Bevy of Blues

bevy of blue Helen Backhouse 430x416 - Bevy of BluesIn my search for popular blues, this person’s work that you see here kept popping up, only it seemed to be attached to different people all the time. As it turns out, this is an artist that sticks with making amazing beads and elements that bead artisans can then assemble rather than creating a lot of finished work herself.

Helen Backhouse is her name and her beads and elements can be found scattered throughout Etsy and on various Facebook pages. Her pieces look to be impressed clay colored primarily with mica powders and, I’d guess, some kind of patina and weathered effect techniques, perhaps dyes or paints. Her blues are straight from the back yard, reflecting the brilliant blues found in a butterfly’s or bird’s wing as well as the dusty teals and blues leaning into greens that appear in natural metal patinas. The shapes are simple, the textures organic, and the coloring coolly dramatic. That makes for really eye-catching elements.

The best place to check out her pieces is on her Facebook page where the designers that use her pieces tag her in their photos alongside the stuff she does post.


Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Explore your favorite color. Spend just a couple of minutes writing down what you like about this color, what it reminds you of, and where you notice it most often. Look back at what you wrote and see what kind of work, forms, textures or other ideas these thoughts bring up and let those guide you in the creation of new pieces.


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Salted Old Beads



Has this week’s selection of faux ancient and old art got you thinking about ways to create more of that look in your own work? The techniques used to create these looks can be applied to a variety of forms and even be reinvented using brighter colors and not-so-old-looking contrasting textures and finishes. Searching for something fun and easy to get you started on that track, if you haven’t already, I found this delightfully easy and highly textural tutorial for you.

The blog post with this tutorial is originally in Russian, but I’ll send you to the the translated to English version here. It’s really pretty well laid out in the photos, and the steps are simple but with a beautiful and sophisticated result, as can be seen in the necklace Russia’s Katerina Sidorova designed from her technique. The layering of the clay is an ingenious way of adding that additional color for the aged look since it will show on the ends and wherever the salt digs through the very thin top layer to the colors underneath. So no additional painting or other color is needed. Pretty neat.

Katerina is the shop owner at Russia’s online polymer and jewelry supply shop, KalinkaPolinka, and for what I think must be wholesale or at least bulk-buying, Kalinka-Pro. If you are on that side of the globe, it is a shop well worth checking out. But for everyone everywhere, she has a great page on her website of articles, free tutorials and links to other tutorials that would be a great starting point for other new avenues to explore.


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Let There Be Fire

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt is cold here in Colorado. I’m having a hard time keeping warm in my basement rooms where I spend so much of my time. So this week, I just want to talk fire. The amazing colors and gradients we can make with polymer makes an illusion of fire and heat fairly easy to create, but there are a number of ways to do this. So while many of us deal with cold and snowy weather, let’s think heat.

Here we have Elsie Smith showing us a bit of fire and shimmer with foil, alcohol ink and liquid clay. The foil and inks are one of my personal favorite go-to combinations because the foil reflects light and makes reds and oranges appear to glow like firelight or burning embers. Elsie’s addition of liquid clay as a sealant works to magnify the effect by bouncing light around beneath its surface. The wave of lines, of course, doesn’t hurt to bring the idea of fire to the forefront. Elsie writes that the top of this is more pink than red, so in person this probably does seem more like a Fiery Sunset, for which it is named, but I’m happy just enjoying the warmth of the colors.

Elsie has many more fiery, graduated and interestingly textured pieces in her more recent work as you can see on her Flickr pages. Be sure to take a look at her curiously painted cabochons with their lava-like texture for more warming inspiration.


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Outside Inspiration: Synergistic Enamel

317189_215757525162280_226478025_nEarly in the week it occurred to me that I hadn’t encouraged anyone to send me items that were NOT polymer, so I’d have something for our outside inspiration Friday post. However, the lovely Donna Greenberg came to my rescue and introduced me to a rather amazing enamel artist by the name of Liz Schock. This is not your typical enamel work, at all. There are a lot of wild texture and lines, as well as a carnival mix of colors in much of Lisa’s work.

I am bringing you one of her calmer pieces, actually, I just kept going back to it. This Seaweed Necklace has the intense intricacy of her other work, but for all the wild lines and uneven edges, there is a serenity in it. The color green, and this particular shade of it, has much to do with that. In addition, there is minimal contrast even with the one blue bead. It is still a bit of a mystery since it has so much rich texture, yet is such a calming piece. It is reminiscent of seaweed peacefully floating underwater.

