I have been exploring and teaching anyone that is willing to stand still about liquid polymer clay. It has been my obsession for a few years now. And I am always surprised when I see it being used in a new way. And I am not bored yet!!
With that said, I have loads of samples, boxes and bins full. I am usually dumping them on a table and pawing through to show to students in class. Then one day I was thinking about book making (another lovely past time of mine) and realized I might combine the two. Wouldn’t it be nice to present veneer samples in a creative book format. So I pulled an explosion book that I did years ago to highlight the use of gelliplate printed papers off the shelf. Yes, the synapses started firing!! I made a series of baked liquid clay veneers and used them for an explosion book. I wasn’t sure if anyone would appreciate it like I did. I had fun just making it!! But when I shared it at a recent retreat this past fall I knew I had to do more! Everyone loved it!!
So then I agreed to do a little class on Stenciling with Liquid Clay for Polymer Week’s Society. I didn’t realize that I would be kicking off the 2023 line-up or that I was in the company of such amazing artist, but here I am! January 14th is my mini-class and you can find out more info at www.polymerweek.com.
So I needed more samples. One set was created with a base sheet of white polymer clay and the other used black, grey, blue and a couple of color blends. This was so I could show the difference between stenciling on white backgrounds versus colored backgrounds. One isn’t better than the other, they are just different and you can get great effects on either background.
These samples led to two new sample books. These were simple accordion books that I think showcase the samples very nicely!
I am really pleased with these and plan to do more. I love it when I can combine two different art forms that I enjoy. Double the pleasure, double the fun!! More to come in 2023!
I tried another 100-day challenge earlier this year (2022). This was my third challenge. I made it to about the half-way point, Day 45. I was regularly posting, then started to miss days. And while I could have dragged it out, I think it was better to just set it aside. I needed to meet some other obligations and that’s okay. I was really proud of what I did in those 45 days. Much of my efforts were focused on making samples for classes. So these projects did double duty as I bounced from idea to idea.
Yes, I know it is a self-imposed challenge. But the regularity of getting in the studio and creating is invaluable every time I do it! The pressure and accountability to post daily constrains the overthinker in me. It forces you to move forward, whether you make pretty stuff, interesting stuff or some real duds. And there is a real cringer in this group, that makes me wince every time I see it (Day 35).
And yes, I would do it again given the chance. I would love to see if I could limit myself somehow in order to manage the time required. But when I look back at the first challenge in 2020, the second in 2021 and now, the change has been amazing (IMHO) and worth every minute.
The next three weeks is going to be epic with virtual retreats, virtual workshops and prep for in-person workshops!! I hope you might join me for one of these events.
I have been teaching virtual workshops for Metalwerx Studio over the last year and we have more to come. The series of workshops “Marriage of Metal and Polymer Clay” has been well received. The first in the series was LINKS and was sold out. So, it is being offered again on September 6th and 8th. The third in the series is TABS coming up soon on August 9thand 11th. This series is designed for polymer clay artists who want to incorporate a little metal into their art. While I always cover some of the basics, unique twists are included when working with polymer clay. For more information and to register go to www.metalwerx.com.
Beadfest, the first big in-person event in three years and its less than three weeks away! Everyone is so excited to get together. The show has been relocated to Lancaster, PA and the final plans are being put into place. I have four workshops being offered, but there are another 100+ workshops to choose from! I have three project-oriented workshops that include Meditative Magic, Little Beasties and Marked and Framed. The technique-oriented workshop is Getting Wabi Sabi with Liquid Clay. And don’t forget the market place for some great shopping. For more information and to register go to www.beadfest.com.
I firmly believe that all the different types of art and various mediums out there overlap and inform one another. When I get into a lull, I switch focus. This reduces expectations, changes your point of view, and for me, creativity will usually start to click.
