Channeling Mondrian

I love bold, graphic, high contrast patterns and Mondrian is one of my many favorite artists! Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter, who was a leader in the modern abstract art movement. It amazes me that over 100 years ago this man created these simple yet powerful patterns using primary colors in fields of white with black lines. Today, these patterns can frequently be seen in design or decor and attributed to this brilliant man.

mondrian art

Using his patterns as a starting point, I have played and played. One of the results was a class I developed where we create a Mondrian cane, reduce a portion of it and create a veneer that is placed in a wooden component developed by Banyan Bay Studios. I will be teaching this class for Bead and Button in June (register here). Tuesday, June 5th from 6pm to 9pm to be exact!!

Yuhr-Mondrian Pendant

Whenever I take a class, I always go home and ask myself. Okay, I can duplicate the project but now what?  So, as a part of my classes I always like to show some examples of what else you can do with what you have learned. Students will certainly leave my class with a large piece of a Mondrian cane (or two), so what’s next?? Well, I judge my success as an instructor by how well I plant some seeds of an idea as a starting point for each student.


My class examples show some simple applications of this cane in pendants, earrings, and bangles. I have varied the scale of the cane and turned it on an angle. But there are so many variables to play with, change the colors, the line weight, or the line angles. And this is just the beginning . . . .

So, if you are in Milwaukee the beginning of June, come and join the fun!

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A Little Tute!

Yes, I am playing with words. I plan to share a little tutorial with you as well as tute my own horn!!

I recently had the opportunity to do a demo for a joint meeting of the Palmetto/Sarasota Polymer Clay Guild and the Tarpon Springs, Florida Guild.

What a great bunch of gals . . . . . friendly, creative, and generous!! And they put out a pot luck spread for lunch that was an unexpected surprise!

I was demo’ing how to use polymer clay in the wooden components designed by Banyan Bay Studios. Here is a few of the designs they come up with.

As part of the demo there were some questions on a particular cane I had used on one of my sample pieces.

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute example 1a

It is super simple, very forgiving and can be used in a number of ways. But let me be clear . . . . . I AM NOT THE INVENTOR OF THIS CANE!! It can be found throughout the polymer community and I am not even sure who to credit with its origination (Nan Roche, Donna Kato??).

You start by building a bullseye cane that is basically a cylinder of clay covered in concentric circles of color (solid colors or skinner blends of color). It is a basic that everyone should know and is the basis of so many more canes and designs!

Once the bullseye cane is built you cut it lengthwise in quarters.

You take each quarter and push the edges of the clay up while keeping the point of the internal color. (clear as mud, right?!?!). After this step, it doesn’t look pretty, I know, but keep going!

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute 1

You then combine the four quarters and continue to compress and lengthen (or reduce your cane).

Cut and combine the four quarters one more time!  Compress and lengthen (reduce) the cane to the desired size. The size and point where you say “I’m done” is completely your decision. There are no hard-fast rules here.

When creating a veneer from this cane you can combine slices in several ways. Create organic ‘flames’ coming from a center spine. This cane can be shaped into a petal and be the start of a flower. This cane can be combined with others in building more complex kaleidoscope canes.

Yuhr-bullseye cane tute 7

Honestly, the simple bullseye cane is an un-sung hero in polymer clay and can be used for so many more designs, or as a building block or as accents. The colors you choose, whether to use solid blocks of color, a skinner blend or translucent will all change the look . . . . dramatically! But it is still a bullseye cane! Here are some other examples.

I had a bullseye cane in my stash that I used to demo a butt-join as I wrapped color around it. It was not really going to ‘be’ anything. Until someone said “what would that look like if you cut it up?”. So we gave it a try!

By the way, (this is the tooting my own horn part) if you are considering attending Bead and Button in June (go here to preview all the classes). I have 5 classes to choose from. Registration is open and I am pleased that they are filling up, its going to be fun!


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Looking Back, Before Looking Ahead

I have been running in circles since the beginning of the New Year in preparation for my youngest son’s wedding. The big event has come and gone with great success. What a great way to start the year with a big family event!

