Bags Bedecked


LPavelka purse 430x451 - Bags BedeckedSo far this week, we’ve looked at clutches covered in sheets of colored and patterned polymer but that is not, by far, the only way to create a dazzling handbag with polymer. Not all of us are caners and many of us lean toward sculptural elements and tactile texture and a handbag is a great place to lay down such touchable techniques.

You may have seen this handbag in our Spring 2015 – Diversity issue of The Polymer Arts, where Lisa Pavelka shared some of her thoughts and ideas on embellishing with polymer and crystals. This very tactile bag, with a limited cool palette of greens and blues, effortlessly rides that sometimes difficult balance of being both fun and sophisticated. The crystals make it appropriate for a dressy evening but the roiling mix of paisley shapes and abstracted leaves adds that touch of whimsy that makes it work with a pair of jeans when one is just out and about in the afternoon.

This is just one more way you can create an accessory that your customer (or yourself) can use and cherish all throughout the year. If you want more idea on purses a la Lisa Pavelka, take a look at her Pinterest pages as well as shopping on her website where you can get the materials you need to create your own great handbag.

Of Fish, Team Work and Child-like Wonder

19121Apparently, I am up for not only discussing mixing disciplines but also for being whimsical. I do love whimsy. That is the realm of the child and the always child-like side of ourselves. It’s something we should never, ever lose as it brings us back to a place of wonder and exploration and, by extension, a constant appreciation for this amazing world we live in. And, doesn’t seeing the world that way make us ever so much more happy in our lives?

This piece is by an artist by the name of James Christensen, and this is not polymer. But, it could so readily be polymer that I am going to chatter along like it doesn’t matter that it is made of bronze or that it originally came from one of James’ illustrations. Here are James’ own words about this fantastical piece:

In the fantastic world of James C. Christensen’s paintings, fish are a symbol of magic and wisdom. “Their floating presence in the air reminds us that anything is possible,” says Christensen, “and those touched or surrounded by fish are considered truly blessed. When the fish don’t arrive, however, sometimes a person will take matters into his own hands, with compelling but less-than-convincing results.”

“When The Greenwich Workshop first approached me about transforming False Magic into a bronze sculpture I was surprised, but it turned out to be a brilliant idea. As soon as we had constructed the rigging I knew it was going to be great; the creative work and art of many people have taken False Magic and made it real magic.” 

So from an illustration to a clay sculpture to a cast bronze, this imagery rode down the path of several disciplines to become what it is today. It’s another way that you all can look at your own or another person’s work in another medium and try to translate it into something that is all your own. Every time an artist works to translate what they see and are inspired by in the work of another, the imagery and art gains further depth.

James creates the most beautiful and whimsical illustrations, as well as other sculptures. Scroll down his page to see more of his work and enjoy a few childlike moments getting lost in it.

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Stacking Up Whimsy


A good portion of the articles in our new issue are, at least in part, interviews with multiple artists so you get a well-rounded view of the ideas our contributors have brought you. One particularly insightful as well as fun article is the one exploring the idea of humor and whimsy in art. Contributor Sherilyn Dunn interviewed four amazing artists for this–Christi Friesen, Layl McDill, Doreen Kassel and Maureen Carlson. Maureen Carlson was one of the first names in polymer that I knew since her book Family and Friends in Polymer Clay was one of the first polymer books I ever bought. Along with being a talented sculptor, she has very inventive, fun and thought-provoking pieces and I wish we’d had more room to show off her playful yet seriously expressive side.

This doll for instance, is a wonderful example of mixing whimsy with a personal message. This piece is made up of stackable and mobile elements of polymer enhanced with paints and powders as well as the words and ideas you see on it. Play is evident in the movable parts and the toy like construction but there’s a bit of the serious instilled in it.  I know at one time she taught this as a workshop as a way to explore personal expression. What a fun workshop that must have been.

Don’t miss the insightful comments and observations in the “Art of Humor and Whimsy” article you’ll find in the Fall 2014 issue of The Polymer Arts. And for more fun and thought-provoking pieces, take a look at Maureen’s gallery.


