Organic Waves

kathy mccurry 430x620 - Organic WavesWith all the hot weather we’ve been having lately, I’ve been staying in my cool home a lot more than usual. Missing my time wandering around the property looking at all the cool and unusual plants, I found myself drawn to our organic brethren in polymer as I rummaged through images online and gathered a bouquet of curious and cool pieces that should pique the interest of many a nature lover.

Here we have quite a fantastical interpretation of nature’s forms, colors, and textures. The waves atop the petals would certainly make one want to reach out and run fingers across it, then down through the hanging strings as well. The combination of the old standard primaries is an interesting color palette choice. It gives it a carnival feel. That and the directional lines from the wavy texture and the yellow strings makes this feels like it is on the edge of some riotous dancing.

This is just one of several recent works by Kathy McCurry where she creates her own version of flowers. This looks to be the most ambitious piece so far, taking 40 hours and 8 curing sessions in the oven. As hard as these kinds of pieces can be to create, I think it’s just wonderful when an artist takes a risk, investing so much time in one piece. But what a reward we have in store for us when we spend a lot of time on one piece and have something so wonderful to show for it at the end.

You can see images of her recent work on Kathy’s Facebook page and on her website.






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Trilateral Glow

Levarry beaded triangles 430x555 - Trilateral GlowWhile I was deciding on a final soft triangle example for this week, I spotted this piece and, when seen as a small image, it looked like it could be polymer but on closer inspection, it obviously is some serious seed beading. Still, what an inspiration this could be for an avid caner who likes to create glowing, blended canes!

The piece was created by Anastasia Ilyashevich who seems to create in all kinds of materials, not just, or even primarily, beads. But even though she is not a wholly devoted beader, this is certainly a well conceived and skillfully accomplished piece. In her blog post about it, Anastasia admits she really didn’t like it until the end. I can’t imagine doing all that and not liking it at least halfway through. But we can see how perseverance can pay off.

I have to acknowledge that a large part of the impact of this image is that it is shot on a black background, making the glow pop even more. But still, this is all triangles, creating pattern as well as being the basis for the focal shapes with those severe straight-edged triangles, giving it a very powerful visual feel. It is also huge–the lowest triangle hits somewhere around the waistline, as you can see in this blog post where it is modeled.

By the way, you can brush up on the kind of canes and color combinations that would work really well for this kind of thing in the article by Meg Newberg we published in the present Summer issue of The Polymer Arts. Get your copy on the website, or drop in on my Etsy site and get that and a few other print edition issues you might be wanting. Our HUGE MOVING SALE ends tomorrow, July 15th.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Look at your work. What shapes do you most commonly use? Pick just one and play with what you can do with it, changing it up and creating new shapes through little tweaks. Do the new shapes inspire you? Create something using the new shape you made up.


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Neverknead 052217 - Trilateral Glow    The Great Create Sept 15 blog   businesscard-3.5inx2in-h-front   Shades of Clay Sept 15 Blog


Graphically Different

Melanie Muir triangles 430x590 - Graphically Different

I can hear you already asking, if you read my introduction to the idea of soft or almost-triangle shapes on Monday, whether these beads by the elegant hand of Melanie Muir really qualify as versions of triangles. My answer is, that is up to how you want to see it.

To me, it is both triangular in that the space it takes up is about what a triangle would cover, and based on an oval since it is also an oval cut in half. But what this points out about triangles, or any shape really, is that they are just a step away from something quite different. Soften one angle on a triangle and you have the makings of an oval in hand. Basic shapes are just a couple of steps, simple lines arranged in simple ways. More complex shapes are usually a conglomeration of basic shapes.

As an artist, keeping this in mind means you are keeping your designs open to being pushed past the basics or as far and as complex as you see fit. Not that a basic square, triangle or circle are not valuable shapes. They certainly are! But the more options you see as you create, the more likely you are to come up with something that truly reflects your personal aesthetic and what you want to express.

Melanie, who is so well known for her organic shapes and thickly framed organic mokume veneers, has really been pushing her signature techniques, heading into more graphic waters and adding in a few more techniques. I am really enjoying the directions she’s been taking and look forward to seeing what else she has in store for us in the near future.

Keep up on Melanie’s work on her website and on her Facebook page.


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Neverknead 052217 - Graphically Different    The Great Create Sept 15 blog  businesscard-3.5inx2in-h-front   Shades of Clay Sept 15 Blog


Variation on Triangles

Laura Orihuela triangles collar 430x283 - Variation on TrianglesAs with most weeks, my themes present themselves from the collection of images I set aside just for this blog. I collect them without a specific idea in mind, just grabbing things that I feel have something we can learn from. Right now, I have a lot of almost-triangle pieces. Straight triangles are the shapes most representative of strength. It is the strongest basic structural shape in nature and in man-made construction since the three sides support each other in an immovable way. But the straight sides are also severe in their simplicity, so in craft art, we see a lot of softening of the basic triangle. We’ll explore the way it is used in craft this week.

