Few days ago I saw a link about Elsbeth McLeans painted mandala stones. I was very inspired by her use of color and techniques and had to try to do a mandala of my own with polymer clay.
This was very labor intensive but I love the idea. I already have tons of drawings made for several other things starting from this idea.
Ps. I really have not had time for free claying in weeks. I am way behind my schedule with stuff I promised to do this year. But I will get there as soon as I get my tasks done 😉
I have been really busy with several other things than arts & crafts past few weeks but on Thursday I got a whole day for studio. A good friend and I spent the whole day together claying and chatting – bliss.
I have plenty of tests for Inka Gold written into my to-do-list and this was one of them. This is just a prototype of something I have been thinking a long time now.
As I mentioned part of my work is making instructions to various publications, magazines and for my own shop. Instructions for this necklace got just published in Ihana- magazine where I have had mostly polymer clay related article space since 2008.
The process of making instructions for magazines is bit different from when publishing to my own customers. Usually we have a short conversations with the editor about what is hot and new and what is the theme of the issue. Editor might have some pictures or ideas what she wants or I might give her links to something that might be interesting. Usually the custom order for instructions is “something that looks like this” and it is up to me what techniques and methods to use to achieve something similar. Also there are some other things that have to be taken into consideration here: tools should be easily available to everyone even with limited budget, techniques should be easy enough for true beginners to achieve the works and instructions should not take 20 pages.
This time it was all in jewelry trend: metallic, large and robust. As Inka Gold has finally come more available in Finnish craft shops (we are several years behind with the trends here) I thought it would be cool to do something with them for instructions.
So this is what I did.
As always I try to make at least one variation too as it is much easier to most students to get the idea of “you can modify the colors and shapes etc.” with at least some kind of reference picture of modifications. work
Project is from PCA, Project by Katie Oskin
Lets start by announcing that I truly am not “lets sculpt cute figures person”. As this is the second lesson on PCA for the year I would not done this without my new years resolution.
Don´t read this wrongly – Katie’s work is super fun and I have liked her figures when I have seen them around on websites we both visit. She has an eye for cartoonish simplicity and is able to make things that make people smile. Her figures are great.
But making this was like swimming in tar for me. Not because of instructions but because this kind of work is so out of my comfort zone. Funny thing is that on her introduction video on PCA she explained similar feelings towards polymer clay jewelry instructions. We all have those feelings for some things.
Project tutorial had pdf file for instructions and two short video clips to show few essential steps. I was bit confused with some of the measurements and steps even though I prefer readable instructions over videos. The instructions are clear though, pictures mostly a+ and probably my confusion tells more about me than about the tutorial itself.
On the half way trough I got so bored (sorry Katie! Not your fault. This is completely me!) that I just run trough the rest of the instructions to get this darn racoon made. I put it into oven and realized that my work space is full of leftover clay and lint and stuff. Started cleaning and making mud – trying to get a grip of my anxiety as it was really strong. When one of the best necklace ideas ever hit me. (More about that later, this needs about 4-5 weeks of studying and some more prototypes. I am waiting for tools to arrive from France as I did not have what I need to do this properly.)
Anyway, here is my sad racoon who shall be sitting on my table to remind me that sometimes unwanted tasks lead to surprisingly happy flow and new ideas.
Clarity of instructions: 8+
Difficulty: Suitable for beginners who have basic knowledge on forming shapes with clay, otherwise I would suggest at least some claying experience before
What did I learn: I still am not at all fond of making figures out of clay. Anxiety – how ever – is a good motivation for cleaning the work space so next time I need a boost for cleaning the pile of scraps I must make something cute again 😉 And getting distracted from my own creative patterns lead to new visions. So “suffering with cute” is not a bad way to get there 😉
When I am making any new designs I have someone in my mind. Usually it is a singer or actor, sometimes a friend. This time it was a friend. We went to meet with Marjut – a friend that moved away from Helsinki – on November and I wanted to design something just for her.
Waxed chord is one of the things I really like on polymer clay necklaces. It is both soft and hard – depending on stringing. She likes to wear long necklaces and is very fond of reds and violets. Also she is the kind of person who likes fresh flowers and candles so I wanted to make her something colorful with hint of oriental feeling in it. This is the design I came up to.
This is not the actual necklace I ended up giving her – I made parts for two different necklaces and on spur of the moment decided that the violet one is more her. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures from it. A common mistake I keep repeating 😉
My studio is on a building where there are several other artists too. Yesterday I was talking about 80´s jewelry trends coming back with ceramist friend of mine.
