Colored Paper

gustavoramirezcruz Cyclopedidae Berlinus 430x318 - Colored PaperToday, we step just to the side of polymer and check out some amazing paper mache.

This collection I found today just blew me away. The work is by Gustavo Ramirez Cruz and the color and whimsy are just irresistible. Well for me, certainly, but I bet this little guy will tug at quite a few of you, too. It was hard to pick which one to show off. They are such strange creatures he creates, but they invariably have this vulnerable and unaware look that makes me just want to pack them up and take them home to protect them … and to cheer me up while they are at it. Kind of like my dogs, really! And nearly as big as our smaller furball. This cutie measures 46 x 28cm (18″ x 11″) but when I first saw it, I thought, that would make a great brooch!  It would have to be shrunk down some!

Well, instead of blathering on with patterned animal comparisons from our other artist’s this week, how about you use your precious time to jump over to Gustavo’s site and give yourself an eyeful of joy and color this weekend. Just jump over to his simple but entrancing website.


Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Find the pattern in the animals around you. Whether they are pets, critters you see outside your window or exotic animals in a book or online, look for color and patterns that inspire you and let what you find inspire a new piece.


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Scratching Out Unusual Design

m-catijanI’m not sure what the theme is going to be this week. I am just going to start here with this fairly unusual piece and see where the ideas take us. Some Mondays, you just gotta go with the flow.

Flow is part of what had me contemplating this piece by Marjana Cajhen. What caught my eye first–and was what you probably first noticed too, I’d guess–is that puzzle piece. This is looking like a progression of square shapes and then a puzzle piece shape pops up. Is this a geometric shape? It’s not organic but it seems a tad too complicated to be geometric yet it’s shape is balanced and measured and feels squarish in a way. However the edge of the shape keeps shifting gears. It’s that constant moving edge that makes it stand out, of course, but is this a good thing?

At first I thought this pattern change from squares might be too jarring but to take it away would take away all its draw. The unexpected shape is a type of contrast not to mention adding a bit of fun in what might otherwise be a bit of a static piece, even with the energetic linear texture. The other thing I wondered about was that choice of texture. Each piece has a different textural pattern but there is consistency in that inconsistency. And since the textures also  are all made up of lines, there is a relationship between them there as well as in their black and white nature.

But you know what delights me the most? That spray of cord ends splayed across the corner of that end square. Between that and the puzzle piece, it seems Marjana’s choices are trying to break up an orderly gathering of stodgy squares and force them into a bit of play time.

This juxtaposition of geometric shapes and use of line , especially the scratch marks, are a regular theme in Marjana’s work. You can compare her ideas on her Flickr photostream or read up on her various adventures and explorations on her blog.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Create a piece with a repeated form but change one along the way in some unexpected manner. Try to think of something that is both related but not commonly seen with such forms. A string of light blue round beads could be interrupted by a miniature peach. A pattern of deep red flower canes can give way to a large yellow fireworks cane. The idea is to keep the repeated element related in at least a couple of aspects and then challenge yourself to come up with something no one would expect but somehow makes sense–the blue beads relate to the peach in terms of shape and size and the orange color is a direct contrast to the blue so they can work dramatically together. Flowers and fireworks have similar centrally blooming structures and the yellow and red are both warm colors so they work together. See where this is going?


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Pushing Variation

cane-slice-plus-36-permutations-on-blackBefore we leave the realm of canes, I thought I’d toss out a little reminder and challenge (along with adding another colorful image to our week … guess I’m feeling the need for color!) to really push what you do with canes. Or if you don’t cane, consider ways you can manipulate and vary the applications you commonly use.

Carol Simmons, a master with both canes and colors, shows the many, many opportunities for beautiful and complex designs you can find in just one cane with this image of 36 kaleidoscope versions. It is absolutely amazing to see the variation. It takes a while to find where and how she switched up and cut up the canes slices to come up with these. A couple are still a mystery to me, I must admit, but it is such a delight to find each one. It’s like 36 little puzzles. It is more than just a puzzle though. Going through and finding the patterns and determining how she arranged them can do a lot for your understanding of the possibilities of manipulating pattern which you can, in turn, turn around and apply to canes, mokume, textural patterns and anything else with a sheeted surface.

The post on this was actually from about 3 years ago but it’s a timeless lesson. Jump over to Carol’s blog post to read the whole thing and get further insight on this.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: You know what this challenge will be … create variation with a cane or other surface designed sheet. How can you cut, rearrange, or manipulate the pattern to come up with other designs?


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Clearly Layered

ikandi-lattice-laceThe really cool thing about translucent canes is that whatever is set behind them shows through, allowing for all kinds of possibilities with imagery and depth. The cellular cane conversation started Monday now turns to how to apply translucent canes created more for textural application than for the images embedded inside.

Ivy Niles has got this particular idea down as can be seen here in what she calls a translucent lattice lace cane. Adding the mostly opaque flower patterns into the mix allows for the canes to add their own variation in layering to whatever they are applied to so the flowers sit ‘up’ on the surface while the translucent squares frame small sections of the layer beneath. The cane slices from this could be set corner to corner for a regular and consistent pattern or, due to the outer translucent edges, can be blended seamlessly into other patterns or can be applied as accent textures on corners or edges.

Ivy has several examples of how to apply this particular cane on the listing for it on Etsy (sold long ago, I’m afraid), so you can pop over to see this here or just rummage for other ideas in her Etsy shop.  She also shows off more of her goodies on her website.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Today, accent, decorate or hand mark just the edges and corners of a piece. Let this kind of design suggest a focal point or maybe it won’t need a focal point but rather the texture may come together to create a pattern that becomes the focus and interest of the piece. Don’t judge what you’re doing. Just let yourself go and have fun.


