I’ve been grappling with the idea of giving up teaching polymer clay for Lifetime Learning Institute. It’s a big commitment: six two-hour classes with a project for each class. I’m challenged to come up with new projects for each term as a number of participants have taken previous classes. I have one project planned for Fall–the light and fan pulls pictured. But coming up with five more projects felt daunting.
My process has involved trying out projects, making prototypes, and developing detailed handouts. It’s a lot of work. But I enjoy teaching and enabling people to discover the wonders of polymer clay. What’s most fun is seeing people express their creativity, sometimes surprising themselves.
So, I’ve been torn. Last week I posted my dilemma on an online polymer clay group I belong to. Where can I find low-cost or free projects with step-by-step directions? While there are plenty of tutorials available online, many come with restrictions as to how they can be used.
One of the online group’s members Maria, responded to my post saying she has an Etsy shop where she sells tutorials. She invited me to visit the shop and pick out a tutorial and she’ll email me a copy to use free of charge. What a thoughtful and generous offer. Of course I’m taking her up on it, and I’ve invited her to pick a tutorial from my Etsy shop as well.
Besides helping me satisfy a specific need, her offer has gotten me excited about teaching again. Just the boost I needed.
I just learned that Maria, the creator of the tutorials, sells delightfully whimsical steampunk ornaments. Check out her Etsy shop Steampunk Christmas. I had to order the rocking horse–sorry, it was the last one.
It’s been a month since I touched polymer clay. Play-Doh doesn’t count. You see, Tim and I were deployed to Florida. Our assignment: live-in grandparents. When I had a chance to chill, I practiced Zentangle. (See the many boards on Pinterest if you’re not familiar with it.) It helped keep my creative muscles from cramping up. But I need my polymer clay.
No picture for this week’s blog post. The intended post sported several, but WordPress & I aren’t getting along so well right now. Might not have pictures next week, either.
Just a few items in the boneyard.
“You’ll never get stronger in your comfort zone.” That bit of wisdom is from Heron Baggett, owner of Sherpa Fitness, the fitness boot camp Tim and I go to three times a week. With Heron’s guidance and encouragement, Tim and I do things we never imagined we could, things like the aptly named “burpees.” And we have to admit we wouldn’t be where we are if we’d hung out in our comfort zone.
When it comes to creative projects, I get restless in my comfort zone. Consequently in my studio is a boneyard of failed projects. The Zentangle cat Christmas ornament, prototypes for the gecko switchplate tutorial featuring my grand “bargello breaktrhough”, Donna Kato’s translucent overlay beads from her book The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiori Techniques. And if I dig deep enough in my scrap clay, I’ll come across the leaf canes–seven to be exact–I made many years ago for a cane swap. Actually, there are only six in the scrap clay. The seventh attempt, not much of an improvement over the other six, I called good.
Sometimes I’ll return to a failed project and take another stab at it. Judith Skinner’s calla earrings, from The Art of Jewelry: Polymer Clay, edited by Katherine Duncan Aimone, are a good example. I struggled with them, then left them alone. I went back to them a few years later and made a number of them. Some I’ve given away. They actually sold well when I was into selling jewelry.
Another project I set aside then returned to was my Glamourdillo earrings.
Watch this space as I’ll probably resurrect the Zentangle cat, etc. While writing this blog post I really got into failure. I’ll write more about one of my favorite failed projects in a later post.
No polymer clay pictures this week. I’m overworking my photographer doing photos for my Cactus Buddies Ornament tutorial.
It’s not as straightforward a project as I’d like. Thought we were almost finished, then I had a brilliant idea that means we’ll re-shoot almost every picture. But I love the new approach–instead of just wrapping the cactus with plain old wire, I’m making faux barbed wire.
I first made cactus ornaments seven or eight years ago. Liked them a lot so I decided to create a tutorial. But sometimes I find in the creative process that “finished” is an elusive concept. The better way to do something might be lurking and waiting to pounce–you hope before the project is irretrievably finished.
I’m reminded of Mark Twain who wasn’t always satisfied with his published work. So when he presented readings, the excerpt would often be a revision.
This led me to think about the recent landing of Philae, the little robot lander that was dropped on a comet after travelling aboard the orbiter Rosetta four billion miles over 10 years. Philae is no bigger than a washing machine, and before it lost power it gathered abundant information about the origins of the solar system.
