The Spring 2018 Cover … All Things Big & Small

18P1 Spring cover Web Full wBlog border 430x538 - The Spring 2018 Cover ... All Things Big & SmallOur upcoming Spring 2018 issue is finally coming together, I am happy to say, and it’s set to come out the last week of February!

We are very lucky to have Doreen Kassel as our Color Spotlight artist as well as the cover artist for this issue. Lindly Haunani did a wonderful job of getting Doreen’s thoughts and secrets out of her to share with you all.

Also in this issue …

  • We have an amazing article on how to plan and create lifelike miniature versions of just about anything by the prolific Stephanie Kilgast.
  • I created a tutorial and sampler article on numerous ways you can decorate and design with tiny bits of clay including clay embroidery, faux filigree, granulation, cloisonné, and a few things I don’t have a name for but all so much fun to do.
  • We’ve compiled a ton of secrets and tricks into a step by step guide to cane reduction that is not to be missed.
  • Spend time in the world of Donna Greenberg, from her days as a big interior mural artist to her big ideas in smaller polymer packages, in an in-depth interview by Anke Humpert.
  • We picked the mind of Laura Tabakman to find out how large installations art projects are started, planned and completed.
  • As requested by numerous readers, I put together an article based on my Synergy 4 presentation on how polymer art fits into an environmentally conscious world, with my research and conclusions that are probably not what you would expect.

… and much, much more.

You can start or renew your subscription or pre-order your copy on our website here.



Beauty in Old Clay

crackle beads old clay 430x323 - Beauty in Old ClayIf you haven’t seen this technique, created about a decade ago by France’s Dominique Franceschi, you really have to try it. Like Monday’s post, this too came out of an accident, one many of us have probably experienced to some degree. It was from dry, crumbling clay, once again ruining our expectations. Well, Dominique took that experience and ran with it and what a beautiful texture arose from playing around with this stuff.

Basically, she extruded some older clay and it cracked all up and down the length of it. Instead of tossing it, she wrapped it around base beads, flattened and smoothed the clay, and ended up with these beautiful, organic looking textures. Wonderful stuff.

Her full technique was shared and translated on Parole de Pâte way back in 2006. But just because it’s an older technique doesn’t mean that it can’t be new or newly played with. Try it out and maybe you’ll even have some pleasantly unexpected outcomes by using it slightly differently such as laying it on a sheet to create surface designs that can be made into jewelry or wrapped around boxes. Or what would these cracked snakes look like and how would you use them if you tried just smoothing out the snakes alone? In any case, it would certainly be fun to play with.

Find the simple steps and a couple of options for these beads on Parole de Pâte here.

Outside Inspirations–Watercolor Texture

plastic wrap texture 430x574 - Outside Inspirations--Watercolor TextureTrying something different this year may mean looking outside the polymer realm for new techniques pulled straight from other mediums. Our innovators all did that back when there were no techniques yet and many polymer artists still do. And why not? With the flexibility of polymer, it is not hard to work out a way to recreate effects or adapt other techniques.

Recently, I landed on a page of watercolors with a texture that I hadn’t seen before. With a little exploration, I found a how-to on a plastic wrap texture technique and just had to try it with polymer. The technique, as you can see on this page, is a simple application of crumpled plastic wrap which causes the watercolor pigment to pool where the plastic touches the paper. Although watercolors don’t do so well on polymer, I figured the technique should work with alcohol inks, with some adjustments. So I gave it a try.

The image on the top is from the link I just mentioned, from Dr. Anastasia Halldin’s blog site, It’s watercolor on paper and is so simple, that almost all the pages I found instructions on were for kids. The one below is my experiment on polymer. It’s a sheet of pearl clay with the right side dusted and burnished with pearl mica powder. I did this because I wondered if I would need to keep the ink from sinking in too quickly and the mica powder and burnishing acts as a mild resist. As it turned out, I didn’t need it to make the ink pool and it came out brighter on the unburnished left side.

