Plants in Disguise

lish jellyfish 430x261 - Plants in DisguiseSo … did any of you come up with your own idea for air plant vessels? Did you think about turning them upside down? I know I didn’t but I have to agree that once you do that, they are going to look like live creatures. Perhaps that is how one crafty lady came up with the creative creatures you see here.

On her Etsy site, Jellyfish Kisses, Lish Jellyfish (I’m thinking that is not her real name … just a guess) integrates air plants with sculpted vessels off all kinds of creatures. Some are so well-integrated, you might now know it’s a plant tucked in there, at least not right away. It’s just fun stuff and I thought these images might push you aspiring air plant vessel makers to thinking beyond upright containers and into other realms. I mean, that is the advantage of air plants … they can be situated in any direction, as long as they have a spot to tuck their toes in and hold on.

For more creative ideas for vessels, just plug-in “air plant” and other key words like “vessel”, “clay”, or “holder” into Pinterest, Google Images, Instagram or other favorite visual site and just immerse yourself in all the possibilities!


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Scratching Through

sgraffito vaseTo finish up a stretch of blog posts on vessels, I have for you this interesting ceramic vessel done in a style easily translated into polymer. The technique is referred to as sgraffito. The beautiful texture and imagery are created by scratching into a surface that reveals a contrasting surface beneath it.

This vase is the work of Terri Kern whose choice of large bold scratches add to the illustrative and dreamy quality of her imagery. The way she has to work in ceramics makes the process all the more impressive. “Black is painted on in a small section and while it’s still wet, a carving tool is used to carve away the black to reveal the color underneath.  It normally takes as long to apply black as it does to apply all the other colors combined on any given piece.”

This is where polymer would have the advantage. Although I have only done this in small decorative swathes, it is quite easy to lay a very thin layer of clay on top of a thick contrasting color, run it through the pasta machine until the top layer is even thinner and then you can scratch or carve the raw clay. It has got to be faster than the process necessary to scratch wet glaze out on ceramic clay. You can also shape and cure the polymer layers and then scratch or carve the surface afterwards since cured polymer, especially when still warm, is quite easy to carve.

The two approaches yield a different kind of mark with soft edges in raw clay and very sharp and smooth edges in cured clay. Although I have not tried it, I imagine you could apply a very thin layer of raw clay to a cured piece and scratch the raw clay which would create a uniformly shallow mark. It would be fun to try and I have it on my to-do list!

I was thinking you could also go over the scratched areas with paint, the way you apply an antiquing effect. I got the idea while I was analyzing Terri’s work since it looks like some colors would have been laid back in after scratching. That could really add up to some beautifully complex and intriguing color.

You can also use oil paints on raw clay as shown here by Kate of Kalinkapolinka. This is actually the page through which I found Terri’s very intricate work. Want to see more from Terri? Go to her website here.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Scratch out a little something this weekend. Whether you try one of the sgraffito ideas listed here or just scratch at the clay for textural purposes, let you mind go as you doodle-scratch your way to some interesting effects and imagery.


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Tastefully Ornamented

kismet clay bottleYou know how you start out looking for one particular thing but end up with somewhere completely different? That’s how I came upon this week’s theme.

I was going to do something pre-Valentine’s but something not having to do with hearts. I thought, maybe, flowers but I was overwhelmed by the many floral-ized polymer pieces out there so then I thought about vases because our valentine’s flowers need to go into something special. The self-imposed problem there was that sophisticated examples were a little hard to find. This landed me on a quest for sophisticated vases, which led me to all kinds of sophisticated vessels and the one thing I noticed is that there is a penchant to make the pieces quite complex or just covered top to bottom in color and pattern. So I decided we should look at uncomplicated designs that would be easy to create with little more than a bit of planning and patience to show how accessible a lovely, polymer covered vessel project can be. So, yeah … this has nothing much to do with Valentine’s Day. Oh well.

I am sure most all clayers have covered a bottle or two in their day. They are easy and inexpensive to acquire and make a great canvas to work on. This example of a tastefully ornamented bottle, subdued and yet feeling gussied up for a special occasion, was created by Jayne Ayre of Kismet Clay Designs. Jayne is an accomplished fantasy sculptor who makes regular forays into polymer covered objets d’art.

