Check One Off the Bucket List

We went to the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and yes, it was as good as I expected!!

The opening day of the fiesta (we didn’t have tickets), we got up early and were watching out of our hotel window to see the outlines of the balloons taking off . . . .  far off in the distance. We also had the TV on with live coverage from the field of the festival. Even watching the mass ascension on TV was pretty exciting.

I had tickets for the second morning. Events kick off at 6:00am, so it was a really early start to the day. The morning was chilly so we bundled up, worked our way through the traffic and was sipping hot coffee in the dark by 5:30am.


The first thing that struck me was the huge team of people working the event. Directing traffic, organizing parking, giving directions, checking tickets, keeping tables clean and food warm. The organization of the event was pretty impressive.

As the morning was beginning to get light, we kept our eyes on the various flags around the field. Was it calm enough for the balloons to inflate? Was it calm enough for the balloons to launch? We quickly found out that it was calm enough for the balloons to inflate, but not to launch. It was either too much wind higher up, or in the wrong direction.  So we listen to the Star Spangled Banner with everyone on the field flaring their burners! It was great!!

So as the sun came up we walked among the balloons as they inflated. It was like a forest of balloons of different colors and shapes!


If you ever get a chance to attend the Balloon Fiesta, I highly recommend it. The hot air balloon folks seem to be a very enthusiastic and friendly group. My tips for attending include:

  • This is a weather dependent event, at least for the balloons being inflated and taking off. So keep an open mind, enjoy all the other things going on if things are kept on the ground!
  • The traffic to the event is impressive. There are a number of places you can park (off of the event site) and ride in on shuttle buses.
  • While I splurged for the Gondola Pass, it was overkill. Nice, but totally unnecessary.
  • And yes, it is worth getting up for the morning session!!
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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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Purging the Hoard

Yeah, I have a problem getting rid of stuff.  All the process or practice pieces along the way are piling up in boxes. The planned projects in my head are endless. And probably exceed the number of years left in my life . . . .  by a long shot.

I have to keep reminding myself “what do I want to spend my time on” . . . . cleaning? . . .  looking for things I put away in that  ‘safe’ spot? . . . . .  moving things around to get to other things? . . . . .  or just moving them so I can find a place to work?  I know I am not alone but it doesn’t make it easier.

So what would you do with your . . . .

  • Practice pieces?  Do you want to show growth or the evolution of an idea (do you need to?).
  • Art work that really isn’t that great (or even good) and you don’t enjoy any more or wouldn’t show off from the assorted classes you have taken.
  • Insert the various technique, craft, art supply, etc . . .  that you have collected because it was on sale or, better yet, being given away!

So I am taking a look at my studio. It great that I have a studio (more than some, less than others) but a limited, finite space. Two years ago when I moved into this current space I was thrilled. New. Clean. Bright. Full of possibilities.

I am a master of piling and collecting. Having every surface covered with supplies that haven’t been put away  . . . . . may not even have a place to be put!

But now its time. Time to assess the damage my hoarding has taken on this space. Really think about what I want to be doing. Sounds deep and meaningful. Or is it just a ploy to avoid serious work,  . . . . . hmmmm.

Of course, as I write this, I am trying to figure out where I am going to stash my newly acquired mill end cones of weaving threads!! Yes a new hobby, just what I needed, I know. But the grouping of threads . . . . the colors . . . . the texture . . . .  and I found an open shelf!! What can I say, some spots may never change . . . . . . . should we just embrace them?!?!?

At least with this mess to clean up, I do have something to show for it. My buttons are completed and bagged for my next retreat, Clay Out West!!


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Taking A Side Track

Okay, so I took a little side track recently . . . . and it was a good thing!  One of the artists I stalk on-line, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.   She is a full-time artist, crafter and maker. Every weekday morning I start my day by going to four blogs and is one of them. She paints, art journals, sews, carves stamps, makes cards . . . . .  I don’t think there is a craft she hasn’t tried!  Her enthusiasm is simply contagious.  She taught at Whim So Doodle located in St. Petersburg, Florida this past weekend.  I have stalked them on-line too, they bring in a great line-up of teachers throughout the year. Julie’s previous engagements at Whim So Doodle have never fit with my schedule . . . . .  until now!

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She came down for three 1-day classes.  I didn’t have anything scheduled, so I immediately talked myself into taking the plunge and signing up for all three classes – lettering, reduction painting and gelli plate printing. I love doing all of this . . . .  it was totally applicable to my art journaling. . . . . like I need an excuse!

The lettering class was great. I find lettering very relaxing and meditative. It was all about developing your own style of font, the guidelines for creating a layout and how to use your lettering in a more illustrative way.

The Reduction Painting class is a technique that Julie uses all the time in her work and she was gracious enough to share. The technique was very  ‘freeing’, but with everything new, we were all overthinking it! The results provided layers that created depth to our pages along with wild patterns to use as focal points. Not well explained, sorry . . .  I guess you had to be there!

Then the Gelli: Beyond the Basics class was a whirlwind of techniques. We all created samples of each technique. Everyone had their favorites and everyone had their  . . . . well lets just say . . . .  least favorite! So there was something for everyone!!

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And let me not forget, Whim So Doodle!! What a great store with wonderful staff. They have a great big area for the store with a wide variety of arts and crafts supplies. Then they have a smaller room off to the side which is their fabric room, O . . . M. . . .  G!! I am such a sucker for colors, patterns, texture! As I selected a yard of this and a yard of that . . .  they asked ‘so what do you sew?’. I laughed and confessed that I am a collector of fabrics. I can’t imagine cutting into these little beauties . . . . but I will work on that!

