Clay Out West in Review

What a fun four days. I am exhausted both physically and mentally, but feel exhilarated at the same time.  I am guessing that the organizer’s are simply exhausted!! Job well done ladies!

Classes were varied and included Leslie Blackford, Carol Blackburn, Shelly Attwood, Julie Picarello, and Donna Kato. These classes hit all the different parts of your brain from precise and controlled to whimsical to wonderful intent and even a few surprises. Here is what I came home with from the classes.

Leslie Blackford in her Vintage Animal Pins showed us a photo transfer technique and then blew our minds as she took little lumps of clay and with a pinch here and a poke there, created animal heads to go onto the photos.  We did a bit more sculpting creating fetishes. A patina was used on the clay after baking that made all the difference in the world to the finished project.


Carol Blackburn taught us her Southwest Patterns Brooch or Pendant technique that was such a surprise. Her process is so well done and thought out. And she continued to surprise us with her pendant/brooch finishing techniques.


Shelly Atwood’s Petroglyph Pendants showed us carving on polymer clay along with creating a variety of patinas. This is not as easy as it looks and is going to take a bit of practice!


Julie Picarello shared All Meshed Up, her take on mokume gane along with creating windows with mesh or screen. She is a fountain of information and I only wish this was a full day class. But you know how that goes, we are always asking for more time to play! And for full disclosure, the upper right piece is Julie’s sample she made in class and raffled off, woo-hoo!


Donna Kato took us through her Color Pencil Pieced pendants. These pendants are finished with colored pencils, a surface technique that adds a tremendous depth the clay. And from beginning to the end we learned something every step of the way (at least I did). This is one of the two projects for her class.


But the real challenge from any workshop is taking all the tidbits and techniques, letting them percolate and see what comes out in your own work. In Carol Blackburn’s class, I had a little time while my pieces were curing to play with my scraps. You know the bits that are eye-catching and you think “I can’t just throw those away!”  And my success rate is low for packing these little gems and not having them get squished, squashed and generally distorted in the journey back home.

Well I wasn’t sure where I was going with them but I lined them up on a sheet of black clay cut out a couple of shapes.  Cute, but then I had scraps left from the scraps. Yes, this is a rabbit hole of sorts! So I then created a second veneer, cutting up the scraps into triangles and fitting them together. Left the shapes angular. Added a border of black. I really liked how these came out. I will be revisiting this.


And the buttons . . . . I can’t forget the buttons! There were as many different buttons as there were people attending. The buttons covered everything from surface techniques to canes and from complicated to simple. They are like little treasures, not sure what I will do with them . . .  other than periodically admire them . . . .  and that’s ok!

My trip went on for another week and a half after Clay Out West, and had the sweetest ending . . . like the cherry on top.  I was at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and went into a gift store . . .  that seemed nicer than most.  I was admiring a display of animals that were intricately adorned and almost fell over when I realized it was polymer clay . . . . and the work of Jon Anderson.  A personal and up-close look at Jon Anderson’s work at an airport gift shop . . .  I couldn’t believe it.  What a special treat!!


Well the dates and teachers have already been selected for next year’s Clay Out West. The dates are September 30th to October 3rd, 2019.  The teachers will be Donna Kato, Leslie Blackford, Debbie Crothers, Ron Lehocky, Dayle Doroshow and Wendy Malinow.  Registration won’t open for several months yet, but if you want to be on the mailing list for announcements, send an email to

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5 Responses to Clay Out West in Review

  1. Pat Freeman says:

    Wow, all your class projects turned out great! I especially like the raccoons. Fun taking classes with you.


  2. Elizabeth Del Monte says:

    Glad you had fun and the projects are wonderful. Looking forward to hear the rest of the stories


  3. monsoonwendy says:

    What a fabulous wrap up and I LOVED the pieces you made with your scraps! They look fabulous. It will be great to the results of the “percolation”. Thank you for sharing all this with those of us who weren’t there.


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