I am especially fond of pieces that I can’t figure out, whose elements are not themselves able to reveal their effect. It is a synergy of the elements that brings about the mood or ‘read’ of a piece like this. It is also something that can’t be taught, not in the sense of defining concepts and outlining approaches. This takes intuition, being in touch with your own sense and reaction to your work, being open as you create to the emerging art and if the piece says ‘step back’, then you want to keep from over-complicating it. I don’t know that this is true for Liz with this piece, but I can imagine, with all the color and contrast in the rest of her work, that it might have been just such an experience that had her pull back from some of her more raucous tendencies.

I would really encourage you to see what I mean. She has a website that was working the other day, but seems to be offline at the time I am writing this. Try going to her website and/or her Facebook page to see what she does with her enamel work and art jewelry and let the idea of how the work presents itself. You may love some of it, you may really dislike a few pieces, but the fact is that with work like this, you will have a reaction of some sort. Isn’t that what we all want our work to do in the end?


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Rustic Cups

2014_0814ALLast week, I asked readers to send in images of work they felt should be featured and shared on the blog. That’s what we’re doing this week.

The very first person to chime in was Sue Hammer who sent me a link to Rebekah Payne’s website. I’ve actually had a couple of Rebekah’s images in my files, and it was fun to see that Sue had the same type of wildflower impressed ‘inside out’ beads, as Rebekah calls them, suggested for the blog.

These beads get their texture from tiny wildflowers molds. I am not certain how she developed the hollow cup with the texture on the inside, but I sure am curious. An outside mold and an inside mold used at the same time to impress the clay? That’s one idea.

No matter how it’s done, it’s wonderful to see such rustic and organic texture in a complex, but also very organic, looking shape. It feels completely natural that this texture should appear on such a form. This is true of much of the work Rebekah does. You can see this on her blog and in her Etsy shop.

I’m still taking suggestions for this week’s posts and maybe, next week’s as well. If you have a piece you’ve seen that you think we really need to share, it’s reader’s choice! Send links or images directly to me at


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The Attraction of Many

helen p on EtsyThere has been an aesthetic concept I have been thinking about ever since I posted Dorothy Siemen’s wall piece, Colony two weeks agoWhy is it that we find beauty, comfort or some kind of attraction to items that have repeated and crowded patterns? They make wonderful, energy-filled compositions, and they are filled with texture and richness by the way they thoroughly fill the space. Let’s contemplate this thoroughness as we enjoy some gorgeous art this week.

This piece, by Greece’s Helen P. of Eleins Kingdom on Etsy, is pretty typical of the look I am talking about. Such an approach can carry a piece with little or no color. It does not need any particular order or structure, and there is no pattern or set of lines to follow. Just the same kind of shapes repeated over and over. Why do we like this?

My initial theory is that it harkens back to very common natural formations like lichen, fungus, barnacles, etc. We recognize something organic and inherently beautiful in the abundance and growth of such formations. Or do we?

Let’s start this week by you telling me what you think. Do you find you have an especially strong attraction to this kind of artwork and/or this kind of thing in the natural world and maybe that is why we are attracted to it? Or do you have another theory? Put your thoughts in the comments at the end of the blog post (if you are getting this by email, click on the header of this post to get to the post page), and I’ll aim to use those thoughts to steer the discussion this week.

See more of this crowded, repeated type of work in Helen’s Etsy shop. This type of approach is her primary thing, so you’ll have a chance to ponder it in quite a few more iterations.




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Outside Inspiration: Texture in Textiles

My first love in crafts was in fiber arts. Weaving, dying, hand-stitched art-to-wear and mixed textiles wall pieces were all part of my early portfolio and exploration of craft art forms. These materials still fascinate me and polymer design ideas often include mixing fiber or drawing inspiration from the art form.

The textures and use of mixed media in today’s fiber arts often remind me of approaches to polymer. Rich, organic texture and intense color are signatures of many of today’s textile artists making the craft a fantastic source for polymer inspiration. This is a wall piece by Helen Suzanne, a texture maniac whose work I get lost in, just checking out all of the techniques and materials used in these pieces.


If you ever have a chance to see fiber art in person, in a gallery that specializes in the craft or a museum that has a collection or a curated show, make seeing it a priority. As with polymer, you get so much more out of the work when seen in person.  One can’t help but be wowed by the intensity of the work you see in the details of these pieces. Yeah, the patience of a fiber artist who does work like Helen here just blows my mind. Maybe you can catch the traveling Fiber Art International exhibition, in California right now, or when it moves to  South Carolina and Massachusetts in the coming year. Take a look at the FAI website and gallery sections to see just where fiber arts are today.


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