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Kinetic Fun

Yesterday we touched on ways to add visual movement to your work; but visual is only way one to add the excitement of movement to artwork. Kinetic design involves creating work that actually moves due to the way it is used or where it is displayed.

Jewelry lends itself to kinetic design quite easily since it is displayed on a person and we do expect people to move about, providing the motion that engages that part of the design. If you are familiar with Alice Stroppel’s fun and whimsical work, you probably do not find it surprising that she has played with kinetic design. Here is a necklace the uses both visual movement (in the lines of the canes) as well as actual movement. Part of the whimsy here is in how the dangling beads will dance back and forth and the whole set can move on the main cord as the wearer moves about.


Dangles are a pretty common method of adding movement to jewelry. Allowing the whole focal set here to move quite freely along the neck cord will just add to the sense of liveliness and fun in this piece. Such additions to the design aren’t hard to implement as you can see by Alice’s basic engineering here. If you have a piece that you want to add a little liveliness or whimsy to, something as simple as dangling beads can do that quite easily for you.


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Outside Inspiration: Whimsical Possiblities

Let us have a whimsical Friday, shall we? This curious sculpture titled “Night Jackal” is by mixed media sculptor Ellen Jewett.  Her sculptures portray fantastical visions combining animals with man-made objects and constructions.


She is rather vague about her materials but nowhere can I find mention of polymer, and being that she paints the sculptures it doesn’t look as if she does work with it, even though for those of us who do work with polymer, it might seem a natural choice for the bits of adornment, if not the primary structure of the creatures. There is mention of cold porcelain and other lightweight clays over metal armature but otherwise she usually only describes her materials as mixed media. Apparently, for Ellen, it is not about the material as further attested to in this quote from her website:

“She has always worked by the principle that materials should conform to her vision, rather than confine her vision to the limits of a material. It is in this way that she produces mixed media sculptures that achieve an otherworldly quality.”

This brings up an interesting thought. Polymer artists can become rather attached to the idea of doing everything in polymer … because it seems we can! So the question then arises, do you create what you make because of the material you love to work with, or is polymer simply the right material for your vision?

I don’t know if it really matters which it is. However, I think it may be important to understand the difference and know how it is that you use the material. If you create because of the material, you may need to be cautious of having it limit your creativity in that you let it dictate what you make. On the other hand, if you have particular things you want to create and have come to polymer because it works for what you have in mind, have you explored the vast possibilities the material has and can offer in addition to what you have been doing with it?

Just something to ponder next time you sit down to create new work.

The focus in the next issue of The Polymer Arts is “Mixing it Up” which includes a lot of discussion about using polymer with other materials. Don’t forget to get your subscription or renew the one you have if the Spring issue was your last. You can also pre-order copies on our website. Go here to order and guarantee you don’t miss out on the next issue:

Whimsy in One Color

Its been so nice and mild this Fall, even as we first entered December. Then yesterday, the cool settled in and I started rummaging through my sweaters. I have a couple sweaters with big buttons that reminded me of the sweatered fish I got to see in person when sitting down for a drink with Rebecca Watkins who was here in Denver with Alice Stroppel this past Summer. I never would have thought to wrap a fish up with a sweater but for some reason, it looks quite right!


I imagine it is simply the whimsical nature of Rebecca’s style that makes sweaters work on her aquatic creatures. Whimsy does allow for all kinds of hitherto unimagined combinations. As long as there is some commonality that brings it all together, there are few things you can’t make work. Rebecca’s common thread is color–ochre browns. Simple. Effective. And rather fun.


A Garden At the Tip of Your Fingers

In the northern hemisphere, we are all preparing for cooler weather. Many of us are saying good-bye to our gardens as they change colors and die off. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep a little garden or park right at hand … or literally on your hand?

This below is a ring. A little bit of green landscaping that will never die-off and go brown. A little pond-side view to cheer one up on a snowy day.


Kati Gumenius calls these impractical whimsy pieces. I suppose they could get caught on a few things, but I don’t think that would stop me from wearing them. What is art for but to cheer us, make us think, and put us in a place a little beyond where we are at the moment? If a piece does that, I think it’s pretty practical — at least for the purpose of transporting us for a moment.

Many thanks to Porro Salhberg for bringing this fun stuff to my attention.

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