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For me, this is as good as going to a spa . . . .  or chilling on the beach.  I love the process of letting go and opening up to learning something new.  Nothing here was finished work or particularly fabulous, but the process was spot on!!  And as always, there was a journal. I had to take notes somewhere, right?!?!

In addition, downtown St. Petersburg was lovely. A great place to walk around, with plenty to do from museums to water sports to a stroll along the bay. The restaurants and bars in the area were really nice!! My favorite bar was Saigon Blonde. The restaurants I enjoyed included the Mill, Oak and Stone and Red Mesa Cantina – all fabulous. If you ever get the chance for a little weekend get away, it’s a great spot!

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Bucket Lists and Buttons

I bet everyone has a ‘bucket list’ or wish list of things they want to do, places they want to go, etc. I have been fortunate enough to cross off many of mine over the years. But I have one coming up soon . . . .  the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. My in-laws have lived in New Mexico since the early 80’s, so we have vacationed there over the years.  We have always talked about going to the balloon festival, but we have never had the chance . . . .  until now!!


I have tickets for the opening weekend, a morning session from 6:00 am to 11:00 am to watch a mass ascension!  I am vibrating with excitement!! Can’t wait!

But I have to confess. I got a cherry on top of this trip! I found out there was going to be a polymer clay retreat in Albuquerque the four days before the balloon festival. This is one of those moments when you feel that the stars aligned just for you! Yup, I am attending the retreat as part of this trip too.

The retreat is called Clay Out West and grew out of the Clay Carnival in Las Vegas (my understanding). It is currently sold out, but I was stalking them on-line and got my registration in quickly.  I am looking forward to meeting more people in the polymer clay community . . . . .  the events and retreats I have attended so far have all been on the east coast.

As part of preparing for this event, there is an exchange or trade. Yes, I have now attended several events where there are trades.  And yes, I always do something more complicated than necessary. So why should this event be any different!!

The trade will be buttons made out of polymer. There are 80 attendees and 7 teachers, so I am working on 87 buttons. I wanted them to be distinct, so they are not round. I wanted them to be unique and represent my work, so they are colorful and graphic! What do you think???

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I am not sure I could have picked a more time consuming approach to a button! But I do love them!! About 20 buttons into production, a friend suggested I ditch this idea and pick something easier. I took that as a challenge.

The sizes varied in the first dozen or so, along with the shape. I am also stamping the backs with my flying squirrel logo (boy I love that stamp!).

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I just passed the halfway mark with 48 buttons made.  I think I have found an approach to the production process. So sizes and shapes are more consistent and a certain pattern gets repeated (less time pausing to think about making each one unique).  Only 39 more to go!!



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I Can’t Stop Making Faces!

I really can’t stop . . . . .  I just can’t.  I am having way too much fun!! These are my Picasso-inspired polymer clay faces. There are faces everywhere. Some are better than others, some are definitely my favs.  But a little time playing is in order. No expectations. Push the boundaries. See what happens.

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These four faces are the first group completed that I considered ‘successful’.

I started working off the edge. This opened up a whole new approach.

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Working off of the edges was like coloring outside the lines.

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I love the little antenna!

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The details along the top added some nice character.

Cut outs on the edge!

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Here I used some details at the top and tried a couple of cut-outs.

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This one uses cut-outs of the first layer and drops color into the second layer.

Hair . . . .  some of them even have hair! Well ok . . . .  not real hair . . . . . .  pieces of fabric that fray easily and have been covered in liquid polymer clay. Not sure why I felt the need to cover them in polymer, but I did. Will they be less fragile . . .who knows.  Stiffer so they stand up . . . . yup!

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Well I am going to let this play out before I start anything else. Who knows how this is going to go . . . . but I am having fun doing it!

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Deadlines and Creativity

It feels like Bead and Button just finished and the deadline for submitting classes is next week . . . August 17th!  I do understand their schedule and how tight it is . . .  really I do! So into the studio I went!!

Being creative because of a deadline . . . . how is that supposed to work? Do you freeze up or do the creative wheels start turning? Is there a storm of new ideas . . . .  or a big empty space between your ears??? Here’s how I got through it . . . .  by just starting.

I knew I didn’t have to start from scratch on these classes. The three of the classes that were selected and taught last year will be in the submittal package again. Why not, they worked . . .  everyone completed their pieces . . . .  I call that a success!

But what about something new?

In July, I taught a modified version of the Channeling Mondrian class. This class was all day rather than 3-hours and we completed lariats as the objective. I love what you can do with these graphic veneers!! Loads of fun. And yes, that will be submitted.

Yuhr-Mondrian Lariats

I also felt that there may be . . . , just may be, a need for a beginner polymer clay class. So I brushed off a project I taught at a retreat in 2015 called ‘Gone Fishin’.  The finished pieces look complicated . . .  multiple pieces and movement. But the class really just focuses on learning basic polymer clay canes that are then used in a variety of ways to decorate a stylized-fish skeleton.  These are what might be referred to as ‘foundation’ canes the bulleseye, jellyroll and stacked stripes. They are frequently used as building blocks for so many other polymer canes, veneers, surface treatments, etc.

Last year I received a lot of positive feedback on my colorful polymer pieces. Several people commented “I want to learn that!”.  So I definitely wanted to find a way to simplify this technique into a one-day class for 2019 where everyone could be successful. So after some more pondering . . . and a little playing . . . . I started seeing things! Yup . . .  faces started popping up . . . .  so I went with it!  I came up with a pendant (or pin) that I am calling Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer. Do you see them??

Yuhr-Picasso Portraits in Polymer-group

I am pleased with my submittal and hope they are well received. But only time will tell . . . . about two months to be exact! Fingers crossed!!




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