This first piece makes use of the various ways the surface of a soft triangle can be treated. The blogger and artisan, Laura Orihuela of Spain’s SuperCrafty blog created this last year. Using African influences for the cane pattern you see here, she applied it with her own design ideas and touches so you end up with a contemporary piece where the influence is subtle and refreshing.

And lucky us, she filmed the creation of these five beads so you can see her process. Find the video on her Super Crafty site as well as on her YouTube channel where you can find a slew of video tutorials on polymer and other materials.


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Devising Variation … in Crackle!

I’ve been lining up some ideas for this week’s posts about variation, as requested. In the process, it occurred to me that we actually should write a full length article for the magazine on this subject–it’s really broad and very important to expanding an artist’s repertoire and skill. But I thought we could go over the basics and maybe get you thinking more about how to push what you already enjoy doing until we can put an in-depth article together for you.

I thought we’d used crackling as an example of how to start working out variations. Crackling is one of my favorite techniques because of the varied texture it creates as well as the wide possibilities in color, shimmer and ways it can be applied.

The basic process for working out variations starts with getting a handle on what the core concept is behind the technique, form or approach you want to expand on. In crackle, the core of the technique is based in how crackling works. Polymer is an elastic material that can be moved and stretched without breaking apart. If you adhere something that is not elastic on the clay and then stretch the clay, the non-elastic material has to break to move with it–this is what we call crackling. So any material that is non-elastic, can be laid on and adhered to raw polymer in a continuous sheet and that that will break relatively easily can be used for crackling.

Gold leaf is very common for crackling texture because it meets all the criteria plus its shiny surface contrasting with the non-reflective surface of the clay makes for very pretty effects. Tempura and other non-elastic paints (note: acrylics are quite elastic so they just stretch with the clay) can be laid on raw clay and, once dried, will also meet the non-elastic and easy to break criteria. Paints greatly broaden your options for color and texture as how the paint is applied (thickly, thinly, with gaps, etc.) controls the type and subtlety of the crackling. And additions to the paint including mica powders, alcohol inks, glitter–whatever material can mix into the paint and keep it non-elastic–allows you to change the color and visual impact.

Here are beads by Janice Abarbanel showing several variations on her crackle technique in different shades applied in a variety of ways to lentil beads.  Some of the crackling is very subtle while other variations on it are quite bold. In this case, the biggest variation is in the choice of background clay color.

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So with just this idea that you can use anything non-elastic, you have a huge treasure trove of possible variations for crackling. Then add in changing how you use it such as going from stripes to wide swathes of it like in the beads above or applying bits as accents, borders or cut up in shapes to create specific imagery, moving from just using crackled clay in jewelry to using it on home decor or even sculpture … the possibilities are really endless.

This same process–figuring out the basic premise of a technique then pushing yourself to think beyond what you usually do–can be applied to any technique or approach. Try it out–play with crackling or any technique you are into. In the meantime, if you like Janice’s subtle crackle technique, she does sell a tutorial in her Etsy shop for it. That could be a fun way to start experimenting with variations on crackle!

Do you have an unusual way of working with crackling? Drop us a comment below (if you’re getting this by email, click on the post’s header and it will take you to the page where you can leave a comment–it won’t be share-able if you just respond to the email.)  If you have photos up of your crackle work, leave us a link so we can go check it out. Seeing a wide variation can help us all expand our ideas about what to do with crackling!

The Faux Enamel Options

First,  because people are waiting to hear, we’d like to announce that the winner of the Sample Cosmic Ceramic project is … Karen Donald! Congrats!

Thank you all for chiming in on the faux versus variation question and taking part in the giveaway. I’m going to line up more giveaways so we can do this regularly. Write me with any suggestions for things you’d like me to try to get for these contests. Or if you’re a retailer of any kind and have something you’d like to giveaway from your shop, let me know. Write me directly at

So … it would be remiss of me this week not to bring up what may be the faux techniques most widely experimented with when it comes to emulating other art forms–enamel. The common approach usually involves liquid polymer and alcohol inks and/or mica powders. The challenge tends to be in creating a base that has borders and/or channels to hold in and control the faux enamel. And there are a lot of different approaches for this.

At the beginning of the month, we visited Eugena’s artwork … she uses wire as her loose borders. It’s a gorgeous effect. It does take precision and patience, well worth the work, but isn’t for everyone. My favorite is the wax impression technique (See the Winter 2011 issue of The Polymer Arts magazine for the tutorial on this) because carving the wax to create the negative design has endless possibilities and there is nothing I’ve found that allows finer detail. But if you want to try something more straight forward, take a look at these “molds” cut into erasers and clay by Madrid’s Fabi.


She briefly explains the process on her Flickr page (although I think it was sent through a translator as it has some ‘interesting’ terms.) The advantage of erasers is the crispness of the lines although curves have to be more difficult to cut. I think her “gouging” tools must be engraving tools. You can get an inexpensive set at art and craft stores if you want to get into this. They can be used to easily cut into cured clay for other effects as well.

