Rainbow Redux

Heather moore 430x393 - Rainbow ReduxThis arresting little piece was created by Heather Moore. However, she was not designing but learning as she created this in a class by Claire Maunsell. I recognized the technique immediately but the application of it and the design was far more geometric than what Claire usually creates so I was intrigued. Color wise, she has a very successful piece here, but what about the rest of the design? Or can we even examine it based on design when it was part of a learning process?

Personally, I think design decisions should be part of everything you do when creating. This is not to say that we have to constantly pull ourselves out of the flow of creating to examine and critique the work but rather, we should make an effort to consider all the elements that go into the work.

Whenever we have a halting moment in the creative process, if we are stuck on something that doesn’t look right, or even when we get up to refill that coffee mug or water glass, we should check to see if we have intentionally considered and made specific choices in regards to design. Is this the right shape or shapes? Does the form convey the right feeling? What do the lines in the work do for it? Is there enough color or too much or do any of the colors not work together? Is there anything I can or should do with the texture to make the parts feel more integrated or finished looking?

That may seem overly analytical and I know a lot of you just want to go in and have fun, but if you regularly stop to really consider what choices you are making, after awhile it won’t even be a conscious consideration. You’ll just know what needs to be changed and won’t necessarily know it’s about the line or texture or color choices. You’ll just stop and contemplate how to work it out better and do it. And you’ll be so much happier for it.

So why not use that analytical muscle and see what you find here? I thought it could be interesting, for those of you who are so inclined, to compare Heather’s use of color with Claire’s. Just click on the names here to get to photos of their work and see what you think.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Look through your work and determine what design element you seem most focused on when you create. Is it color? Form? Focal points? Do you possibly lean too heavily on one element to carry the design? Then with the next thing you create, try to focus on making unique or unusual choices for design elements that you don’t consider quite as often like form, shapes, surface texture or whatever seemed to be less considered in your past work.

Bevy of Blues

bevy of blue Helen Backhouse 430x416 - Bevy of BluesIn my search for popular blues, this person’s work that you see here kept popping up, only it seemed to be attached to different people all the time. As it turns out, this is an artist that sticks with making amazing beads and elements that bead artisans can then assemble rather than creating a lot of finished work herself.

Helen Backhouse is her name and her beads and elements can be found scattered throughout Etsy and on various Facebook pages. Her pieces look to be impressed clay colored primarily with mica powders and, I’d guess, some kind of patina and weathered effect techniques, perhaps dyes or paints. Her blues are straight from the back yard, reflecting the brilliant blues found in a butterfly’s or bird’s wing as well as the dusty teals and blues leaning into greens that appear in natural metal patinas. The shapes are simple, the textures organic, and the coloring coolly dramatic. That makes for really eye-catching elements.

The best place to check out her pieces is on her Facebook page where the designers that use her pieces tag her in their photos alongside the stuff she does post.

 

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Explore your favorite color. Spend just a couple of minutes writing down what you like about this color, what it reminds you of, and where you notice it most often. Look back at what you wrote and see what kind of work, forms, textures or other ideas these thoughts bring up and let those guide you in the creation of new pieces.

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The Many Faces of Glass Beads

glass beads 4 430x443 - The Many Faces of Glass BeadsTo round out this week’s quick focus on beads, I thought I’d share focal beads in another medium that is very well-known for them–glass.

Glass artists have some very particular and, literally, inflexible limitations and yet they create these extremely intricate and amazing beads. They do get to work with super clear transparency–a characteristic of their medium that they use to great advantage–which is something that is difficult to achieve in polymer, but their forms and patterns are something that, I think, could be a gold mine of inspiration and a jumping off point for ideas in polymer that go beyond the basic and common beads seen in polymer.

Here are just four examples of the intricacy and beauty in glass bead making today. Starting from top left is a bead created by Leah Nietz, top right is Lisa Fletcher, bottom left is Andrea Guarino, and bottom right is Ikuyo Yamanaka. You can click on each artist’s name to reach their shop or website to look further into what they create. You can also immerse yourself in glass focal beads by putting that very phrase into a Pinterest, Google Images, Etsy, Flickr, or even Instagram.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Choose your favorite image posting service, such as those just listed above, and enjoy the art and inspiration that comes up when you search for “focal beads”. Choose a couple of images and try to determine what you like best about the bead or beads and then figure out how to recreate those characteristics in polymer. Hopefully that leads you to some original and very fulfilling polymer bead explorations.

