Finding Enlightenment

chulily chandelier 319x450 - Finding Enlightenmentchulily chandelier detail 350x450 - Finding EnlightenmentWhile in San Diego a couple weeks ago, I finally made it to the Mingei Museum which exhibits folk art, craft and design. The news of Mingei’s purchase of a number of polymer pieces a handful of years back was how I first learned about this little museum and I have been hoping to go there ever since. They did not have any polymer works out in the exhibitions when I was there but upon ascending the staircase to the upper floor, I was stopped in my tracks by a very unusual chandelier above me.

For those of you who have made it to one of the Chihuly installations popping up all over the globe these last few years, you may have already recognized the signature glass work of this master artist, Dale Chihuly. This ten-foot-tall, seven-foot-wide chandelier I saw hanging above me was a 2005 creation titled Enlightenment. The wall card for it said it has 498 pieces of clear, cream and gold blown glass.

It looks like the more opaque and colored glass was concentrated at the center so that the clear glass on the ends gives the illusion that the writhing mass is expanding, as if any solidity it has is turning to smoke, which was pretty fascinating to walk around.

The most intriguing thing to me was as beautiful as the glass work: the complex and beautifully textured shadow it cast. Just look at the wall to the right of it in the first image. The detail image shows just how complex the glass work is in each of the pieces that make up the chandelier. The detail image is where I thought some polymer inspiration might come from. A little work with pure translucent clay and veined with some tinted translucent, on a smaller scale of course, could render a similar feel, I’d think. It certainly did get me thinking.

If you have not had a chance to see these wonderful glass works of Chihuly, he certainly does have a lot of pieces installed in various places all over the world. You can see if there is an exhibition of a permanent collection or installation near you by going to his exhibition page.



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Way Beyond Translucent Canes

agnes-shell-bead-tutIt’s been a while since I shared something you could actually sit in the studio and try so although this isn’t exactly within the theme of the week, it’s related enough and could be a really cool and fun thing to try this weekend if you are looking for something new and have a bit of translucent clay on hand.

They are related to translucent canes because they are translucent and the technique came from pushing caning. As the artist Agnes Dettai says on the Flickr post for this technique, “I have to thank Christine Dumont again; the idea for these came from the work on reinventing caning that we did for the course ‘Becoming a better artist.'”

It’s great to see how pushing yourself in a completely different direction, way beyond what you think something is or should be, can result in something so radically different. The shells are little gems all by themselves but there is much more than can be done with this. She uses Play-Doh to create a temporary base to wrap the translucent clay around but as she notes, the clay leaves a bit of stain from the color of the Play-Doh. Although this may not have been intended initially, it gives a lovely, vibrant and still very translucent color to the polymer. A great incidental discovery within a successful exploration.

You can see what else Agnes does with her playdoh hollows and what exploration she has done with this idea on her Flickr photostream and can find detailed notes on the technique on this blog post of hers. Get the complete steps for these shells by clicking the photo to get to the Flickr photo they are on and then go the next image left for the finishing steps.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Try out Agnes’ technique with translucent clay or just try using water-soluble clay (Play-Doh) as a form for hollow or open forms. Where can you take this idea?


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Damage Sale, and Cellular Caning


As many of you may know, we started our annual Damage Sale yesterday. This is when we sell copies of our publications that are not in perfect condition for half the base cover price–that’s $5 a copy for the magazine! We also put a stock of ‘perfect’ magazines and the book on sale from 15%-30% off alongside them. Not all publications are available as ‘imperfect copies’ and some have already sold out but there are about 10 different issues still available as of writing this so pop over to my Etsy store where we conduct this once a year sale, and stock up on the cheap! (Shipping is additional but we use the Etsy site because we can best calculate shipping for you there and can easily refund on shipping when we find we have a less expensive option.)

Now onto clay considerations …

Playing with translucent clay and canes, especially those with cells of some sort, has been quite a popular direction for many caners, and one that draws attention from many admirers. I went a’wandering this weekend to see what has been going on in the world of caning and noticed the trend in recent tutorials and in images posted and pinned out in cyberspace. I’ve been enjoying the look because although an experienced clayer would recognize it as caning, it’s not what first comes to mind.

The texture, energy, and illusion of depth is what hits you in pieces like this water cane bracelet by the very talented Claire Wallis. Not only that, the translucent cell opens itself to a variety of cane applications. Here Claire took the cane and created a radiating pattern to get that splashed look. The bracelet was a perfect choice for it too, giving the splash imagery a central form from which to radiate–the wearer’s arm! I can only imagine how striking it must be when worn.