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Repeating Yourself

Eva Ehmeier Artichoke Drop NecklaceIt’s been a week of seeing something new in something you already have in front of you, and I have been having a lot of fun with the ideas while readers have been getting quite a kick out of what we’ve been sharing. So, let’s do this one more time, but with a twist. Let’s try out repetition and pattern.

Nature is full of repeated elements all brought together to create beautiful and perfectly formed patterns. If you follow nature’s guidelines, you can take any form or element and make it in the same or graduating sizes and repeat them side-by-side, over-lapping, sitting on top of one another, or all in a row. The formation is not as important to these beautiful patterns as the precision and consistency of form and placement. Apparently, an artichoke suggested the placement of the beautiful pieces that make up this necklace by  Eva Ehmeier. Or maybe she created them and it made her think of artichokes. But the natural repetitive element is there, echoing that recognizable natural beauty.

This technique of layered, folded, and repeated elements has been a common approach of Eva’s in years past and she has plenty of examples of it on her Flickr photostream and her website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Find a natural repeated pattern that intrigues you and try recreating the pattern using a favorite element. Nature has patterns everywhere. You might find yours in your fridge, a garden, on a hiking path, or something you see at the zoo. Recreate the pattern, not what you were inspired by.  You don’t need an element that will recreate the look of that turtle shell, just something that can be fitted together in a regular pattern, like the hexagonal sections of the shell do. Or layer your favorite bright blue and purple canes slices in that similar overlay pattern you found in a pine cone you picked up. Try to see only the pattern and bring that into the studio or your sketchbook.


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Outside Inspiration: A Burst of Swirling Spots


I pulled this one out particularly for you mad cane slicing artists who might want some fresh ideas for creating patterns with your slices. Barbara Takenaga is a painter who works solely in pattern rather than imagery or abstraction. Her paintings have the illusion of depth and movement that creates wonderful drama, as well as an often mesmerizing effect.

Since the energy and movement is created by the arrangement and size of the forms–spots, in this case–one can easily imagine creating such movement with cane slices using canes of various sizes. A few extruded snakes to emphasize the lines and you could end up with some pretty amazing wall or decorative art.

Time spent wandering her gallery is like a trip through a galactic field of stars and sometimes kind of like an acid trip, but it’s wonderfully engrossing. You will get lost in the work. You have been warned.


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Visual Reveal

Most things that are hidden are behind, under, or otherwise obscured by other matter. In polymer craft, what is hidden is usually under more polymer; but what if it’s not buried, but just hard to see, blending in with its surroundings?

This may seem a little off theme, but sometimes what we have done with our clay is barely noticable because its subtlety is hard to see. If you texturize the surface of your clay and the pattern is not standing out the way you would like, there are ways to “reveal” the pattern that can add color and contrast along with additional interest and complexity. (Yes, I know I’m stretching the “reveal” theme, but this is fun stuff so I’m sure you’ll forgive me!)

The most common way to make your pattern stand out is to brush paint into the recesses and wipe away the excess paint from the raised surface. But there are so many variations on that basic brush and wipe technique. Different colors, different types of paint, powders instead of paint, colored liquid polymer … basically, if it can be applied to the surface and then wiped off, it can be used to highlight the pattern on the surface of the clay.

In a limited demonstration of what is commonly known as “antiquing”, Jan Geisen played with different paints, colors  and other products on these sample tiles a few years back to demonstrate how a little variation can result in markedly different outcomes.

Antiquing Comparison1


Even though this is often called antiquing, I wouldn’t call it that. Such a term limits its potential. What if you wanted to add a bright red or a metallic blue to your impressed design? That wouldn’t look so antique, but it could look very impressive. Do whatever you like to reveal your design and bring its beauty to the forefront.


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Outside Inspiration: Photographing Hidden Nature

For most of us, there are patterns, colors, and textures enough throughout nature to keep us inspired for several lifetimes. But, within the forms we see in the natural world is a whole other realm of possible inspiration hidden within it.

Take flowers, for instance. They are beautiful and obviously quite inspirational as we find them presented out in nature. But there is more hidden within a flower. This image by microphotographer Ray Nelson is actually the base, or ovary, of a flower. Yes, its been enhanced using stain and special lighting, but the pattern and texture is all Mother Nature.



Mother Nature’s work can be stunning even when unenhanced. Here is the cross section of a bell flower ovary with beautiful soft colors and kaleidoscope patterning.



Isn’t it just fantastic that we can step outside our door and find hidden beauty in so many things? When you’re feeling uninspired, a walk outside is highly recommended for clearing the mind and recharging your batteries. And while you’re out there, you can look at cross sections of various plants, rocks or other natural work for new colors, patterns, and textures to help you fire up your creativity.


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Exploring Mandalas

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle.” These visually engaging patterns have spiritual and ritual significance for some eastern religions and western communities and have been growing in popularity as an art form.

Susan Buhrman is one of the most prolific mandala artists that I know of in our community. She uses cane slices, cut sheets of clay, beads and other objects to create the patterns for these wall pieces.


Mandalas aren’t just a beautiful art form; the creation of them can be quite a therapeutic activity. Take a number of scrap canes, sheet clay or what not and simply start placing them in a balanced and repetitive pattern on a board or other stiff, movable surface. Don’t think too much about it. Let your inner artist just play. This should get you into a very relaxing zone, and at the end of your time creating this, you may find yourself surprised by what you end up with. Just something fun and relaxing to try when you need it.



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