But now its time to catch my breath and figure out my focus moving forward and what loose ends I have to address. I realized that I never shared my travel journal from the SE Asia trip. As I flip back through it, I have found many unfinished pages. I will have it next to my bed so I can work on it as I wind down in the evening over the next few weeks. But I am pretty happy with how it turned out so far.

I often get asked “why do I spend the time to journal while I travel?”, “shouldn’t I be living in the moment?”, being more “mindful”.

The purpose of a travel journal for me is to document the trip, yes, but not in the same way a printed itinerary documents the trip or even photos document the trip. Taking a moment each night to reflect on the day is important to me. I find it is the little things that you remember at the end of the day that are important. Those things that bring back a smile or a little chuckle or even a feeling of “wow, that was amazing!”. No matter where you are, that is what makes a day special.

So I am including some of my journal pages, so you can see how I document my journeys. Remember, this is my personal preference, not a “here’s how you do it”! And you might give me a big eye-roll about some of my topics, but again, I don’t do these journals for anyone but me (although my hubby and travel partner usually enjoys then too). So if the topics seem silly or mundane, that’s okay.

So go ahead, document your next journey. What makes it special? What feelings does a place evoked? Document unique encounters with people that reminded you that it’s a real big world out there and yet somehow, we are all connected. Lofty goals??? Okay, maybe, it might be a simple as the ability to walk into a 7-11 in a fairly rural area of a foreign country and get a slurpy to beat the heat! See, we are all connected!

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Where Have I Been?

I just returned from a 23-day trip to southeast Asia. And what an adventure! Okay, truth be told, I returned just before Thanksgiving and have been racing to keep up with the holidays. Hope your holidays were great!!

But oh the places I have been!!!

Hanoi – The number of scooters is overwhelming and to see what they can do from a scooter or bicycle is amazing, both in terms of transport and commerce. We walked and walked throughout the city. It was like being on sensory overload, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes . . . . everything!

Halong Bay – This area along the northern coast of Vietnam has long been known for its geologic beauty and has developed into a major tourist attraction (for both good and bad). The floating village in the area is being ‘encouraged’ to resettle on land, so we saw something that will not be there in the future. The peaceful, rugged beauty of the area is mesmerizing!

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – More cars than scooters, much more developed city than Hanoi. Big buildings, very big buildings. A lecture by Tim Dooling, an author on Vietnam provided the historical framework for visiting Vietnam and Saigon in particular. Unfortunately, a lot of the historical buildings are being lost in the development.

Seam Reap – What an amazing place! Cambodia is quickly developing to accommodate all the tourism, but seems to be doing it in a controlled fashion. Our focus was the Angkor Wat complex with the temples dating back 1,000 years representing changes in regimes, religions, and geo-political boundaries. It was great going with a guide that could tell us the stories that the carvings represented.

Chiang Mai –We stayed outside the city of Chiang Mai in a more rural setting that was beautiful and peaceful. Our city visit included a motorized tuk-tuk ride that was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal portions!

Bangkok – A big, energetic and congested city. Fantastic array of architecture from old to new. But a few minutes outside of the city, a rural, calm, beauty surrounds you. But throughout Thailand the people loved their King, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away about a year ago!! He was well educated and traveled, played the saxophone and composed jazz music (yes, he even has a CD available!). He reigned for 70 years and was revered by all. His son has very big shoes to fill!!

We used Gate1 Travel to provide an organized tour through the three countries. Four different friends recommended them, that all have done similar tours in SE Asia. And Gate1 didn’t disappoint. Having everything run smoothly on a tour is one level of assessment. But when plans have to be adjusted on the fly and it is done flawlessly, that’s a great group to work with! Our tour was supposed to go to Hoi An, but Typhoon Damrey hit the area a few days before we were scheduled to be there. It was one of the worst typhoons in years, deaths and destruction (very sad). Our itinerary was seamlessly adjusted, we spent the extra days back in Hanoi with activities added. Well done Gate1!

The places we stayed were some of the finest properties I have every stayed at. They were well located, had lovely staff and oh the amenities! I would recommend all of them and return without hesitation.

  • Hotel Metropole in Hanoi
  • Classic Bhayan Junk in Halong Bay
  • Melia in Hanoi
  • Intercontinental in Saigon
  • Sofitel Phookeetra Resort in Seam Reap
  • Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai
  • Shangri-la in Bangkok

During this adventure, we flew seven different airlines, road on buses, a train, a raft, an ox cart, fast boats, a rice barge,and tuk-tuks (both bicycle powered and motorized)! And we walked, when ever we could we walked. It just provides a slower pace to soak it all in!

