Problem Solving in the Design Process

Last fall I took an on-line class called Composition and Construction taught by Christine Dumont and Donna Greenburg at their on-line school Voila. It is the third in a series of Creative Design Courses addressing design elements and how to apply them. It was FULL of great information (a major understatement).

The first part of the course taught you about the tools and the language used in composition.  I found it really interesting that I struggled so much when pressed to put into words why a piece of art pulls you in, engages you and evokes a response.  But forcing yourself to verbalize what you observe and feel about a piece of art is very enlightening  . . . . . and it takes practice. Weighty stuff . . . . . right?

The other part of the class focused on moving from inspiration to completed project all while executing your chosen compositional design intention.  It felt like walking a tight-rope while keeping the plates balanced and spinning . . . . . . okay maybe not that bad . . . . . but it was challenging. 

First we worked through exercises focusing on where to find inspiration, how to embrace it and pull what you need from it. Tools were discussed for aiding in this process. But the most important thing required was time. It is rare that an idea jumps out at you. It needs to be coaxed and reworked. Time must be allowed for brainstorming and playing with the ‘what ifs’.

After wondering through my yard and pulling out my various collections, I ended up choosing inspiration from a bougainvillea flower, a porcupine quill and a fossilized clam shell.  My compositional intent was sensuality as expressed through the shapes, shading and lines of each element.  

So you now have an idea and want to execute it . . . . how do you get from one point to the other . . . . where do you even start?  A large part of the process is all about problem solving.  You start by identifying your options and hurdles and then tackle them one by one. From this point, I began to develop a variety of components that represented each element of inspiration. I needed to think about how to limit the options, how far to abstract each piece, what surface treatments to use, and how can I take each piece one step further. Each problem solved, question answered or iteration brought me closer to the final story and the pieces I was going to use.  

But it’s not just about making something pretty. Strength, connections, wear-ability, surface treatments, sequence of assembly, etc. may all come up as issues and in multiple ways.  The assembly was layered and utilized cold connections.  Copper wire, with a dark patina, waxed linen, and balled copper head pins. I attempted to use the cold connections as part of the narrative but hide the messy parts where possible.

I ended up with a series of brooches. These talismans represent the beauty, strength and perseverance of the feminine.  

–  The soft form but strong color from the flower represents the beauty in all of us.

–  The porcupine quill represents strength and evolved with the addition of symbols through carving.

–  The fossilized shell represents perseverance and provides the strong base that holds the pieces together.

I loved taking this on-line class.  I feel like I learned a ton of information and had an amazing opportunity to spread my wings, try something new . . . .  all with a safety net, of sorts.  Seeing students working through the same or similar problems was encouraging and let you know you were not alone.  The feedback from the instructors (constructive criticism and course corrections as you progressed) as well as comments from other students was so beneficial.  But now it’s my turn to see where I can take this.

If you have the chance to take one of their classes, I highly recommend it!!

Posted in Contemporary art jewelry, inspiration, learning, polymer clay jewelry, workshops | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Fandango 2019

I have attended the Fandango Clay Retreat in central Florida for a couple of years now and will be teaching there in 2019! This polymer clay retreat is one of those beautiful little retreats that is always a great learning opportunity.  It is a super relaxed environment, lots of time to learn and experiment.

There are a few things that make this event stand out . . . . . . . . besides the fun, laughter, wonderful organizers, new friends, goodie bag, live auction . . . . . . you get the idea. 

One of the things I like is that you set up your workstation once and the instructors move from class to class.  Other retreats use this format too and it allows you to settle in and nest in your workspace.

There is a central baking area that is organized and operated by someone NOT attending the retreat. In fact, at Fandango the very wonderful lady that volunteers for this duty doesn’t even play with clay. She has done this event for many years because her mom attended and continues in honor of her mom since she passed on. Truly an angel for all the clayers!

This is a great deal – three full day classes, all your food and 4 nights of a room (shared) for one great price. Now it is not a 5 star facility, but it covers the basics, no one leaves any meal hungry, and the grounds are actually very charming . . . .  right on a lake and wildlife surrounding you (bald eagle nests, sandhill cranes, alligators, etc).

This year the three instructors include Maureen Carlson, Toni Ransfield and yours truly, Lynn Yuhr! In addition, there is an awesome optional class on Thursday with Deb Hart, her heart owl. For more information go to www.oapcguild.com.