I did spray the whole polymer sheet with a good amount of alcohol before dropping the ink on it so there would be plenty of liquid to pool, then quickly but loosely laid down the plastic. It all pooled quite nicely. It took three hours to dry enough to remove the plastic so the technique takes some patience. I’ll play with texturing and stretching the sheet to see how that affects it. And maybe next time, I’ll texture the clay first to see what that does to the pattern. I might try watered-down acrylics, too, to see how that works and what can be done with it.

So, you see how just playing with the basic idea taken from watercolor can lead to all kinds of wonderful ideas? It’s also a lot of fun. So go out and research a little and then play a lot with the ideas you find out there from all corners of the art world!

Variation on Time

pieces clock 430x823 - Variation on TimeI spent a lot of time looking for differently constructed clocks in polymer and couldn’t find much that really illustrated the point I was hoping to make. What I wanted was to show that a clock does not have to be on a flat surface. It can be made of many parts, attached or not, and fully dimensional. As long as you have something that can house or hide the clock mechanism while holding out the hands, the rest is wide open. You can have the hour markers designated by any form and attach them with sticks or wire or be free floating–whatever suits the piece and your inclination.

These two examples are commercial designs rather than polymer art but I think they give you the basics of this idea of moving beyond the flat clock face. Not only do these kinds of clocks make for really interesting wall pieces, they give you the freedom to use pieces you may already have such as large hollow beads, faux stones, unhung pendants, small figurines, flowers, etc.

As a gift, giving a clock that has separate pieces might be best attached to something that can be hung as one piece, like a backing of Plexiglas or painted plywood. Or include instructions for a template to mark on the wall where each piece goes. There is little to no construction to deal with but you will have to make concessions in the design for how the individual pieces will be hung. Alternately, go for a design where the elements are attached like the flowers you see here.

The sky is the limit with these kinds of designs. For more ideas, try searching “DIY clocks,” which was the keyword set that brought me to these two pieces. I hope these sparks some ideas and I look forward to seeing inventive clock designs this month!

Following the Rooftops

NSabo Nambia bowlI so need something bright and cheery as we prepare for serious flooding level storms out here in Southern California. What a winter we are having! I wish it were snow though. Much less messy. But here we are, under cloudy skies, waiting for the deluge.

So, in looking for a couple more bowl style containers to share this week, I was delighted to find this beauty by the equally beautiful Nevenka Sabo. Her work lately has been so intensely bright and cheery. It was just the thing for a day such as this.

I love that she breaks away from the standard bowl form and cuts the lip of it to follow the roof tops of her little neighborhood. The bright blue interior and the mixed colors of the houses add to the playful look. The fully saturated colors are well matched to the illustrative look of the imagery on the pieces she creates. It’s just a wonderfully done, fun piece. If you like this, you’ll want to see the other views of it on her Flickr photostream.

Nevenka has been working with this technique for a couple of years now with really eye-catching results. She even put out a very detailed tutorial for this technique she calls Nambi. You can find it in her Etsy shop. But also take a look at her other examples of how this technique can be applied by checking out her Flickr pages and her Facebook page.

Ok, hopefully I won’t be heading to the rooftops myself this week. Hope you all stay warm and dry!



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Journals: Organic Matter

gabriellepollacc organic matter journalJournal covers are very much like blank canvases, which means you can do anything you desire on them. Your medium is probably the only thing that will constrict you, but then you aren’t restricted to one medium, are you? Polymer is amazing and will always be my go to material but I wouldn’t ignore other wonderful options, especially since so many other mediums work so well with polymer.

Here is a journal cover that has no polymer on it but most of the materials used are quite familiar to polymer clayers and could be combined with it to create looks inspired by this texture rich cover. Gabrielle Pollacco uses an insanely wide array of paints, inks, powders, sprays, stencils, stamps and a few other things to create this cover. Sometimes, too many materials is like too many ingredients in a recipe … going overboard can really muck things up. But Gabrielle brings it all together here by limiting her palette and sticking with a weathered look as her thematic motif.

