This last August I had the opportunity to join a group of 27 women . . . well artists at a private retreat in the mountains. I was intimidated, but not enough not to go. I was nervous . . . would I fit in . . . . . am I worthy?!?! What can I bring to the table??
Well that inner critic was a waste of time, an irritation and couldn’t have been more wrong!!
I was welcomed with open arms and no judgement. Everyone brought so many wonderful things to the table and did such different work with the same materials . . . . polymer clay. They all had their own voice and were on their own paths. And what blew me away more than anything, was they all had their own inner critic!! I couldn’t believe it . . . they had doubts and struggles???? Even the best of the best?!?!
Again, this was a reminder that we have more in common than we think.
If you listen closely you can hear it. It’s an intense buzzing sound in my brain as I zero in on another trip. Yes, my brain is busy overthinking . . . . reviewing packing lists, checking sizes of luggage, researching the climates that we will be in and more than anything WHAT KIND OF TRAVEL JOURNAL WILL I TAKE???? Yup, that’s the top of the list.
So I started making my set of covers and painting papers. It was okay, but didn’t grab me . . . . or my imagination. But I plodded along.
Then, . . . then I saw it!! In one of my piles of materials, . . . . bulging at the seams . . . . I remembered saving parts of an old emergency rescue raft. At this point you might be thinking ‘What is she talking about’. Let me explain!
A while back my brother-in-law brought over an old, expired emergency raft. He thought the grandkids would get a kick out of deploying it in the lake. Sure enough, they loved it. But it was dry rotted and in really bad condition. So when the days fun was over, it was headed to the trash. Until I ran out there with my scissors! With my husband rolling his eyes, I managed to cut off some of the stamped wording that I thought might be cool. I rolled it up and stuck into one of the piles in the studio.
Fast forward to a few days ago! I saw this material peeking out and it caught my eye. Yup, slam on the brakes and start in a new direction!! So I cut up some wording and sewed it together in order to fit the signatures I already created.
I bound the signatures using a fancier binding technique that shows a criss cross pattern down the spine. I added a pocket in the back and a Velcro tab for a closure, I love it!! Could not be happier!
Then I started prepping my pages with a few details. I add some paint where I think it might need it, stencil some more patterns, maybe add some washi tape and then collage bits and bobs here and there. You might wonder why I add the details, how I pick them and where they go. First of all, I try and not overthink things (ironic for me, I know!). Not all pages need something, I want room to add things as I travel. But this gives me a base in which to build. For every travel journal I have done, the stamped, stenciled or collage images or words seem to work for whatever day it falls on in my journal and no matter what happens. Chance or luck, . . . not sure, but I’ll take it!!
Oh yeah, you might be wondering where we are going this time!! We are going to start with the 13-day tour of Greece, a couple days in Rome, then catching a transatlantic cruise back to Florida. I am a very lucky person to get to have so much fun. I hope you have something that gets you so excited your brain is buzzing!! I promise to share the completed journal when we get home.
I recently was developing some work for a new class. As I was reflecting on how I got where I was and where I could go . . . . a light went on. If I could document the steps, or process . . . . could I more intentionally repeat it?? I can hope this works, but maybe each time it’s a new and different dance? Only time will tell.
Last fall, I was browsing quilt patterns on Pinterest, lots of stripes . . . . I love a stripe. This initial inspiration stuck with me. No I am not a quilter. I collect fabric and dream about making a quilt, but . . . no, I am not an actual quilter.
So back in February, I noticed that I had a few leftover pieces of striped canes on my desk and a little idea using leaf shapes. This is what happened. I do love the bold graphics and high contrasts of these pieces. These were just trial pieces, but the idea stuck with me.
Over the next few months I thought about leaves. I collected different shapes from my yard and on walks.
I sketched simplified leaves with various crazy patterns. I seem to always have a piece of paper, notebook, etc. to jot down ideas. Some of these are buried deep in notes from lectures or ‘to-do’ lists for the day.
Another way I sketch is to use this magnetic drawing board that has been kicking around the house since grandkids started popping up! It is a way of testing ideas and just doodle away . . . it’s only temporary and the board can be wiped clean and you start again. It is very freeing! If by chance there is something that catches my eye, I snap a photo.