There is still plenty of time if you are thinking about joining us! 

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Teaching and Learning

It was a great beginning to the New Year! I started off teaching a class for the Florida Gulf Coast Polymer Clay Guild! It was my Gone Fishin’ class.  What a great group of ladies.  And with every class, I am always so amazed at how much I learn by teaching . . .  ironic isn’t it! 

Gone Fishin’

We spend some time making what I am calling foundational canes (bullseye, jellyroll and stacked stripes) that can be transformed in so many ways. Everyone had the option of using canes they brought, new canes they made or some combination that we then transformed a little bit here and a little bit there to decorate our fish.  I apologize for not getting photos of everyone’s final fish, they were all fun!

But after admiring everyone’s work and driving home, I get to reflect on the class.

  • We all approach our work area differently. I love seeing everyone’s approach to organization. Students often have unique ways to organize tools and make their work process flow or have repurposed containers/bags/organizers that allow you to see everything you need.
  • Not everything runs smoothly. When someone doesn’t understand what I mean, I am obviously not communicating properly or clearly, that’s on me. You can’t proof your own instructions, you need someone from the outside lending a hand.
  • Students often bring tools to class that I haven’t used or seen, except on-line. What a great opportunity to check them out and get a personal review.
  • When someone misunderstands what I mean and misinterprets my instructions, it often has to do with simply seeing things from another perspective. It is not wrong, just a different view.  And I think we can all agree that there are multiple ways of doing everything!
  • Students often work in colors I wouldn’t have dared to or even thought of putting together.  Yet, they work beautifully! So we all need to get out of our comfort zones at times!

There is a part of teaching that is very much like sowing seeds of ideas . . . .  and if I keep an open mind . . .  and just listen . . . .  I get to reap the rewards. Doesn’t seem fair, but . . . .  the new ideas are piling up. I now see the fish as bracelets and lariats and wind chimes, oh my!!  I can’t wait to play and see where we can go with this. 

A big thank you to the ladies of the Florida Gulf Coast Polymer Clay Guild!! Especially Bonnie and Sydney!

Posted in jewelry, polymer clay, teaching, workshops | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Just a Reminder

Registration opened today for classes at Bead and Button 2019! I am teaching five classes!! Okay, okay, I am a bit excited. Classes are starting to fill-up!

I start off on Thursday, June 6th with Mod Mondrian Lariats from 8:30am to 3:30pm. This is a fun necklace to make and wear. We create a Mondrian-inspired polymer clay cane, design a focal pendant and accessory beads . . . . and yes, it will be finished in class!

Mod Mondrian Lariats

On Friday, June 7th, I teach Gone Fishin’ from 9:00am to 4:00pm. This pendant utilizes color and movement while teaching you some basic polymer clay canes. Everyone will reel in a big one by the end of class!

Gone Fishin’

Then Friday evening is a class called Three in Three Earrings from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. We combine polymer clay and wooden tube bead from Banyan Bay Studios to create three pair of earrings using three different approaches to ear wire design. A beautiful set of boho-style earrings.

Three in Three Earrings

Saturday, June 8th, will be Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer from 9:00am to 4:00pm. You can tell by now that I love color, but this class takes it to a new level. It is soooooo much fun making these faces, I can’t stop making class samples. You should have some polymer clay experience for this class.

Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer Clay

I close the event on Sunday, with my final class, Channeling Mondrian Pendant from 9:00am to noon. Here, a Mondrian-inspired polymer clay cane is combined with a wooden component from Banyan Bay Studios for a casual but elegant pendant.

Channeling Mondrian Pendant

I can’t believe I have been attending Bead and Button since 2004. There is such a wonderful sense of community there and creativity from so many different artists working in so many different mediums. It has become an annual pilgrimage for me. Come join me there, take a class or two and do a little shopping. Okay, who am I kidding . . . . . a lot of shopping!!

Posted in Bead and Button Show, polymer clay, teaching | Tagged , | 1 Comment

An Epiphany

So the word epiphany sounds like something really big changed, . . . . . there was a paradigm shift. All big words, indicating big things.  But no, it was just a little nudge . . .  in the right direction. But could it have more meaning?