If you are considering a trip to these locations, I would be happy to share more details. Give me a shout!!

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I’m Off On An Adventure!

As Bilbo Baggins ran through the shire, shouting, at the beginning of the Hobbit movie (okay, I am a nerd)!!


But I really am off on an adventure. I mentioned earlier in the year all the planning, research and general anticipation that has occurred regarding our trip to Southeast Asia. Well, it is finally here! My friends are groaning and mumbling ‘go already’, haha. I just get so excited about it all.

I have to say the comments from everyone have generally been split down the middle. Either they are interested and dreamy-eyed about a someday trip (or have been there already) – OR – they wonder why in the world I would choose to go there.

I am a retired consulting geologist and have even written a book about the characterization of karst. “Karst conditions are formed due to a natural process of dissolution of soluble rock” (Benson and Yuhr, 2016). Think of sinkholes and caves for starters and this type of geology is found over about 25% of the world.

Southeast Asia, and particularly Vietnam, is known for their spectacular karst in the form of tower karst in Ha Long Bay or the massive cave systems such as Hang Son Doong in Central Vietnam. I love the complexities of mother nature (I told you I was a nerd!).



Then there is the rich religious and cultural history of the Southeast Asia area dating back thousands of years. The highlight will be a trip to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. So very, very different from our own little piece of the world.


NGS Picture Id:1045233site_0668_0067-1200-630-20151104105852

I am a firm believer in recognizing all the differences in our world. And whether you can embrace the differences or not, you should acknowledge these differences and try to respect them. But in the end, it is the similarities we share that bind us all together.

Our world is both so big and so small at the same time. If you have a chance . . . . explore it a little . . . . and go on an adventure.

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Paying Attention!!

Okay, yesterday was a fantastic day!  With everyone’s positive feedback, I was floating on air!! In fact, I woke up and was organized for the day ahead, ready to tackle my To-Do list. And I did. Samples were made and left to bake as I ran out the door for a few hours of errands. But as I was multitasking, thinking I was so ‘together’, I received a call from my husband. He asked if I left something baking. It was a rhetorical question. And a sinking feeling hit me.

He arrived at the house and opened the garage door as gray smoke and an awful smell hit him! What was left in the oven, located in the garage, was now something resembling charcoal. Things were not exactly burning, there were no flames. Smoldering might be a better word.


Last weekend was the annual retreat for the South Florida Jewelry Arts Guild. I taught a little polymer clay class and brought all my supplies, including my oven. In the move back to the garage, I never checked the settings. WHAT?!?!?! I know better than this. The knobs can easily be moved.

The feeling of ‘walking on sunshine’ was gone. Reality whacked me in the head. Distracted, yes, feeling more than a little ashamed that I didn’t catch those details, absolutely.

The polymer clay appears to have become molten and bubbled up. I am guessing the temperatures got to about 400 degrees F. I am glad no one was there to breathe the fumes. The bases were wooden components and I was actually able to salvage a couple after digging out the clay and sanding a bit!


Mistakes made, lessons learned. I hope someone else can learn from my mistakes. The first one is not to get such a big head . . . . . . the second is always, ALWAYS check your oven settings. Be safe out there my polymer clay friends!!


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I just received the email from Bead and Button regarding class submittals. Out of nine classes submitted, they choose five!! I am surprised, thrilled, scared, shocked . . . . you get the idea. I can’t lie, I did do a little dance around the house and my head has inflated a bit (okay, a lot!).

These are the ones they selected!

They have scheduled me early in the week, June 3rd, 4th and 5th. Five classes in three days means there will be some long hours to put in. I am honored that they have confidence in me to pull this off. I have taught many classes, just never taught for them.  My letter of recommendation must have been really good, haha. I never saw it, it was sent directly to them. Thank you Braider Bob (aka Bob Galivan), a dear colleague and friend!!

This is yet another example of putting yourself out there. You just never know what will happen!


Posted in jewelry, polymer clay, teaching | Tagged , , | 5 Comments