One of the things I wonder is whether we have really pushed faux enamel enough. I think there are possibilities, especially with the translucent clays, that we haven’t really seen. I’ve been playing with an idea myself but it’s not quite ready for prime time. However, tomorrow I am going to show you an artist that I think will knock your socks off, not just because it’s gorgeous work but because of the possibilities it shows us as polymer artists. She worked in real enamel and metal but the way it’s done, it actually reminds me of polymer and could be done in a way that would really push what we do with faux enamel right now. Intrigued? Well, tune in tomorrow …

A Little Faux Lampwork

Wow … thank you all for chiming in with your comments and emails on what to do with the rest of the week. It’s really very cool to hear from you all. Perhaps we’ll pose options (and giveaways!) for upcoming weeks on a regular basis. You can tell me what is of the most interest … I get very energized writing because of your feedback rather than the ideas that pop into my head, out of the ether. And who doesn’t like a chance to get free stuff! Sounds like a win-win to me!

So, faux came in heavy right off but a call to see more about variation started coming up from behind as the evening went on. The end result is … we are going to start with faux this week then look at how to work out variations next week.

Since Iris and Hilla brought to our attention another art form emulated in polymer, why don’t we stick with other craft arts that we can create in polymer? Try to keep in mind as we look at these techniques that the objective is not to find other arts to emualte but to see new directions that polymer can be pushed in your studio. For instance, I thought we’d start with an artist who’s faux lampwork has fascinated me since I stumbled on it a few years back. I love experimenting with liquid polymer and I was fascinated by how high Sharon Solly makes her glass like dots and how well controlled they are.



Sharon may have an bit of an advantage over the rest of us as she actually does lampwork. I am really curious as to how similar the work is. I know I experimented for a while trying to get the dot not to spread. My solution was to either add just a smidge at a time, hitting it with a heat gun between dabs or preheating the base clay so the dot of liquid polymer would start to solidify immediately. The pre-heat worked well on flat items as I could lay the base clay on a hot plate/mug warmer and work on that but the round beads  … I just couldn’t get the same effect that Sharon is getting. But if you can work on building up liquid polymer like this, you could add a bit of the faux lampwork look to many things you couldn’t add glass to in the first place. There are tremendous possibilities for decorative dotting!

If you are in the least bit interested, do look through Sharon’s Flicker pages. This one image is a bare tip of the iceberg … she has a broad body of work showing her on-going experimentation with this process. Actually, Sharon looks to be a major faux experimentator with a large variety of stones and dichroic-like pieces done in polymer.

So go explore some faux! Tomorrow we’ll announce the winner of the Cosmic Ceramic giveway as well. See you then!

The Many Possibilities of Faux Ceramics … & a Cool Giveaway!

I’m still debating on what direction to go this week. I have been sent some wonderful new art from Iris Mishly based on a new series of faux ceramic tutorials she developed with Hilla Bushari. I’ve been thinking about having a faux themed week but then I was intrigued by the variation in types of pieces Iris and Hilla created with this technique–everything from flower beads to beads that look like tiny houses to tea caddies to incense burners to cuff bracelets and on and on–and I thought maybe we should talk about variation and pushing what you do with a particular technique. I still haven’t decided so … tomorrow’s post will be a surprise but it will be determined by you! (Read on about how you can help me decide and put yourself in the running for a free Sample Project!)

So, let’s check out what Iris has for us. She just put these tutorials up just last week. They do have an amazingly realistic ceramic look. These ladies got so creative with her beads too. Look at this strangely beautiful “Moon beads”, both otherworldly and organic in style.

polymer-clay-faux-ceramic-moonrocks5 _640x480_



And if you like making home decor, they’ve created quite a few unique items like these tea caddies–they’re adorable and so much more appealing than stacking those boxes of tea on the counter.

polymer-clay-faux-ceramic-timefortea-3 _640x480_

Here is what Iris says about her new tutorials:

“The tutorials are covering 10 different beads designs and 8 final projects, each is examining the different faces of faux ceramic – textures, surface treatments etc. In general, the projects are demonstrating the various ways we came up with to imitate ceramic glazed products; some are dimensional, some flat, some created with chalks, pastels, gilders paste and some with alcohol inks. Each project is accompanied by a separate video and screen shots in a PDF file. The videos are for the ones who want to see the complete process from start to finish, and the pdf is for those in a hurry and want to go briefly over the photos.”

So if you’ve been looking for something new to explore, these look to be all too much fun. And Iris’ tutorials are beautifully created with lots of tips and carefully thought out steps. You can see the full array of possibilities (not that there is a limit to what you can do here!) on the PolyPedia Online website.  Iris and Hilla are also giving away sample beads to the kit purchasers who buy the best set. 


Iris and Hilla have been kind enough to offer a free *sample* project from the complete “Cosmic Ceramic” tutorials to one lucky reader commenting on this post. Just tell me whether we should cover faux techniques or the subject of technique variation the rest of this week … or post a comment about whatever this post brings to mind! The winner will be announced in Thursday’s post!

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