Stories in Pieces

Ctoops dragon fightingThank you for the responses on Tuesday’s mosaic. I loved reading your different views and loved the level of enthusiasm in the comments. I apologize that they took a day to show up–the mysterious ways of the internet did not let us in to approve them until late in the day. Technology often reminds me of when the kids were around four. You just never knew if or when they would cooperate. Actually, that reminds me of 14 year olds, too. But, wait … that is not our subject today!

We are going to get back to mosaics and I hope a few of you will chime in with your thoughts again. Let’s look at a completely different type from Cynthia Toops, who is just mad about micro mosaics.

Cynthia’s images often invoke a story but how important is the story to the success of the work? Do you easily find a story here, even with the disparate types of critters wedged into it? Do you not care if a story is easily drawn from this but enjoy it any ways? If so, why? Does it feel crowded to you or is the abundance of detail part of its charm?

Cynthia has a website here but her collaborative silversmithing partner, Chuck Domitrovich, keeps the best collection of their work on this Pinterest board.


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The Many Faces of Micro Mosaics

5698826559_5e2d870f2b_zWhen we do an article related to a technique that has been explored by several artists, we try and include art by these other explorers of the technique, but when it came to Karen Mitchell‘s article on polymer micro mosaics there was just too much wonderful stuff that Karen was sharing to expand on it. The article includes a history of micro mosaics, how the originals were created (including images from Karen’s hands-on experience recreating this old art form) and a tutorial on how to design and construct them successfully in polymer, as well as an endearing story of her discovery and exploration of the technique. That didn’t leave a lot of room for extras.

So, here is an example of micro mosaics not unlike what Karen does, created by DDee Wilder. DDee created these ‘vertical micro mosaics’ almost exclusively in rings and put together an album of them on her Flickr page. She used simple narrow canes and extruded polymer strings for her tiny mosaic elements and played with the design born from the pattern of color they created. If you enjoyed Karen’s article and are intrigued by the idea, you definitely need to take a look at DDee’s rings. And if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out the micro mosaic article and tutorial, you can admire these while you wait for your very-soon-to-arrive subscriber’s copy (issues are still making their way to many of you on the East Coast especially and overseas), or you can order your copy directly from us or from the retailers listed on this page.


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Dots and Bits and Limiting Labels

46419e59fe11c8290cfac3fb1d51c115Today, let’s ponder a broad combination of themes from French artist, Ouedd. Here, lines of white dots play the part of contrast to densely gathered leaf forms with rich, graduated colors applied in a polymer embroidery-type manner. I also thought this might be called a type of mosaic, but do dense patterns of parts alone define a mosaic?

Merriam-Webster says mosaics are “a surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored material to form pictures or patterns.” This would be a mosaic then, right? But, Google’s dictionary says, “A picture or design made from small pieces of colored tile, glass, or other material set in mortar.” Oh, well, it is not really set in a mortar. So, maybe it’s not mosaic.

I just think it is best to say it is a richly colored pendant whose erratic primary texture has been thoughtfully broken up by orderly white lines.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter what the type of work here is called. When we label something it is, in our mind and in the mind of anyone that ascribes to that application of the label, limited by that label. Take “polymer artist” as an example. If you consider yourself a polymer artist, do you forever limit your creative endeavors to polymer work only?

I do very much appreciate that we need labels in order to help us organize, in our minds, all the information that comes to us and all the people we meet, but it just seems like we could move beyond them with individuals we know, especially ourselves and, as an extension, the work we do. For instance, do you realize that, usually, when someone we just met asks “What you do?”, we usually say “I am …” tacking on the label that our work or career gives us. That is not what we ‘do’; that is what we ‘are’, or more precisely, what we label ourselves as. You could say “I’m a polymer artist”, but is that all you are? Maybe you could say, “I create polymer art … among other things.” Then you are this vast, complex, person of endless possibilities and action. Doesn’t that sound like a truer way of presenting ourselves? And without the label you are free to create whatever you like with whatever you like without worrying that you are falling outside of some boundaries.

I bring this up because I’ve had two conversations recently with people apologizing for not fitting a label they think the rest of the world may have put them under. My thoughts … it doesn’t matter. Do what you need to do and throw the labels out.

To see an example of art that shows off the endless possibilities of polymer and of artists who play with the medium, take a peek at Oeudd’s Flickr pages and her interesting array of work. Then there is Ouedd’s blog that is fun and a bit silly, especially if you don’t speak French and use the Google translator.


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Parallel Lives

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This last story was actually requested. By several readers. Why this handful of people knew there was this story to be told, I’m not sure. It is a lot like yesterday’s story, but with some significant differences, as well as a different kind of significance here. I think you’ll know what I’m getting at when you read it

The artwork here is not a piece by either in the story, but it’s something I’ve had saved for a while. Its not even polymer. But, really, it could be, and someone really needs to try this! It’s a glass mosaic created on a rock. That is what artist Liz Tonkin does… she builds mosaics on rocks. Isn’t is gorgeous? Take a look at her Facebook page to find the most eye candy of this sort. Okay, enjoy that while reading the last of our ‘lovely’ stories this week.

Parallel Lives

Once upon a time, in a Los Angeles high school drama class, this charming boy with an amazingly cute smile sat down next to a very shy, self-conscious girl (who had unintentionally ended up in the class) and asked her to do a scene with him. She didn’t know why this guy, who every girl in class seemed to have a crush on, would ask her, but she said yes, so he suggested they get together that weekend and go over scenes. That was the first of many weekends and many other hours spent together. She was his first girlfriend; his first kiss. He was the first guy she actually fell in love with. Being young and uncertain though, they didn’t really know what they wanted and drifted apart. But, it wasn’t long before they worked it out being friends and spent long hours at dingy coffee shops, comparing personal philosophies and talking about their art and writing. It was always so easy to just be themselves with each other.