Last June, I took a virtual workshop with one of my art crushes, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer at Balzer Designs. She is a mixed media artist but her art journaling is what makes my heart sing!! The class was called ‘Art Parts’. It presented a way for makers to streamline their process and make art that they like more quickly. She had you evaluate your own art and see what you used consistently whether it was specific colors, shapes, a particular substrate or specific medium. Then you make a collection of parts or components that fit in the way you like to work. These art parts minimize ‘recreating the wheel’ each time you work and keeps you moving forward as you assemble your piece. The concept was interesting. I have taken other classes from Julie and encourage you to check out her classes at www.balzerdesigns.com. I have never been disappointed!!
But my big take away didn’t hit until I let some of the concepts percolate a bit. It was when I was working on samples for an upcoming class on liquid clay. There are so many things you can do with liquid clay, it is amazing, but that’s a whole other blog post!! I realized that I was creating a lot of layered pieces and these samples started becoming my ‘art parts’.
So I began to more intentionally to create some art parts in polymer clay. Below I snapped a few photos of the various colors. I varied the techniques, shapes, and contrast. I can not explain it, but seeing these pieces laid out together makes me happy.
These parts allow me to audition pieces or patterns together. Below are a couple of photos to show you some of my recent work. You can easily find some of the parts that I used. Often the magic happens when unexpected colors or textures come together like they were meant to be. Other times, these parts are close but not quite right. And that’s okay, because I can often modify the shape and/or color.
And by the way, for me art parts can include handmade chain, cut and textured metal sheet, earring wires, or hollow forms!! It is all about making the way you work easier for you!!
Yes, I create a lot of parts that I don’t use right away and that’s okay. If I really love it, it is stored for the right moment. This is just one approach or process. Not everything I do is created this way, but when it works, it can be magically!
I did it . . . again! This challenge was very different from the first. I sort of knew what to expect. I also embraced the evolution of my focus throughout the challenge.
But I always get the same question . . . . . why would you want to do that?? When I think about the answer, it always comes back to this – it forces me get in the studio and create!! Put in the time. Make mistakes. Learn. And the desire to create feeds the desire to create, like an infinite loop. That part is really cool!
There were definite phases of the challenge where goals and objectives came together. At those times, I was able to explore a particular style, technique or approach to construction. I have tried to organize the days into what I think was my goals
The first week, Days 1 through 8, was spent playing with stitching polymer clay. I really liked these pieces. This is something I will revisit at some point.
I floundered a bit from Days 9 to 18. I played with the hardware cloth, again. But I feel like I need to move forward and leave it behind. I liked the scribble dribble technique, that was fun and a little messy.
I then entered a phase where I was playing with bails and incorporating metal in different ways (Days 19 to 31). These were some of my favorites from the 100 days . . . . . . . fun . . . . interesting.
I continued the work with metal and cold connections combined with polymer clay (Days 32 to 57). I feel like these stepped it up a bit. A more traditional approach with the metal but some full out play with polymer color on some of these.
A second phase of floundering that lasted from Day 58 to 61. Nothing clicked, but I kept moving forward.
The focus was on specific liquid clay techniques over Days 62 to 75. Yes, I am obsessed with liquid polymer clay.
Then a third phase of floundering over days 76 to 80. I had a vision of layering and abstracted flowers. I think there was a gap between the vision and execution. I will not do these again, but I am glad I at least tried it out.
I hit a stride at the end that focused on overall shapes and forms with simple color thrown in. I was looking at large, modern garden sculptures thinking “that would make a great pendant”. I had fun with these. Keeping the forms the focus and restraining all other parts was a challenge itself, but I think it paid off.
I don’t know if I will ever do another 100-Day challenge. It is so much work, but I guess that’s the point, right???? And with everything ‘shut down’ I felt that this helped me focus and used my time wisely. So I will give it a ‘maybe’ for next time. But I do highly recommend the challenge!!
I want to share some very exciting news with you all. I have some new classes scheduled over the next few months. Two of them are virtual classes using the Zoom platform and one is a 5-day in-person class!!