She seriously looks like she is having way too much fun in this video tutorial that she recorded of her full process for creating this cover. I now have a new list of products to find and try so if you watch this, you have been warned that it may result in a bit of frenetic online shopping! Also … the music she uses may get stuck in your head and have you bopping about the rest of the day. It’s not a bad thing. Just wanted to give you a head’s up so you are ready to defend yourself with the mute button if bopping is not appropriate at the time.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Create a journal cover for your goals and plans book. Try some new materials to really make it interesting. If you’ve not covered a journal or sketchbook before and find covering a pristine new book on your first try to be a bit too much pressure, create on a separate sheet of clay that can be glued to the journal later or, if you like it as is, can be a bit of inspiration to frame. A sheet of raw clay, cured between two tiles to keep it perfectly flat can be a great ‘canvas’ to work on.


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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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A Ring to Start With

ring tutorialHave you ever made a polymer ring? It’s not one of the more common polymer jewelry forms but it sure is fun and they are becoming more and more popular. They can be a bit intimidating since they need to be durable and they need to be sized. When creating ones to sell, you have to either make a wide range of sizes or you have to stick with just a selection of the most popular and then maybe offer custom-made ones. In any case, rings can be a touch tricky but I think once you’ve made one, they are kind of addictive.

So to start your addiction, you might want to try out this simple but elegantly styled ring using the online tutorial on the Craftliners blog. These simple but pretty little rings get their style from the special effects clay in the Glamour and Nature line of clays from Cernit. You can get granite and other faux effects by mixing your own clay with inclusions or just start with solid colors.

The Craftliner blog is posted in support of the online wholesale hobby and craft suppliers Craftlines. Although the shop is wholesale, the blog is for everyone and has a lot of great little gems in a variety of mediums. You can check out what they have to offer from the blog home page.

For more specific polymer ring ideas and how to make them, take a look at your copy of the Winter 2012 of The Polymer Arts or get your copy here.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make a simple wrapped ring. Give yourself all of 30 minutes to condition, roll, cut, and form the ring. The time limit will keep you from over thinking it. Just make one and don’t worry about the outcome, just enjoy the experience. Then once you have that one under your belt, let your imagination run wild and make more!


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Outside Inspiration: Moving Scenes

carolyn weir mobileOne article in the new Summer issue that really could have used more room was the one on mobiles. You should see just my outline for it! The art of mobiles is so broad that it would be impossible to get even just a taste of all that can be done in one article, even if we took up all the pages doing it. Mobiles, like any art form, can be taken in a myriad of directions. Just as a necklace does not need to be a series of symmetrically strung beads, a mobile does not need to be just a series of the same or similar objects hanging in any predictable pattern. The elements don’t even need to hang straight down but can shoot out sideways or straight up into the air. The assembly can be organized horizontally, vertically, or in some random pattern. The only thing a mobile needs is controlled balance.

I wanted to share more than the few mobiles you see in the article, but it’s really hard to choose ones that represent all these can be. The handful in the article barely touch the pool of possibility. So if you read the article and are intrigued, start by creating the simple mobile in the tutorial. Creating the tutorial example will give you a better idea of what the art of balancing is all about, then you can go out and search for more mobiles. You will be amazed by what is out there.

Here is just one out-of-the-box idea for mobile art that combines wall art, as well. Carolyn Weir creates all kinds of mobiles in a variety of materials, but I like these moving scenes the best. The two-dimensional image changes from a specific horizontal scene to a series of abstract vertical designs as it moves. The mobile also allows her to display two of her paintings which turn into multiple scenes as the pieces move around and realign so you’d basically have a different picture moment to moment. If you’ve read the article already, can you recognize the balance points and why she hung them from these specific points? Kind of cool to know these things now, isn’t it?

Carolyn also creates the more classic Calder style mobiles, of which you can see examples in her Etsy shop. For more of these scene mobiles, take a look at all the examples on her blog. And if you want to see these and her other mobiles in motion, take a look at her videos on YouTube.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Make something that moves. Add dangling elements, something that spins, or an element that swings to your next piece. If you already create a lot of dangles and other hanging pieces, try pushing how you hang them. Try balancing in asymmetrical arrangements or attach dangles to a vertical or diagonal element instead of horizontal.


Like this blog? Lend your support with a purchase of The Polymer Arts magazine and visit our partners:

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