 

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Dramatic Blends

MNewberg - Dramatic BlendsOne of my personal favorite articles in the new Summer issue is the “Blended Beauty” article on creating dramatic color and light in canes, written by Meg Newberg. I have been trying to get a really good article for our caning enthusiasts but for some reason, it’s been a struggle getting anything submitted beyond specific cane patterns. Which are cool, yes, but not quite in line with the technique driven and skill building objective of The Polymer Arts

This article, however, is amazing. Meg gives concise and clear instruction on how to create the type of clay blends that give her canes that beautiful inner glow and dramatic color. But these ingenious Skinner type blends are for more than just caners, as you’ll see when you read it.

Meg’s focus on canes has allowed her deep and intense exploration into what can be done with canes. If you want to work on your caning skills or just want to create more interesting and colorful Skinner blends, read the article but also consider signing up for Meg’s monthly tutorial subscription (the mandala cane you see on the bottom here is this month’s tutorial) or buy one of her tutorials posted in her Etsy shop.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Let’s recharge this weekend! Sit back with a favorite beverage and take in your latest copy of The Polymer Arts or another magazine or book and let you mind process the art and ideas you find. Keep a sketchbook nearby to record any “ah-ha!” moments and if you feel charged up when done, go to the studio and have some casual play time, exploring what inspired you.

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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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In the Russia Pages

Polymer clay of RussiaWhile doing my research this week on Russian polymer, I finally  got to see what their polymer magazine looks like. I knew there was one out there but it’s really hard to search for “Russian Polymer Clay magazine” when you don’t have the corresponding keys to type Полимерная глина on your keyboard. The title you see says “Polymer Clay” and in the pink says “in Russia”, at least that is what Google told me. But it took me a while to figure that out since I couldn’t copy it from the image. In other words, there are barriers to us seeing the full range of what the world is doing in polymer because language can get in the way. But some of us are determined … or just plain obsessed with seeing everything people are doing with this wonderful medium!

This cover piece is by Maria Vidova. I feel pretty sure it is not 100% polymer clay but I can’t read it to find out–not yet at least. It is a beautifully laid out piece with the green of the succulents being repeated in the green stones. With both plant and gems being important focal points, having the same green color presents the plants and stones as equally precious objects of beauty, which I have to agree with.

Those succulents look perfectly real, don’t they? Well, their perfection comes from silicone molds and she uses liquid polymer to give it that partially translucent look. The molds look to be of her making and she sells them on her Creative Molds website. You’ll need Google Translate to navigate (if you use the Chrome browser, it usually does this automatically for you) or you can write them for instructions at info@creative-molds.ru.

Now, how about getting our hands on a copy of this beautifully presented magazine? Well, I’m going to! And since they do have this available in a digital format, all of us non-Russian speaking folks should be able to copy out the text and get some kind of translation on Google. But you know you want it for the art, even if it will be a bit more challenging to read.

You can get issues of Polymer Clay in Russia in digital or print on the polymerclay-guild-ru site.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Find work from a region of the world you are not familiar with–and it doesn’t have to be polymer, it could be any medium–and pick out the elements that you like as a source of inspiration for a new piece. Don’t copy what you see; just take the time to determine what makes it work and why you like it then take that knowledge and create an inspired piece of your own.

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Going to the Dogs

IC pupToday, let’s look at when cute works. Because cute stuff is, of course, a legitimate form of art which, like any contemporary or statement piece, still needs to follow basic design guidelines, along with that touch of artistic inspiration, to work well.

This adorable cane covered pup, fighting the chill of a spring morning on a distant northern European coastline with a little neck muffler, has been in my queue for some time. It was created by France’s Isabelle Chatelain. I don’t know what I had in mind when I grabbed it and even after looking it over, mostly what I can say is that it just makes me smile.