“Metallic things! And animals. Tigers. Lions…” said she
“Yes, and lizard. And octopus.” I continued
“You should make an octopus with clay!”
And so I did.
Project is from PCA, Project by Syndee Holt
Project video had several different bangle ideas. I made one with Perfect Pearls (instead of Pearl Ex), texture sheet and paint. I wanted to have just some subtle coloring on rised areas instead of stronger ones.
I was not that happy with the project. Too commercial looking and somewhat bit too “bling” for my own taste.
How ever I still tried something of more “me” with that technique. I did not have the patience to spend much time blending the molded fossils to the base, was just playing.
Clarity of instructions: 9+
Difficulty: Beginner projects
What did I learn: I could see myself using both metallic powders and paint in one project. Maybe. Although I am not still bling person 😉
Image: Cocepts, photo project I started 2014.
One part of my New Years resolution is to dedicate more time for “basic level claying” this year. As I am really lousy at self discipline I signed up to
PCA Virtual Retreat Experience which will have 22 virtual workshops in year 2015. I tend to do each and every project weather I like it or not. It actually was cheap – 100$ – and although the technical interface of the site is not the most modern and usable one I have seen, I think this will be worth every penny. You might also want to buy access especially if you are new to claying. It is marvelous concept and accessible to everyone anywhere in the world.
Those of you who know me might still wonder why. The target audience for that is not necessarily professional clayers, and you have seen me using most of those techniques and methods for over a decade now. So why? I am there to play scales and do boring stuff. I don’t mean to offend anyone with being blunt honest about this: I am bored with most beginner projects even when they are my own design meant for my own students. They don’t tickle my inner artist who seems to have grande visions(tm).
It is also a good way to go trough multiple techniques during the year and possibly find some that actually intrigue me enough to be studied in greater detail. Lots of techniques have more possibilities than I have seen so far. Like mokume gane – I know about 7 or 8 different ways to make it happen. I usually teach two different ways to my students. But there are still some possibilities and designs that I have not even tried. My old sketch books have ideas written into them – never tested. A year is a long time and it is very possible that some ideas or techniques will eventually occupy most of my time. So – if I intend to actually have some structure for this year – I need to have something keeping me on track even when ideas lead me somewhere else.
Those projects don’t take much more than 1-2 hours in general. I have wasted hours on way more useless things so this is what I think I need to do. I don´t intend to make super finished items either. To me the intention is just to do it and move on. And if something is way cooler and inspiring than anticipated I sure will rant about that too. But my intention is strictly practical like playing scales on piano.
Another question, very politely asked from me, is if I am going to teach what I learn this year. Yes, and no. I always have been very honest to everyone about my way of teaching. I learn techniques, make own projects for my students, have a twist or completely own way of doing stuff. Some things – like Skinner blends etc – I teach away but never without naming my sources or without telling the origin of something. But what goes to actual project or someones trade mark technique I do not teach them. Ever. Fortunately I don’t even have to – I have enough tricks in my own sleeve not having to go so low. But yes, if I get crazy inspired to make lots of bangles (or whatever) from a workshop I might eventually end up making a bangle workshop for my students here too. With my own designs, incorporating what I learn to those things I already have done for ages.
And if that happens I promise I will give credit where credit is due and if I feel even a bit insecure if it does not fit into Copyright Guidelines for Polymer Clay Artists I sure will be in contact of the original teachers.
And now you know my baseline so I can refer you here later.
And you also know that my rants are VERY long. Congrats for getting to the end of this
I visited Tommi Toijas exhibition Mutatis Mutandis at Amos Anderson Art Museum twice. The second time it was last day of the exhibition. The museum was quiet and I truly had time to stop and feel everything.
Black clay, odd human figures, plenty of pastel pink/orange glazing both matte and shiny. Lots of emotions – Strangers standing by each other in huge room without taking direct eye contact to any other human figures in that room. Reacting in their own isolation to things unknown to viewer.
I don’t know if I understand any of it but it still felt true and inspiring.
I knew I had to do something with rough surfaces and colors from his work. I did not want to use paint so I made several technical tests until I was able to use thinned out polymer clay both as base and paint.
This two-sided pendant is what came out of that.
“Tommi Toija”, 2014
Polymer clay, metallic wire
“I have to get into shopping center clearance sale with my teenager to get her some new clothes” I vented to him. He said “do a photo project out of it”.
And so I did.