Coloring Outside the Lines (August 9 and 11; 6pm to 9pm Eastern Time on a Zoom platform)
This is an update to my Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer Clay workshop. I mean, why limit yourself to faces? So, I pushed the boundaries and started working ‘outside the lines’. This technique is an exuberant use of color, shapes and marks. Definitely not a subtle statement, whatever you make!!
If you are interested in playing, join me for this fun project-oriented class. For more info and to register go to www.metalwerx.com.
Exploring Liquid Clay (September 20, 22 and 24; 4pm to 6pm Eastern Time on a Zoom platform)
If you have been following my recent work you know I love liquid polymer clay! There are so many things that you can do with liquid clay when using it with solid polymer clay. It could be as subtle as adding a worn patina or finishing edges to more interesting applications such as stenciling, mark making and scrafitto techniques (my favorite).
This class explores the some of the many techniques that I have discovered over the last two years using liquid clays. We will go over the basics such as mixing colors, using raw vs baked clay and tools for application. We will then step through the techniques, sharing ideas, tools and some of the super powers of liquid clay that make it so unique.
Let’s explore the possibilities of liquid clays together. For more info and to register go to www.metalwerx.com.
The Marriage of Metal and Polymer Clay (October 18 to 24, 2021)
Modern Masters is a unique 5-day workshop sponsored by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths (FSG) and held every other year. This event allows you to take a deep dive with a single instructor and elevate your jewelry making skills, learn new techniques and focus on your creative growth. Held in the Smokey Mountains at Wild Acres, it is the perfect setting to share these experiences with like-minded creative souls. So, join us to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. The fee for this event is $1050 and includes workshop, room and board!!
I will be one of the three instructors with my focus on bringing polymer clay and metal together using simple but effective cold connection techniques. Both polymer clay artists and metal smiths are invited to join me for this exciting union of materials.
Daily lectures/demos will be held in the morning and afternoon followed by bench time. I will be available to work out steps in construction, demo alternative techniques or troubleshoot your individual projects.
For more information and to register go to www.fsgmetalsmiths.org. You do need to be a member of FSG to register, but membership is only $50!!
If you have any questions for me regarding any of these workshops, contact me at email@example.com.
Well I completed my first week of the 100 Day Project. It was really satisfying to get back into a routine in the studio. This is basically a continuation from where I left off last summer. The focus will be polymer clay, liquid polymer clay and whatever else is within my reach. This may include more mesh grid (hardware cloth), stitching (with wire, embroidery thread or leather), wood and leather.
What will I do differently? I know I should try and keep it simple and focused. It is what I recommend to others. But I don’t seem to have that ability. So instead, I have tried to keep my ideas organized in a 3-ring notebook and track what I have made with photos of each piece. I am going to try and finish each piece so that it is complete and functional (to wear or to sell, at some point). I am trying to take more process photos and write up new little twists and turns I come up with. Even in the first week I discovered a couple of new approaches to liquid clay. I am also editing my photos to include my name and studio name which I have been very lazy to do in the past. A gentle scolding by another artist pointed this out, so I am trying to do better.
So for the first week I have kept a consistent and limited color palette. My new twist this week was the inclusion of embroidery thread to add a pop of color, texture, marks or line work. These were a lot of fun. Some were more successful than others, but that’s with anything, I guess.
So I will try to keep an open mind and continue to show up in my studio. I hope the ideas don’t dry up any time soon. Although for me, I seem to have loads of ideas (all over the place). My problem is often just knowing where to start. This 100 Day Project runs from January 31st through May 10th. Stay tuned or follow along on Instagram!!
The blog police knocked on my door the other day with a notice of non-compliance. Okay, so there are no ‘blog police’, just my guilty conscious. But I am back and wondering where the time went!!
I swear that I have used my time well in 2020!!
