Many Faces of Silkscreen

noelia silkscreenI just realized the other day, as I was admiring a slew of silkscreen work by one Noelia Contreras, that I don’t think I’ve ever spent a week admiring this little gem of technique. So as I keep focused on fixing a couple snags that are in the way of getting the Spring issue off to the printer, let’s admire a some nice silkscreens and look at ways it can be used.

Noelia’s set seen here shows a number of applications for silkscreened clay. It works as a background, a foreground, a peek-a-boo ground (yes, I just made that up) and even to create singular objects to raise about the surface. I enjoy these pieces because they all have focal points, some more subtle than others, but it is more than just a swath of pattern. What I assume are brooches on the right side are probably my favorite designs because of the energy of their shape, just off-center focal point, and the couple of layers there that lead to a small spot of negative space. A bit of the cloth those will be set against will be framed in those negative spaces which integrates the brooch and its background. It’s a nice touch.

The silkscreen and patterns are the primary focus in these pieces, which can be a little tricky. Just using lots of pattern can make for weak design if the artist depends on it to be the sole point of interest. As much as we might like a pattern, it needs contrast and context, at the very least, to create strong design. Here there is a mix of pattern that invites the viewer to find relationships between pattern choices and enough contrast in other design choices, including those bold black outlines, to show the pieces were well thought out. You can see alternate views of most of these pieces on Noelia’s Flickrphotostream and in her website gallery.


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Polished Consideration

Noelia Contreras C063Who doesn’t enjoy a flawless finish? A smooth and highly polished finish in polymer is particularly attractive and those of us who have tried to reach this pinnacle of skill are awed by it. I’ve seen quite a bit of nicely polished finishes lately including this beautiful set by Noelia Contreras.

This is a simple, fun, and colorful design that could hold its own without the finish, but the high polish takes it up a level, making it particularly eye catching.  The blacks look blacker and the colors appear brighter because of the clean reflection of light. This kind of finish takes a little longer than a basic sand-and-buff and is sleeker and classier than a varnish short cut, but the results are so worth it.

These polished finishes are common in Noelia’s work, as is her very particular attention to all the details of a piece. Take a few minutes to admire her skill on her Flickr pages and in her shop.



Inspirational Challenge of the Day: In your next piece, or with a piece you have already created but could benefit from a bit more attention, practice your flawless finishes. This will mean different things for different people as not every piece should be polished or flawless. The idea is that your piece is carefully and skillfully finished off in a fashion that matches the type of work it is. If you are going for smooth, take the time to polish it to the best of your ability. If it is rough or layered, be particular about the cuts you make, the backs, and the edges.


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Crazy Cavities

Noelia Contreras Crazy cavatiesI have long had a fascination with spaces that potentially hide things. Caves, crevasses, holes, wells, abandoned buildings and the like. There is  something about the potential of that unknown or hidden that is so enticing. And, it doesn’t have to be dark and mysterious either. Just something that makes one curious.

Like these fantastic forms by the ever-changing Noelia Contreras. They aren’t particularly deep or shadowed crevasses, but if you came upon someone wearing one of these, I don’t think you could help but step in a little closer and try to peek in from one angle or another to get a better glimpse of those background textures and the funky balls that look like they’re ready to launch from their “cavities” as Noelia calls them.

Would you like to have this kind of reaction to your pieces? Maybe not always, but if you are interested in piquing a viewer’s curiosity, hidden, partially hidden, and things just peeking through will get many people to stop for a closer look. We’ll be checking out those options, from subtle to serious, this week. Curious? Keep peeking in to see what we find.

In the meantime, if you need a dose of color this Monday, pop over to Noelia’s Flickr pages or in her shop for a lots of brilliant, saturated color. She’s also being featured in the gallery in the Winter 2014 issue of The Polymer Arts, so be sure to check out what new items she shared with us to share with you.


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Print on Textured Weave

Boldly printed cotton fabrics were rather popular when I was growing up but the patterns were not very exciting. In art school I jumped at the chance to take a silk screen printing class and create my own. It was great fun but a ton of work. So much so that I never made anything with the fabrics I printed. I had a horrible aversion to cutting into the fabric that had taken so long to create! But now I’m trying my hand at creating and transferring patterns to polymer as well as exploring silk screen printing. Making your own screens is still pretty labor intensive but screen printing stencils are now available in various places as are kits and online instruction (just Google it!) so anyone can now explore the process before committing the time and expense to creating original screens.

Both silk screen printing and transfer images are decorative fabric techniques easily adapted for use with polymer. This pendant by Noelia Contreras, along with much of the rest of her work, looks to be highly inspired by fabrics–from graphical image transfer to screen printing to bargello, she explores the wide variety of fabric based inspirations in polymer. In this playful piece she transferred hand drawn designs based on the art of zentangles to create black patterns that are then transferred to white polymer textured with a woven fabric look.


If you are lucky enough to be in Spain or nearby  European countries, look her up to see what classes she has coming up. You can find announcements on her classes as well as more of her artwork on her blog and in her shop as well as her Flickr photostream.


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Concrete Inspiration

Well, one man-made thing we do see drawn (sometimes literally) into the work of polymer artists is the texture we find in walls and paths–bricks, stepping stones, rock walls, and cobblestone streets. These come pretty close to being nature-based with the stone or stone like elements that make up these walls, walks, and roads; but it’s what the structures themselves represent that often draws us to them. Walls represent things like protection or barriers, and roads are symbols of opportunity or the unknown future. The textures of these things can, on their own, bring up the same associations. Whether the association is positive or less so, most people will feel a connection to these things and so we see, in our easily textured medium, the regular appearance of elements that represent walls and roads.

These necklaces by Spain’s Noelia Contreras bring the textures of a man-made concrete or stone structure into a a spiritual realm by having these textures frame runes and stand as the base for rune stones in these pieces presented as amulets. The pieces are full of implied and literal symbols; without even knowing what the runes are, you get from them collectively a sense of ritual, myth, and history.


I’ll let these pieces stand as introduction to two other types of man-made elements that we often see in polymer art, elements that are filled with meaning and have a long history for mankind. Can you identify what they might be? We’ll talk about them in the next couple posts. Just wanted to get you thinking. You are welcome to post your guesses!


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Bright Fabric Finish

After a dreary, cold weekend here in Colorado, I thought a bright bit of color would be just the thing. These beautifully finished necklaces are by Noelia Contreras of Barcelona, Spain. The simple combination of tinted against saturated colors with contrasting ‘buttons’ make the pieces lively, but I think it’s the precise execution of the shapes, lines, and the surface finish that makes them so appealing.

It can be a bit tricky to make a flat surface look uniformly finished. The use of applied texture can accomplish this with relative ease. There is a little trick to that as well, however … the texture should not draw away from the other elements if it’s not to be a focal point of the piece. Subtlety is key here. Noelia favors what looks to be small weave fabric as her texture–a perfect solution that adds subdued textural interest while giving the work a clean looking and even finish.


With the myriad of fabrics available, there is also a myriad of possible texture to be derived from them. Lint-less fabric such as silk, acetate, nylon and many polyesters can create wonderful textures. Imprint lint laden fabrics into a sheet of polymer, baking then removing lint with a good washing, to create a lint-free texture plate.

Noelia has many other quite colorful and inspiring pieces on her blog and Flickr page, including some artful miniatures which, even with the obvious skill she applies to her jewelry, seems to be her first love when it comes to polymer creations.


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