It was clear that I was on a graphic leaf design binge! So I played with it a bit when I was experimenting with liquid clays (see last post). These became my aboriginal-inspired leaves. When I started these, the liquid clay was the focus, but I couldn’t shake the idea of this funky leaf shape and graphic designs.
So I started thinking about the ‘what if’s’. The shape of each side of the leaves, stretched, squat and asymmetrical. The graphic patterns of circles, triangles or lines. The dot patterns, size and color. The colors of the clay. The leaf stem, striped, curvy and dotted.
After the first five, I liked them so much, that I decided that I would use these as a swap item for an upcoming retreat. This required me to make about 25 of them. I have to say, making multiples of exactly the same thing makes me lose interest . . . quickly . . . very quickly. BUT when I can vary something in the design, I find it challenging. And to play with those variables . . . . I am now in heaven!!! In addition, the process of making something over and over again . . . . well you will get better at it! That’s one of the ways you grow your skills. Its a lesson I have learned over and over again!! So keep playing my friends!
We see some wonderful handmade item and think ‘I can do that!’ And with the blackhole of inspiration and ideas called “Pinterest’ available, it probably happens more and more.
I have to admit, I spend WAY too much time on Pinterest. I get so caught up in the inspiration side of things. After an hour or so, regret sets in and I often sheepishly think that I should have spent that time creating!! Does this sound familiar?
Okay, leaving regret behind, I have been playing with some of those fabulous ideas and inspiration. And yes, many of the ideas have come from seeing some else’s work and thinking ‘I can do that in polymer’!
I have recently been playing with liquid clays. Specifically I love the idea of mimicking enameling. I have done enameling, long before I fell in love with polymer clay. It was the color and the various ways you could manipulate it that drew me in to enameling. But it requires a lot of patience . . . . and skill . . . . and time. When introduced to polymer clay, there was a lot more instant gratification in the short term. In the long term though the same rules apply . . . . it takes a lot of patience and skill and time. Funny how that works!!
I started mimicking a scraffito technique. It is a technique used in painting, enameling, ceramics, etc. where layers of colors are cut, scraped, pulled and manipulated.
Then I went in another direction with the liquid clay. Dots. Lots of dots. These are my aboriginal-inspired leaves. I have done a ton of these and love them. But that’s my next blog post!
I tried a bunch of other things that didn’t work. Or I should say, didn’t work for me. They didn’t ignite a spark or I thought I could achieve the same look another way. But everything was informative. And experimenting with mark making is always at least interesting.
I then started to play with a series that is a little more . . . grungy (is that the right word?) than I normally work. But I like this as well. And the focus is more on playing with composition rather than the liquid clay, but it is still being used here. I like these . . . . . different from my normal . . . . but another tangent worth exploring.
Okay, it is clear that this little squirrel is all over the place. But it is certainly more fun when ideas are popping and I am jumping from one thing to another! A few of these ideas (or tangents) deserve more attention and time for more concentrated playing.
So where do you find inspiration? How do you balance between finding inspiration and getting to work?!? Do you play with an idea long enough to transition from mimicking someone else’s work to making it your own? It’s hard, so off you go . . . . get in your studio or creative corner of the world . . . . and make something!
It’s coming up quick . . . Beadfest Phillie August 14 through 18! It is a new venue for me, but I know they have done shows throughout the country and have quite the following. I will be teaching five classes that include:
Gone Fishin’ – full day class, Wednesday August 14
Making Your Mark With Kandinsky – full day class, Thursday August 15
Channeling Mondrian – half day morning class, Friday August 16
Three in Three Earrings – half day afternoon class, Friday August 16
Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer Clay – full day class, Saturday August 17
I find it so interesting to see which classes are the most popular . . . it changes from place to place. If you are in the area, come join me for some polymer fun!!
When you teach classes you need to be prepared, obviously. But how prepared is prepared? There are so many situations that I think, ‘what if’! Okay, I do have a tendency to overthink things, hence I received this small bag as a birthday present.
With polymer clay classes, the ovens are provided. But you have never worked with them. You don’t know how well they will hold a temperature. You don’t know how big they will be. How do you accommodate multiple bakings with 10 to 20 students? You don’t know if an independent thermometer will be provided and if it is accurate (or broken). So what do you do?
