads trying to work up a color palette then figure out the color recipe for each color? If you raised a virtual hand in response to both those questions, then the ColorMixr app is going to be your new best friend! This is a purely polymer-clay-centric, color-picking, and palette-creating app. It was just released last night–it had just gone live in the Google Store hours before the demo I saw and the first Apple downloads happened by people in the room as Nancy presented it.

Here’s how it works: You take a photo, upload an image, or pick something you find online and feed it into the app . The app has little circles that will automatically pick out 5 colors to create a palette but you can also move over the image until each circle is over a color you want (see the screen shot upper left). You can also choose colors in a color wheel to adjust the color choices (screen shot upper right). Once you have your palette saved inot your palette library (screen shot lower left), tap on the palette to get a list of the color recipes for each color in it (screen shot lower right) … based off your specified brand of polymer! That’s pretty darn nifty! And know that Nancy has personally mixed and checked all 2000+ colors recipes available in this app–she even brought all the boxes of samples she made to prove it. Phew! She has been one busy lady!

We’ll be working on a review and a how-to-use-it article for the next issue, but in the meantime, download it for yourself and go play! It’s free to use for the next 30 days. If you like it, you can have this handy tool literally at your fingertips to capture any color sets you see out and about or online for a monthly membership ($3.99 with big discounts for pre-paid 6 & 12 month memberships) with regular color updates and/or new colors every week. Just search for “ColorMixr” (no ‘e’ in mixer) in the Google App store or Apple store.

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Original, Dimensional Mokume Texture

Anna Anpilogova diy textureSo, I came across this great little idea that I had seen some time ago but never got around to trying. Although the impression method of creating mokume patterns is pretty accessible with manufactured stamps and texture sheets, it would be a grand thing if we had some options so those standard patterns and stamps aren’t the only ones we see out there. This is one easy way to create a unique pattern—three-dimensional paint!

Anna Anpilogova shows us an example of a pattern she created using glass liner paint. Her simple explanation for this easy but dramatic DIY texture sheet can be found on her Flickr page:

You need some transparent film and liner for glass/ceramics. Just put the film over the desired pattern and trace it with the liner. Let dry, and then repeat tracing one or two times to increase the depth of the texture. Works well for mokume gane technique, just don’t forget to sprinkle it with water before applying to clay, as it tends to stick.

Some paints you can try would include Pebeo’s Outliner, Jacquard’s Luminere 3D, DecoArts 3D Enamels or even some heavy-body acrylic paints and borrowing a narrow tip applicator from something else or putting it in a squeeze bottle.

Anna is a big texture artist. If you are looking for a texture inspiration, take a look at her collection of work on her Flickr photostream and LiveJournal pages.


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Between Scrap and Variations

hidden scrapgritI am between short, but intense, trips and have my brain quite fully embedded in the goal of teaching as I work on articles for the Winter issue and prepare for my class and first visit to Sandy Camp in San Diego at the end of this week. So, while I keep working on those items, how about a few ideas for things you might wish to explore?

All my tests and samples that I’ve been creating have produced a fair amount of scrap clay, so, of course, seeing a few cool options for using that clay catches my eye. And this process here, as outlined by Anne Idril Rohee Briere, actually overlaps into what I had planned to teach this weekend, as well as hitting on an interesting phenomenon. This technique isn’t really new but is rather a variation on, not one other technique, but varied other techniques. The cut and reveal approach to finding a pattern in clay is often referred to as mokume, but more often when it is done, it is done in layers of solid clay. Hidden magic is more traditionally done with rolled and pressed jelly roll canes while others have referred to covered layered or mixed clay that has been stamped and the top cut away as a reverse Sutton slice. I’m actually teaching a version of this as a variation for my mokume class this weekend, but I call it scrap mokume where primary layers in the mokume block are scrap separated by a solid color. They are all related in that they have a major common approach … depths of color change and slicing.

In other words, people have been, and hopefully will continue to, push the basic steps in these techniques to produce new and interesting patterns, and you can be one of those! The primary goal is to create a pattern that isn’t just a mush of color. That is what the solid layer or layers helps accomplish. Once you have that, you can stamp with a texture sheet, punch and cut your own pattern or fold and twist the clay. Then slice!

I always suggest trying a new technique as it’s been taught, then once you see how it works, that’s when your play and exploration can result in really wonderful variations. Let’s see what you can come up with this one. (You are more than welcome to send me your results, by the way. I love to see what others have made because of the posts and conversations on the blog. It helps keep me jazzed!)

See the full online tutorial here on Idril’s blog. Go ahead. It’s just playing with scrap and could be loads of fun.