You can learn to create this water cane plus a beautiful lightening cane by grabbing Claire’s dual tutorial on CraftArtEdu. For more on her application of this and some of her other mind-blowing canes, check out her Flickr photostream.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Whether you predominantly work in canes, veneers or sculptural elements (or something else completely), try laying your favorite surface application out in a repeated but energetic pattern. You can take Claire’s radiating pattern from a central point as your inspirational source, or find a pattern out in nature, in city structures, or on decorative art and use the pattern you find there as inspiration for a new way of applying and composing your elements.


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On the Way There …

Kathleen Dustin heart 2016I’m going to be a bit brief the next few days as I will be on the road with not a lot of opportunity to research online, but I’ve found some new pretties to share and ponder while I zip about the western states.

This popped up on Kathleen Dustin‘s Facebook page the other day. Although her signature translucent layers and that integrated wire work she’s done a bit of the last few years is present, this feels very different. The conglomeration of elements looks like it could be pure stream-of-consciousness, something a bit more difficult to do with polymer than with, say, writing, but it has that spontaneous feel. It’s very different for Kathleen. I love discovering the first of a new series for an artist. Really makes you wonder where they are going to go with it.

And speaking of going … back to the last of the packing with me. I’m actually looking forward to the long hours on the road where I can’t do much of anything but think. The only problem with that is these are the times I usually come up with the best design ideas. And I can’t even sketch! Still, quiet time is really good for the creative brain. Hope you get some down time, as well!

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: See if you can get yourself some down time today. It could be while commuting to or from work, while in a doctor’s waiting room, in a long bank line, or just sitting quietly at home. Try to let your mind go and let forms and colors float through your mind. What shapes or color palettes have intrigued you lately? Don’t think too hard about them and see what comes to mind. Go to your studio or get out a sketch book and work up a design based solely on what you saw in your mind.


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Try Your Hand at Hollow Translucents

trans lpc beads youtubeHow about creating and exploring your own translucent beads this weekend? These beads you see here are from a video tutorial by Sandrartes.

The translucent beads were created with liquid polymer and colored with markers. The video is pretty thorough, showing you how to create a form from a wrapped ball of cotton, covered in a simple air dry clay slip, all the way through making liquid polymer caps embedded with headpins to hang your beads. There’s no accompanying documentation or verbal instruction, just a few text screens to further instruct, so you need to pay careful attention to the visuals to catch everything she does.

Click here or on the image to see the video. These beads are actually quite different for her. Everything else she posts is of figurines and cutesy decor. But she is very generous with her tutorials, so if you are in the mood for something fun and light to play with this weekend, check out her YouTube channel.






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Outside Inspiration: Organic Disks in Glass

DGS Beads glass set purpleKeeping with the disk theme this week, I went out in search of organic versions that weren’t polymer, and as soon as I saw these, I knew I just had to share.

The luminosity of glass touched with even just a little bit of metallic feels so rich and ‘special occasion’ that even in organic forms and colors, it still looks like you need to pull out that fancy evening dress or be in the mood to garner a lot of attention in order to wear it. These gorgeous organic beads by Debbie Sanders would be head-turners no matter what they are worn with. These are a set of beads rather than a finished necklace, but other than some spacers, I’d say this grouping is good to go as a necklace.

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of polymer disks with the side accents and various textures and treatments, but I don’t know that I’ve seen them treated this way in translucents. Just imagine how the light would play through a translucent polymer disk done in this style with a bit of metal leaf or gilder’s paste, colored with a dash of ink and finished with a glossy sealant or buffed to a brilliant shine? It would compete for attention with the likes of these beads I’d think. Or better yet … combine them with these beads! Wouldn’t that be something? Oh, the ideas these outside inspirations bring us!

Debbie has a ton of these beautiful beads to be ogled over on both her website and in her Etsy shop where, by the way, you can also buy a set to play with! Just saying.


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Translucence and Texture from Mother Earth

il_570xN.725327179_q4v1Shortly after I sent Monday’s blog, I ran into this interesting set of earrings on Pinterest. Yes, we’re talking translucent polymer here, but can you guess what the colorants and inclusions are?

The pieces were made by Dawn Wilson-Enoch who is not a polymer artist but rather is what one might think of as a natural artist. She draws from nature very directly using all kinds of stones, plants, seeds and even earth to create her jewelry or inspire her metal work. These were the only polymer pieces I found of hers, so my guess is she wanted a way to present these fragile and granular elements of the natural world in a way that would show their beauty and natural state, yet allow them to be wearable. And translucent polymer, with its diaphanous nature and low curing temperature compared to other clear material options, was the answer she found.

I was drawn to them by the textures the natural elements create. The rough and sparingly random elements are contrasted wonderfully. The cracked metal leaf is layered much more completely across the hand torn ‘leaves’ of polymer. Dawn says each of these pieces encase “a different desert plant, sand, or metal leaf. When you are still, the contents of the layers are mostly hidden, but when you move the layers dance and swing and reveal their treasures.” I can only imagine how much more intriguing the revelation would be under a bright light like the desert sun.