It does work design wise though. There is a limited hue palette made up of various greens and a splash of orange and the eye and button have you playing a bit of eye tennis as you glance back and forth between these two obvious focal points but you’ll still stop to admire the patterns and the overall ‘cuteness’ of this guy with his little neckerchief. Isabelle has a whole set of these guys on her Flickr page but this one, by far works the best. Why is that?

I think it’s very, very simple. The button. The button is a darkest point against the lightest background which creates the most contrast aside from the eye. That makes it the primary focal point and gives us a very calm but certain spot to rest between checking out all the pattern. Is there anything else that you think really makes this one work so well? I have a couple other thoughts but I’d love to her yours!

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Go back to basics. Create something without worrying about pushing the design. Chose classic color combinations you enjoy, basic shapes, and easy finishes you find attractive. Don’t reference anyone else’s work though and don’t worry about what others might think. Follow your own whim on this classic creative road.

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A Riot of Color and Emotion

AGenser tie-DyeI am going to leave you with this colorful piece today. It is a type of mosaic, one could say so it fits the theme but I chose it primarily because the colors felt right, matching the riot of emotion that this day holds for my family and I as we lay my father to rest. We celebrate life today though, rather than mourn it. That’s just how we roll.

Amy Eisenfeld Genser, on the other hand rolls paper. That is what you see here–the cross sections of many rolled piece of colored paper. It could easily be a polymer cane application though, don’t you think? Well, here are some questions to ponder over. Leave your thoughts in the comment section if you have a moment.

What emotions or reactions do you have to this piece? Are you drawn to the texture and composition as much or even more than to the color, which likely grabs you first? What design element or design related terms comes to mind first when you ask yourself why this works so well or why it doesn’t if you don’t think much of it?

If you enjoy this piece, you will probably enjoy getting lost in Amy’s website where she has work in her gallery from the last dozen or so years.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: This week, take a critical but very forgiving eye into your studio or to the photos of your work and look at some older pieces of yours. Find the ones you think were really good and ask yourself why the pieces work so well? Just focus on the good stuff today, your successes and the work that makes you happy. Then create or enjoy your weekend as you need to.

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Into the Trees

Ivana brozkova Into the ForestLife got a little rougher this week for the Bray clan although we are a strong and resilient bunch and just get stronger for having gone through the trials put before us. Nonetheless, we need a respite too and I have been immensely grateful that I am so lucky as to have a retreat of sorts in my own backyard. Here we are surrounded by trees beyond which is a presently green open space and hills. Below we have the soft burble of the creek as it skips along and the calming, consistent splash of three little waterfalls and the fish that play in the pond just outside my studio door. I have no idea how we managed to find, much less come to live in, such a place in this part of California but I am grateful every day. Especially lately.

I was doing a check in on the Into the Forest project page on Facebook and saw Connie Clark had posted a link to an interesting article on “forest bathing“. I had never heard the term but I am very familiar with the recharging that one gets from being out among trees and in the natural world in general. That is part of the reason I thought the “Into the Forest” project would be so interesting. Have you ever noticed just how prevalent the inspiration of nature is in art, even by artists who live in densely urban settings? We have an inherent connection to nature that draws us to it. It is no less important than community and feeling that one belongs. That is what I see as the heart and purpose of a project like this–connecting to things that make us feel whole and fulfilled, including nature, community, expression and connecting with others, in this case, our fellow polymer artists and the people who will come and see this monumental project. How often do we have the opportunity to be part of something that does all that?

The image here is Ivana Brozova‘s contribution to the project which the organizers shared last week. Her pods are wonderful in her jewelry art but I can only imagine how magical they will look hanging in this fantastical forest of ours. You can see my post about her pod jewelry from last year here.

There is still time to participate in this project but the deadline of May 2nd is quickly approaching. Even if you just create some crazy polymer grass, you will have helped make this dream that much more wonderful. Polymer artists from all over the world are participating. The list thus far includes work from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and in the USA, artists living in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia have pitched in. For more information on the project, see the information listed on this FAQ page.

Weekly Inspiration Challenge: Get out into the trees! Just go out and soak it up, recharge, let inspiration just wash over you then go back to your work table and, without thinking too much about it, start creating pieces that translate how it made you feel or what you saw. Consider making 10 or more of certain items and send it off to the Into the Forest project.

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

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