Completed a 100 Day challenge on instagram (a few of my favorite pieces highlighted below)
Highlighted on Polymer Week’s blog
Tutorial published in Polymer Week’s Magazine
Took several workshops on Zoom
Taught several workshops on Zoom
Completed FIVE beginner lap quilts (never quilted before)
Made art books, explored gouche, carved stamps
Researched new places to travel (when the time comes)
Reviewed past travel photos and recognized how lucky we are to have gone to these places
Grew my Instagram followers with good content, IMHO (this is my excuse for not blogging)
Some of my hopes for this new year include:
Participate in my second 100 Day Project (starts January 31st). It will be a continuation of my past challenge with my focus on further polymer clay and liquid polymer clay explorations.
I will be teaching multiple sessions of my Meditative Magic workshop for Clayathon, Feb 12 to 17th, 2021.
Beadfest Phillie is still being planned for August 11 to 14th, 2021. Fingers crossed that this happens.
I recognize that I am very fortunate to have found opportunities throughout the year that has made it special for me while others have been inconvenienced at a minimum or have suffered a devastating loss. I think ‘grateful’ is my word from last year that I may carry with me into 2021. I hope that you were able to welcome the new year with new hopes and a few plans.
I have no explanation. I had a roll of this material. I made a couple of things with it. Then I had the idea (brilliant or not) to see what I could do with this stuff. Remember that I really had two elements I used for the 100 Day Challenge – the liquid clay veneers and the mesh grid. This post is just addressing how I used the mesh grid in this challenge.
So what is it?? I kept referring to it as industrial mesh grid, clear as mud, right?? The label wasn’t much better. But a little research revealed that this is a ‘steel galvanized hardware cloth’, clearer? The base metal is steel. It is galvanized to reduce corrosion. That means it is coated in zinc. I used two different sizes, one was a 19 gauge wire in a ½-inch square grid and the other was a 24 gauge wire in a ¼-inch square grid. I ended up using the larger grid for most of my work because it was more substantial.
This product is a fairly soft metal and can be bent and formed easily. I needed a good pair of wire cutters, a set of jewelry pliers and a set of files. Once pieces were cut and ready for use, I made sure all the edges were filed down. They could be remarkably sharp.
I came up with two different questions that helped me approach using the grid. 1 – How can I use this material structurally and 2 – how can I change the look of this material.
Structural Use of Grid
Structurally I was able to use this material in more ways than I expected. And many times I was combining the uses in the final piece. I have tried to keep track and categorize these uses in the following groups:
Armatures was an easy idea for this material and started off as flat then three-dimensional. The purpose was to provide a form to work over and strength to the clay.
Bails were typically created by extending the grid beyond the clay and providing a point where jump rings or chain could be connected (Days 1, 22 and 31). And yes, I was also using the grid as an armature. In one example, I did use a separate piece of the grid and created a pinch bail (Day 27). I also used the extended grid to create loops for jump rings (Day 63).
Decoration on the surface of the pendants using pieces of the grid in different ways. Initially I bent and colored a piece of the grid and baked it into place (Day 16). It was covered with liquid clay so it should adhere nicely. Then I create a little ladder (Day 19). On Day 37 I used a one unit piece of grid that had pongs for legs. I wrapped it in a thin wire and then covered it with liquid clay for a decorative element.
Prongs and spokes were single pieces of the wire that were used to hold beads above, to the side or around the perimeter of the pendant. This evolved during the challenge as I went from thinking in two dimensions to three dimensions. For Day 32 a single prong in the middle of the grid came up through the base of the pendant to hold an additional clay element floating over the surface. Day 70 I was working radially with the grid and added prongs. The later on Day 93 I was thinking in more three dimensions and added prongs. I did like how the prongs could add such a nice element.
Cages to hold elements were used twice, once for a little heart that was on a chain and could be slid out of the cage. Then again a cage was used to hold balls that could move around as the pendant moved. These were completely separate grid pieces that were added to the surface of the polymer pendant.
Prong settings for capturing and holding polymer elements was next. Again I began by thinking flat two dimensionally, then flat radially and finally radially in three dimensions! At this point I feel like I finally found rhythm in the challenge.
Loops for dangles was an obvious thing to do, not sure why it took me so long to figure out. It was just a spoke or prong that I created a loop on. I love the movement that they added to the pendants.