I was thinking that the inclusions, tearing, and contrasting textures would be great fun to play with further by each of us in our own way with the elements we are most drawn to. What do you think? Is it time to go play with a bit of translucence and texture?


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Looking Through to Another Dimension

BeatrizCominatto trans scalesWe haven’t visited the wonderful world of transluscents in awhile, and I have been curious to see what people have been doing lately. Strangely, there is not a lot of recently posted work. Anyone have anything new they’d like to share? I’ll keep searching, but I’m up for some striking new work to be landing in my mailbox, too. Hint, hint.

In the meantime, here is a beautiful piece by Brazil’s Beatriz Cominatto that she created a few years back. It’s not a complex concept, this scale-like layering of cane slices, but it does show off the particular advantage of working with translucents. Instead of considering just the surface of the clay, translucents allow you to focus on the content of the depth of the clay. The layering offers another dimension to the design when translucents are in play, which allows for such criss-cross patterning and other ways to create lines that work in multiple ways.

Beatrice created this in 2012, if the Flickr date is correct. She did a lot of exploring in many different techniques then, so although there is not a lot of translucent, she did some great sushi canes with the translucent clay along with other polymer work. You can explore more of Beatrice’s work on her Flickr page and her website.


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Dreaming of Summer Colors (& New EU Taxes you should know about!)

Shall we get the not-so-nice stuff out of the way first?

The New Not-Well-Thought-Out EU Digital Tax Laws hit Worldwide on the First of the Year

If you haven’t already heard, the European Union has new laws regarding selling digital products and services to European buyers, and it goes into effect January 1st. Unlike past VAT taxes that rarely, if ever, affected micro businesses and solo sellers, this one affects everyone who sells any digital goods or services TO Europe because this new law is based on where the buyer resides, not where the seller works. Yes, even you, you seller of $3 PDF tutorials! It’s a tad insane, and most of us small, struggling businesses and artists just found out in the last couple weeks that we need to register with the EU, implement new bookkeeping & documentation storage for at least 10 years, update shopping gateways and our websites, and possibly change who/what we sell through, and we need to have it all ready before the year ends in order to offer digital goods and services to Europe in 2015 and forward. Or, we can change to whom or how we sell digital stuff. Ugh!

I wanted to inform you all of this, so you have a chance to find out if this affects you as a seller of PDF tutorials, eBooks, patterns, subscription or member services, online advertising, or automated online services of any kind and allow you time to figure out what to do. AND, to be heard if you agree that this tax is detrimental to micro and solo businesses.

Please Help. Take Action to Fix this.

Get informed, and sign the petition to have a threshold set, so small, unique sellers don’t have to pull out of Europe or go out of business because they can’t afford to comply. You can find out more about the issues with the new laws on and get the official summary of them on

The only possible salvation for many of us will be a service who can take care of  the nightmare of documenting,  setting up calculations, collecting and remitting the tax for you for all of the 28 European countries involved. There is only one viable service I have found so far, and they even offer it for free (up to 20 EU transactions a month), if they can integrate through your Paypal or similar payment service. If you think you’ll need this, write them at to find out if they can work for you.

Prices will Go Up; Buy or Renew Now  

This sudden news does not give us here at The Polymer Arts enough time to make the changes needed to collect VAT on our digital magazine sales, so we will be using an exception in the law and will have to individually email digital issues of The Polymer Arts to European readers as of next month.  This will be costly labor-wise, so we’ll have no choice but to increase prices for these manually sent issues. But, this will cost the European buyer far less than paying VAT. So, if you’re in Europe and you haven’t renewed or bought those back issues in digital that you were thinking of getting, now would be the time to do that. Just go to our website,, before the end of the year when prices for European digital purchases will go up.

10629427_755333247879748_993078646697291942_oBack to Color … 

How about today we have a moment of color indulgence with color maven and polymer pioneer, Lindly Haunani. Aren’t these colors just yummy. I know that’s not the most technical artistic term, but that about sums it up!

This image is a preview of what she’ll be teaching at Maureen Carlsons Center for Creative Arts. The workshop is entitled “Joy Garden: Translucent Polymer Innovations”, and it’ll be held Sunday, August 9th – Friday, August 14th, 2015. Yep, it’s about time to start planning for summer fun, don’t you think? Okay, maybe it’s a ways off, but you probably want to grab a spot in this workshop sooner rather than later and for those of us seeing snow out our windows, it’s kind of fun to dream about summer isn’t it?

Lindly’s blog and website, as well as her book and DVD set, are a wealth of information on color. Just jump over to her website to get links to all her wonderful stuff.


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