The end of the year comes with reviews, resolutions for the new year, plans and renewal of commitments. There are blogs, websites, and podcasts all dedicated to this topic. We get all pumped up, reach for the stars and convince ourselves that this year will be different! A couple of months (more or less) into the new year . . .  we back slide . . . . we are disappointed that a miracle of change hasn’t occurred . . . . or we beat ourselves up thinking we just need to work harder! 

But what if we make our goals, intentions, or objectives more attainable. What if we listen to the old adage – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

So I was working on my journal for 2019. I have been creating an annual journal since 2012, but skipped 2018.  I missed having that evening ritual . . .  what happened that particular day that made it special . . . documenting events that occurred . . . . doodling . . . . painting . . . . . or whatever. Vowing to start again in 2019, I began pulling papers together for a new journal.

Twelve signatures of various papers. Done.  Some plain, some with a little paint, some fully painted, some purchased, and some found ephemera. An array of perfect backgrounds. My favorite ‘found’ paper was a roll from Ikea for coloring in the kids section (see the far left signature above). I love the quirky drawings.

But I got stuck on the outside (of all things, right?) The outside makes a statement. So many options. After grinding on this a few days, I had that little epiphany . . . . make a journal for the first quarter . . . . . or even just the first month. Take your first bite out of the elephant!! 

I happened to have some book covers that I modified for journals leftover from a class I taught last April.

I found one I liked and it fit the papers I had selected . . . things started to come together. It was like it was meant to be! Two signatures will be bound in and we are off and running!!

It doesn’t seem like much of an epiphany, but for me it was a little shift in my thinking. Regardless of your goals, resolutions, or intentions for the year . . . .  be kind to yourself . . . .  take little bites. 

Posted in Art Journaling, planning | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Good Enough vs Better (Part 2)

Okay, we talked earlier about taking things a step further to go from ‘good enough’ to better.  Specifically about embedding the pad of an earring post in your clay when designing polymer clay earrings. (see Good Enough vs Better, Part 1)

You want to go a step further? 

Instead of simply drilling a hole for a jumpring and adding a dangly thing (a technical term), how about embedding a jumpring (or something similar).  The benefits are primarily two-fold:

1: More movement for your dangle, and

2: A drilled hole and jumpring are NOT taking away from your earring design giving a cleaner look.

The left earring has a jumpring embedded while the right earring has a drilled hole and jumpring added.
Its a subtle difference between the two sides but the right side looks cleaner to me.
The movement between the two earrings is substantial. The right side swings freely while the left side is more stiff.

Confused? Let me explain. Prior to adding the back layer of clay and while you are adding the post component, also add a jumpring. I use an oval shaped jumpring to give me a bit more length to hang from on the side of the clay.

Prior to adding the back layer of clay components are tacked down with a bit of super glue for a temporary hold.

The part of the earring where the post is attached also provides another area for design.

Instead of a solid color circle, this area can be textured, patterned, different shapes,  . . .  even 3D!! Lots to consider when designing earrings . . .  who knew?!?!

But wait there’s one more option I want to add to the mix. What about not having the post portion of the earring separate from the dangle. Who says an earring has to have movement.  Are there rules about this????

As I get more ideas and try them out, my collection of single earrings is building.  It seems like as I finish one earring . . . . a new idea comes to mind . . . .  and well, its time to move on and try it!!

I hope this inspires you to take a look at your designs and see where structural improvements can be made or where fun design options await you! Now go . . . . . .make something!!

Posted in jewelry, polymer clay | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Surprise, Surprise!

Earlier this year I received an email from Sculpey. It was a mass email, not to me specifically, letting everyone know there was an open call for their design team.  I thought, that sounds interesting, why not!!  I love teaching and sharing what I have learned on my polymer journey and am pretty proud of how far I have come. So I pulled together my pitch, a few photos and crossed my fingers.  

Well, I can finally let the secret out of the bag, I was selected for the 2019 Design Squad!!  Woo-hoo!

Amy Koranek – Anke Humpert- Claire Maunsell
Jenny Sorenson – Krithika Parthan – Lynn Yuhr
Maria Saracino – Mo Tipton – Rachel Hateley
Sherman Oberson – Syndee Holt – Teresa Salgado

As you can see, I am in very good company. You can check out all their bios on sculpey.com. But I am confident that I am up for the challenge and look forward to working with Sculpey and their team. Hope you enjoy riding along with me on this next journey!

Posted in design team, polymer clay, Sculpey | Tagged , , | 7 Comments