Loops for connections, rather that just dangles, was one of the ideas I only used once. But I was really pleased with the way they worked in the bracelet with links on one side and a clasp on the other.
So I am pretty excited about the various ways I was able to use the grid structurally. It took me some time to get into a creative zone but once there . . . . . . I had some fun! Was everything a hit, no. Are there better or easier ways to do things? Absolutely. But the inexpensive grid allowed me to experiment, try things, and play with abandon.
Changing the Look
Changing the look of the mesh grid was primarily changing the color of it, so it didn’t look like an unfinished metal. I started by painting it with liquid clay. Since exploring liquid clays was one of my main efforts in this 100 Day Project that seemed like a good fit. However, about half way into the project I realized this approach was not a viable one for the long term. The liquid clay layer would easily scratch off. Duh!! In a few cases, this was not an issue if the grid was protected by the clay. For example, Days 55, 66, and 72 should wear fairly well. The only area of wear would be the bails or loops where jump rings connect. But Day 83 leaves most of the grid exposed. In addition, that was the fidget pendant, that was meant to be played with because of all the movement, so I would expect more wear and tear.
So what else could I use to color the grid. I tried embossing powders. I had a stash, so why not. Yup, they scratched off easily also. They also looked worse, clumpy and uneven. I then tried the various patinas I had available. These were fairly unsuccessful. While I could get a black surface on the grid, it was powdery and would wipe off. This might have been due to the zinc coating on the grid not ‘playing’ nice with the patinas I had available. I tried enamel spray paint (for outdoor furniture). Better look and smooth finish, readily available product, but would also scratch off, not quite as easily, but still. I decided this was an acceptable coating only if the grid was being protected by the clay.
But then I put on my thinking cap and stumbled upon the idea of powder coating. Powder coating uses finely ground particles of pigment and resin that is sprayed onto electrically charge metal then baked at about 400 degrees F to create a protective finish. So I watched a few videos. And yes, I bought a kit from Harbor Freight. It was about $100 for the powder coating gun and two colors of powders (black and white). And I was off to experiment.
All of my experiments were done using traditional powder coating methods (there are some variations). And because of my background in enameling, it was somewhat familiar. The fact that I had most of the supporting tools allowed me to give it a try at a lower cost point (yes, I have an air compressor and a toaster oven, or two). Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!!
Beware! I have only dipped my toes into the powder coating pool. More playing is necessary and I will share those results when I get them. But my initial reaction is that powder coating is a rabbit hole of possibilities!! And the range of colors for powder coating is like going into a bead, paper or fabric store. You know, the pitter-pattering of your heart as you look at all the colors. You have the need to own them all. You have been warned. I formally relinquish all responsibility. Have fun!!
Okay, this is the final few pieces for the 100 Day Challenge. As I mentioned before, these pieces are some of my least favorite and most favorite!! But all of them are interesting and I learned something with each one.
The next five pieces (#87 to #91) I was thinking very three-dimensional. I would sit with pieces of the grid, just twisting and bending it. And while these five are some of my least favorite pieces that I executed, I think they all are interesting and have untapped potential.
Day 87, I revisited prongs but in a different way. I clipped them shorter and attached buna cord to each side to make a cradle to hold a cone of liquid clay veneer. The veneer was very abstractly ‘painted’ and I didn’t like it. So I thinned and stretched it out. I love what that process did to both the colors and shapes on the veneer. And the little balls on beading wire were added (it needed something). They spring to life movement when you where it.
Day 88 I was thinking radially with the grid but left it three-dimensional, not flat. This gave me a center that stuck out so I could play with it more.
So this is what happened when I sit with a dowel and some grid (#89). I worked out a series of half circles (or humps) to hold tube beads. This could have been made to hold one, two or three tubes, but I went for five. I held the tubes in place with waxed linen thread, but I could have continued bending the grid to make the other half of the humps!! It is all about choices you make at the moment!