Well I came up with a few ideas that helped me considerably in my recent Bead and Button classes. The first suggestion is to have an assistant to watch the ovens, run for food, help with set up and basically be an indentured servant for the event. I had one for this last event and she was wonderful. I don’t want to think about running a successful class without her help . . . . . thank you DeeDee! Okay, the other suggestions and fixes are more easily obtained. And no, I won’t share my DeeDee!
An easy fix was bringing extra oven thermometers. I do use the standard round ones that hang in the oven. But I also have external digital thermometers that work great too. It allows you to readily monitor oven temperatures without having to bend over peering into the dark to read a dial sitting in the back of the oven behind a bunch of stuff. Been there, done that!
Baking on a curve – yes, I too use the ol’ aluminum Ikea 8-inch kitchen bowl. It is a beautiful use of an existing item, that is reasonably price and readily available. BUT, in the smaller toaster ovens it doesn’t fit! However, it does comes in a smaller size (4 ¾ -inch), and now I can fit two side by side.
Baking for 12 to 16 people in two small toaster ovens is difficult due to space limitations . . . . . . even if you have two ovens! And a few of my classes, I have students work on 4×4-inch ceramic tiles that not only take up space, but are a heat sync increasing difficulties (time) getting an oven back up to temperature.
So my solution is to work on aluminum tiles that can be baked at an angle in an aluminum channel and easily conduct heat. I made the aluminum tiles from stock sold at Blick for model building, about 18 gauge. Readily available. The aluminum channel that I used is actually an extruded aluminum picket from the fencing department at a home improvement store. We (hubby) used the band saw to cut angled slots for the aluminum tiles. While we were hoping to get a maximum of 12 aluminum tiles in each baking, we could only get 10 in the oven. The last two were hitting the wall of the oven, oops. And we had to make sure to tent foil over the top, but it worked out great!
Then there are some classes that require baking on 3×5-inch cardstock or index cards. The aluminum tiles wouldn’t work, so I used sheets of decorative ventilation grates made out of aluminum, cut to the size of the oven. I could stack them with spacers in between and get two layers of polymer in one baking. The spacers were created from 1-inch sections of a 1.5-inch diameter dowel (okay, an old mop handle).
Besides baking issues to solve, I tried to think ahead regarding the kit and supplies in order to facilitate classes. For example, almost all of my classes use a liquid clay product. Up to now, I passed out little circular tins and everyone got a squirt from the bottle. Time consuming and at the end of class, these were thrown out with all the left over liquid clay. For this round of classes I found small glass vials (Munro Crafts) that allowed me to kit a small amount of liquid clay for each student that could be taken home afterwards. I even encouraged them to top off their vials before they left class. Everyone was a happy camper!
And then there is the issue of shipping your supplies, usually via airline luggage. The agonizing hope and crippling finger cross that all will go well. I even typed up an emergency plan in case a bag got lost. And I always try to strengthen my odds by adding a note to the TSA inspectors. Explaining what the heck is in my bags and asking for their gentle touch when rummaging. I was so tickled when I actually got a response . . . . in writing!!
So I thought I would share these few ideas with you . . . . they have helped me out a lot and I sure hope they help out someone else! Remember . . . . sometimes it is the little things!!
Another year at Bead and Button has come and gone . . . . and whew what an adventure. This year a couple of things changed and it was wonderful.
My classes did really well. One class sold out so I added seats and those sold out. I then heard there were a lot of people who didn’t get in, so in hindsight offering another session for that project would have been wise. The other full-day classes almost sold out too!
But in the largest class we all had plenty of room and everyone successfully completed the Picasso-Inspired Portraits.
The positive reception for my colorful work at ‘Meet the Teachers’ night was overwhelming! It seemed like even if they weren’t familiar with polymer clay, they loved my work. That was such a lovely feeling!
One of my class photos was used in the promotional displays as you enter the exhibitor hall. I was so pleased and a bit surprised!! I must have walked by that area a dozen times before my BFF pointed it out.
So while I bask in the afterglow of classes, I am already thinking about next year . . . . trying to think of where I can tighten up the process and make it easier for students. Then I am thinking about how I can lighten my load of supplies and tools. And of course, I am busy working on a couple of new classes for next year!! I know it sounds like I am on a fast spinning hamster wheel, . . . and that is not far from the truth . . . . . . but so far I am enjoying the ride!
PS. I am teaching at Beadfest Phillie in August!! Join me for some fun!