They stayed irregular friends for nearly a decade, unintentionally following each other around, but rarely seeing each other. They went to the same community college, then the same four year college. Then he went on to a prestigious animation program north of L.A., and she moved to New Mexico, but a couple years later, they both ended up in San Francisco at the same time then returned to L.A. for a while between jobs. She had turned to poetry, and he to painting; looking at what filled their souls but not their pockets. Christmas day of 1993, they spent the afternoon with the girl and her family and still talked like they always did. But, it would be the last time they would talk for 20 years.

Within the year the girl met another guy, got married and moved to Colorado. The boy got serious about his career and soon met the woman he would marry.  Neither marriage was good. Her’s was even violent. But, they were both the type of people who don’t give up easily, and they stayed for far too long in relationships that crushed their spirits. She had stopped writing her poetry, and he rarely painted.

After her inevitable divorce and several years of near solitude, she tried to find something meaningful with someone else, but there would always be angry words, or they would want her to give up her art or her writing. So, she gave up on them and sunk herself into her work.  She would think back, however, and remember those few people in her past like bright lights on a horizon and started trying to find them. Some she found, but not the boy who she wanted to see again more than anyone. She knew he’d become successful in animation as his name would roll by on the TV screen sometimes when her roommate watched cartoons. Then one particularly trying day, when she looked back at the mess of a life she’d had, and she thought of that boy again and decided she would run a search for him one more time. And suddenly, there he was, his still very cute smile staring out at her from the screen. She wrote him and hoped he’d just say hi back. A few hours later he did. But he didn’t just say hi.

They talked every day from then on, in the same way they did 20 years before. A couple months later, the girl’s father became ill, and she drove out to Los Angeles to help. The two old friends managed to meet up and then went out for a dinner that they both lingered over. It was then that the girl realized she was still in love with that boy, and, as it turned out, the boy had the very same realization about her. The girl, however, had been resigned to being alone the rest of her life, but the boy, he jumped off the deep end and just told her how he felt. She made him wait 6 weeks before she could finally say, okay, I feel the same. Now what?

That all started just over a year ago. Somehow, even living a thousand miles apart and being about the two busiest people anyone could imagine, they make it work. They talk every day, try to see each other every month and are slowly breaking down all the cynicism built by the many years in between. Their lives still parallel each other, too; both working jobs that combine art and writing. Their big deadlines even land on the same weeks. They live in a similar rhythm, but, more often than not, many miles apart.

And yes, they sometimes wonder what would have happened if they had realized when they were young just how rare and precious it is to have someone you can be yourself with and who loves you just as you are. But, that boy and girl who met in a high school drama class are not the same boy and girl who met again last year. Maybe the years in between were not always happy ones, but it allowed them to become the kind of people who can appreciate and love each other the way two people really should.

The girl’s name is Sage. The boy’s name is Brett. We will spend this Valentine’s day a thousand miles apart, but still, we believe we are the two luckiest people in the whole darn universe.

Nonetheless … I do so miss you, my dear man!

Happy Valentine’s day to everyone out there. Cherish and appreciate the love in your life in all the forms and from all the souls that give it to you.


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Mixing in Mosaics

This seems to be the week of mixing it up with polymer as well as intricate pieces. Here we have one of Susan Crocenzi‘s amazing mosaics that includes glass as well as polymer to build up an almost textile feel to this wall piece. The mosaic has a natural rhythm and flow of materials that allows the story to unfold sincerely. As Susan explain it, “Mosaic art offers us the sweet possibility that our own crazy, disjointed life-bits can yield peace, beauty, and meaning.”


This California artist teaches classes at her Grass Valley studio. To view more of her mosaics and learn more about her work, visit her Flickr site. There are more beautiful examples of her mosaics on her Facebook page. “Susan makes mosaics on steroids.” –Carol Herschieb, director of Nevada County Open Studios Tour.


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Building Off the Center Line

The work of Laurie Mika is rather  mesmerizing. You can sit and stare and find new things for many long minutes as well as every time you return to a piece. And most everything she creates is built off a centered composition with balanced shapes if not textures and motifs on either side. This is in large part due to the shrine format that is the basis for much of her work.


Laurie is a mixed-media artist with a passion for combining and overlapping a variety of mediums to create her easily recognized style. If you would like to learn this technique, she teaches at ArtFest, Art Unraveled, Art and Soul, Raevn’s Nest and Hacienda Mosaico in Mexico. You can also check out her book, “Mixed-Media Mosaics: Techniques and Projects Using Polymer Clay Tiles, Beads, and Other Embellishments,” or her YouTube video. Or just wander through the couple dozen pages of her art on her website.


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This New Year Go Big

Happy New Year everyone! The Polymer Arts crowd wishes you all a joyful, healthy and creative year in 2014!

Now … how about trying something big this year?

Marie Davis from Vermont is inspired by the wonders of Mother Nature. She creates finely detailed designs by layering multi-colored polymer clays in a  millefiori caning process. Her large pieces look to be mosaics of cane slices created as elements she pulls from her observation of nature. Here is a shot of a large wall piece called “The Forest”.  Marie says “This piece is a response to a call to artists by Frog Hollow to choose a Grimm’s Fairy Tale and create a piece. The story I chose was Hansel and Gretel. This piece is behind glass and the trails end is lit from behind.”


Here is a detail shot of the beautifully meshed canes as well.

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Maria says of her work, “I love the challenge of creating a piece that, like nature, captivates from a distance as well as rewarding the viewer who takes a closer look.”  Take a closer look and be inspired by her micro world of canes as they morph into large fields of discovery by perusing more of her work on her website.


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