Well here they are, my stinkers in the group (#90). I grouped these two together not only because they were made in a similar manner but because I didn’t think they warranted a stand along discussion. Okay, the first one (black, white and gold) bent a strip of the grid in a wave, fanning out one way then the opposite way. The veneer was black base on one side and white base on the other, giving a ying-yang kinda feel. I still like the idea, but it needs a much better execution. The second piece was and twisted long section of grid one section wide, but with prongs down the side and reminded me of a DNA chain. Again, execution of design was missing here, not my best work. I still like the idea of the twisted grid, just not sure what to do with it.
Then I had a smallish piece of grid in my hand and was wrapping it around a dowel and thought about more three-dimensional flowers. I really like the flowers themselves, just not the flat grid base I put them on. But it allowed me to explore. I let the grid be exposed and used the clay for a grungy look, like something growing on the grid.
From here to the finish, something clicked into place. I LOVE the last few pieces! Just sayin’.
Days 92 to 94 all used hollow form polymer pieces that were wrapped with a single width of grid. The first ‘drum’ was decorated with liquid clay marks (different on each side) and patina’ed around the edges. The strip of the grid was held in place with a small piece of orangey-red leather I sewed with black, waxed linen thread. The orange leather added a nice pop of color.
Day 93 was a similar design with the hollow form but smaller in diameter. I left prongs on one side of the grid strip where I attached small balls of orangey-red to give the piece more dimension. I also used the orangy-red color in the marks made and the thread used to hold the grid in place.
The last one in this series (#94) is still a hollow polymer form but I wanted to try a more angular design. Again, different mark making on each side and a strip of grid wrapped around. As I was deciding how to hang this one from a chain I realized that when placed vertically it was very coffin-like in its shape, oops! Perspective is everything.
When playing with the grid, I almost by accident wrapped it around my wrist. It all of a sudden seemed obvious to try a cuff (or two) (#95 to 97). The first cuff (Day 95) I placed the veneer under the grid leaving it exposed. I did add a strip of clay on each end so that getting the cuff on and off was comfortable. It is actually very wearable.
The next cuff, #96, I played with the veneer lying on top of the grid, but cut in a wavy pattern to expose some of the grid. I marks circles and dots on the veneer to reinforce the wavy watery-theme and I thought it came together quite well.
Then I thought I could take the cuff idea a bit further, a bracelet with a clasp. So two pieces of the grid were formed with loops on each end so that links and a clasp could be attached. This is another one where I was patting myself on the back for being clever. The veneer was result of another bold mark making session which I cut out in a swooping pattern (Matisse-inspired).
I wanted to use up my shibori-inspired veneers that were a lovely dark navy color and I had a square link leftover that I used for the 3D chain, but this piece had prongs left on one side. So the prongs became loops for dangles (#98). The large tear-drops gradually change to black at the bottom due to liquid clay and are heavy enough to give this piece some presence.
I then moved back to liquid clay veneers on translucent clay (#99). I made very thin veneers so that after baking I could cut it up with scissors into angular oval shapes and punch holes in them to be hung off of the grid. Again, I was playing with a strip of grid, one grid unit wide. It needed a handle, so more grid was cut and attached.
For my last piece, #100, I re-visited the idea of shibori-inspired veneers but used translucent clay. I kept it thin to make half-circle pieces that fit onto a piece of the grid that I curved over a dowel. I love the way the translucent clay pieces fan out.
Ta-Da!!! There you have it. I am still amazed that I stuck with it. I also realize that I could not have even considered doing this if the pandemic hadn’t shut everything down. I was overbooked this year, every single month, but particularly over these last three. So the 100 Day Challenge showed up at the right place and the right time, for me! It was a great opportunity to stretch my creative muscles and it felt good!!
So what is next for me? Well I am still playing with liquid clay veneers. I am using the mesh grid in some swaps I need for a virtual retreat I am attending next month. I am writing a tutorial for one of the pieces from the challenge for Polymer Week magazine. And I want to spend a little time reviewing the challenge and see what ideas might be worth exploring further. So lots to do for me! Hope you are keeping busy too.