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Mokume in all its Hidden Glory

platshpinFinally got the Fall issue wrapped up as far as the printer is concerned, but I am already knee deep in plans for the Winter issue whose theme is “Hidden”, which is coincidentally related to what we’ve been chatting about this week. What a great theme idea–it came from a few reader’s last year, and we were all too excited at the possibilities. Mokume is one such possibility to fulfill the theme, and we are working on getting you some amazing mokume techniques to try, but in the meantime, how about a little mokume education?

You probably already know that mokume gane is an ancient folded metal technique. You will often see me refer to it only as mokume since that means wood grain and gane means metal. And we are giving metal a woodgrain look. It’s kind of ironic that mokume gane is really faux wood in metal and mokume nendo–which means plastic–is the faux of a faux woodgrain. We ALL borrow from from other art forms including that which nature creates.

Mokume gane is not the most popular metal technique, but it does seem to be having a resurgence. And I have to say that the restrictions and control necessary really give the metal technique just gorgeous lines and sophistication. I think because it is too easy to just push it any which way with polymer we have some pretty blobby versions out there. Nothing wrong with nicely done ‘blobs’. Any form can be beautiful, right? But let’s just sit back today and enjoy the beauty of the form we borrowed from as it is seen in the metal arts of Steve Midgett.

The one on the left is actually a pin and was oriented horizontally on his website, but I think it has such beautiful power in the vertical position. We have quite the in-depth article on creating mood with color, shape and orientation in the upcoming Fall 2015 issue of The Polymer Arts–be sure to get your copy and you’ll understand more what I’m talking about after you read it. However, you can feel how that shape still feels so powerfully elegant in the pendant of the same basic shape on the right.

Take a peak at more of these hidden layers and Steve’s beautiful application of mokume gane on his website.


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Clusters of Curiosity

Jan Geisen blue shimmerMonochrome pieces can be difficult to create energy in, simply because one of our easiest and most common elements of visual energy is color and contrast or change in color that creates truly, lively energy. The next most effective element is line. But, here is a piece by Jan Geisen that has a quiet but persistent energy without either of those elements.

It primarily comes from the texture and the use of light in the shimmery clusters that pop out of the rough and crackle surface. And the brilliance of that blue doesn’t hurt at all. I think there is also something to the fact that nothing is well outlined; that you keep wanting to look to see it clearer. The clusters of sparkle suggest something like buried nuggets of precious metal rather than recreating something solid to look at. Normally that lack of definition could too readily detract from the beauty of a piece, but here, it adds a little mystery and piques our curiosity, does it not? Or maybe it’s just me.

If you like this kind of texture, you have to take a look at what Jan has been up to lately. You can find her most recent work on her Flickr photostream and even get yourself a piece from her available collection on Etsy.


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Outside Inspiration: Visions in Metal

Na Pali Moon I 2012 07131_0Looking at all the other craft mediums out there, there is so much in the way of representational imagery. It was hard to decide what to share today. But since we are so many of us jewelry artists, I decided to return to the classic precious metal jewelry craft.  This particular piece titled Na Pali Moon by Joan Tenenbaum uses several different classic techniques including reticulation (heating precious metal to cause ripples on the surface), cutting, patina surface treatments and even mokume gane (quick … can you find it?). For an all metal piece, the colors are particularly amazing and well controlled.

Joan described what she was trying to recreate here: “I have long been fascinated by the view of distant hills as they disappear into the mist. I love how they become less and less distinct and fade in color the farther away they are. As one looks along the coast, the rippling texture of the ridges of headlands has always inspired visions of jewelry capturing that movement and that landscape. In Na Pali Moon I have combined this theme with another favorite — that of moonlight on water. There are many beautiful coastlines, but the distinctive northwest coast of the Island of Kauai is one of the most exciting to me.”

I can see this kind of thing being made in polymer too. Polymer would lend itself well to the layers and textures. The hardest part might be mixing the muted colors to keep the serene feeling of such a scene.  For more on Joan’s work and process, take a look at her gallery here.

Speaking of precious metal jewelry, our friends over at Metal Clay Artist magazine have had a terrible financial blow fall on them due to another business’s faulty practices. The problem is so bad that they’ve suspended publication on this magazine indefinitely — and it’s the only metal clay focused magazine in print! I am particularly saddened by and empathetic to their situation because MCAM is so much like The Polymer Arts — created by and for artists in a new medium and out of a passion to share with and grow their community. They even publish polymer clay articles, so you know they’re good people! We have been in touch to see how TPA might help, but first the editor, Jeanette LeBlanc, needs to get out from under the overwhelming financial burden caused by unforeseeable circumstances. You can read more on this story and how you can help and even get yourself some goodies or issues of this beautiful magazines at this MCAM FundMe page.  Or go to the Metal Clay Artists’ website to buy a back issue or two. Get new inspiration, and help out a fellow artist dedicated to helping fellow crafters.


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