This design is actually a little unusual for her, if the Pinterest page I found this on is to be the measure, but I think it is one of her most successful covered vessels. Whereas her pieces are often adorned with medieval and steam punk style embellishments with regular and balanced placement, this piece is decorated in a free-flowing design, accented with a trail of varied polymer dots that meander casually about. The base layer brings in the color and an enticing aged look and texture so that the stamped clay laid over it doesn’t need to be complicated by color or too much of anything else, really. The one gather of flowers and leaves from this view works as a nice focal point for a simple, grounded design.

This is the kind of object that won’t necessarily grab your attention when you walk into a room but rather, it will make you smile when you discover it’s existence among a small collection of common liquor bottles and wine. Well, that is where I would put it. A bit of decorative elegance in among the labels to surprise and delight my thirsty guests.

Jayne also covers wine and martini glasses, ‘potion’ bottles, and capped jars. You can find these tucked in among her fantastical creatures on her Pinterest board and her blog.


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Mokume Squared

There seems to be an explosion of innovation in polymer design as of late.  Maybe as a whole we fell into a rut of creating within a fairly small circle of ideas but it seems that more and more, clayers are pushing the ideas or just going off into their own little worlds which creates some very unique design.

melanie-muir-vessel-setMelanie Muir sent me images of a new series she’s recently been working on and I have to say, it would never have occurred to me that Melanie might go in a home decor direction, not one with such a graphic look to it but it really does work well. After admiring her beautiful organic shapes and mokume patterns for so long it’s quite a shift to see the same type of mokume squared off like this but the contrast between the organic patterning and the very precise placement of squared off color makes for some lovely vessels.

I had the hardest time deciding which of the new vessels’ images to share here as she has them in different colors and mokume pattern sets as well as a series she calls ‘Coastline’ where the mokume is not framed at all but rather is blended into the background over the joint of two wide bands of color. Go see for yourself on her Facebook page here for the whole recent collection, debuting this week at the London Design Fair which starts tomorrow.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Do you work primarily in one style such as organic, graphic, tribal, floral, or something else? Take what you usually lean towards and contrast it with a style completely opposite from it. The key to contrast is making the contrast relate on some level. Melanie made her graphic versus organic relate in terms of color. You can also make the two relate through elements that have the same type of pattern, shape, size, lines or that create similar texture.


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Boxed Complexity

il_570xN.619792663_6flySo many people found that Emily’s little triangular dishes we posted on Monday really got their creative juices flowing, so how about a few more container ideas this week?

This one is a lovely little box by Kate Tracton, an avid beader and polymer clay container specialist. We featured her own little burnished bowls early last year, but she also does interesting things with the ol’ trinket box or ‘canister pot’ as she labels it. I liked this particular image because you can see how a few simple canes can be combined to make intricate compositions on a container rather than just covering it all. The fact that is was built up in layers of forms and texture adds to the complexity and causes you to spend a bit of time examining all the little details she added to this in such a caring and careful manner.

To see more of these containers of hers and for a nice array of other cane built plates and bowls and things, visit her Etsy shop as well as her nicely done gallery on her website.


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Outside Influence: Oceans in clay

The ocean is a an incredible source of  inspiration for form, color and just a general sense of alienness. And who isn’t intriqued by the strange and unique?


Melanie Ferguson is a ceramicist who focuses on the strange and unique in organically themed pieces. This is from her 2012 “Tossed Ashore” series of which there are only a couple posted on her Facebook page at this time, but I am checking back regularly awaiting any new work. She has also explored plant and pods forms where her works becomes incredibly colorful.  I get quite mesmerized by the bursting, melting and growing shapes she creates, not to mention the incredible surface texture. Her approach could so easily be translated to polymer that I keep stopping to read the description of her work to be sure she didn’t actually stray from mineral clays.

Do take some time to peruse her work. It will fill your mind with the pure beauty of nature’s forms as if you’ve never seen them before.

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