What this brings to mind is, imagine being an engineer who helped develop the spacecraft. In 10 years, how many times would you think of things you could have done differently? I mean, really, 10 years is a long time. It makes me glad I’m doing polymer clay, not space missions. For me, it’s often possible to go back to something I once considered “finished.”
“Don’t copy!” Do those words take you back to grade school? I haven’t heard them for many years, and I think at some point I purged them from my subconscious.
I’ve come to think that “originality” is over-rated and largely mythical. Let’s face it. We don’t create in a vacuum. We’re influenced by everything that’s going on around us.
Allowing myself to imitate–whether it’s a technique, project or color palette–frees me. Imitating is just a springboard. I always find I want to take things in a different direction.
The light and fan pulls above are a good example. I had made a very nice leaf cane for the Lifetime Learning Institute class I was teaching. The leaf reminded me of drum beads made by Karen Lewis, who goes my the name Klew.
I actually started out making a bead. It was going to be one of several on a necklace. But the bead was humongous. The scrap clay I was using was the equivalent of a third of a package of clay (about two-thirds of an ounce).
The first one I made I painted with Folk Art Metallic Antique Copper. Once the paint dried, I applied the clay vines and leaves and inserted the chain. I cured the pull on Fiber Fill, which was a mistake. It caused the clay to darken.
The second pull I painted with a blend of DecoArt Americana Raw Sienna and Apple Barrel Flesh. For some reason the clay appliques would not stick without Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS). I cured this one on cardboard so the clay colors didn’t shift.
I plan to use the light pull as a project for my Spring Lifetime Learning Institute class.
When I was making jewelry and home decor items to sell, I strove to stay ahead of color and style trends. “Strove” is the key word as I didn’t enjoy it. I still run across boxes of polymer clay blends with labels like “Spring Colors 2012.” I’m reminded of how I felt back then when “what will sell?” trumped “what inspires me?” It didn’t take me long to decide selling products wasn’t for me. I’m not opposed to making money, but I’d rather feed my muse, Sara, whose appetites lean toward creating and teaching.
So recently I taught a class in which we appliqued jar lids with polymer clay. I’ve made several, including one in what I call my Taco Bell palette–not the colors in the bell but in the border on the building. Classic southwestern: purple sage, avocado, maize and terra cotta. And Tim made a lid in sunny southwestern colors.
Never mind that southwestern was yesterday’s trend. The colors and style speak to us, and that’s what matters.
McKenna arranged thick cane slices in an artistic pattern.
Enlarge this photo & you’ll see that Bonnie achieved precision in her canework.
Katie made a 5-color Skinner blend for some of her canes.
I took some polymer clay, blades, and acrylic roller to a family reunion, hosted in Hurricane, Utah, by my niece Carol and her husband, Bill. I didn’t know if I’d actually do anything with the clay, but we had some down time while my sister-in-law Nevelle made a peach pie (just one of the reunion’s many diet-busting delights). So I introduced the clay to my nephew’s wife, Bonnie, and their two granddaughters McKenna and Katie.
What a blast. I taught a few basics: conditioning; making a Skinner blend by hand using the teardrop method; and making, reducing, and slicing various canes. I resisted the urge to micro-manage, and they took off with it. They had their admirers, too, as folks gathered around to watch them discover and reveal the magic of polymer clay. My brother, Tom, captured the pictures.
The clay I took was a 12-pack of Sculpey’s new Souffle. I hadn’t yet tried it, and I can’t imagine I’ll have a use for it in the future. It’s almost as soft as biscuit dough, which makes it easy to condition, but in reducing canes one color will blend into the next or vanish altogether. That said, it worked for our purposes.
. . . three to go.
Every season has its charms. I say that even as this writing takes place on the thirteenth straight day of 100 and 100+ degree temperatures. What charms me are the changes in color and light and mood. So I was inspired to make polymer clay masks for the four seasons. For some reason I can’t remember, I started with Fall. Using a plastic mask as a mold, I made an oven-proof papier mache mold which I covered with foil. I was ready to crank out those masks.
My first Fall mask was going pretty well. After curing, it needed more embellishment, which I added and then popped the mask back in the oven. I neglected, however, to put it on the papier mache mold. When I opened the oven the mask was in about 20 pieces.
The mask in the picture is the second permutation. I’m quite fond of it.
My next attempt was Winter. It lies in a half-moribund state in a drawer. I really do intend to finish it some day, even Spring and Summer. Don’t watch for them in blog posts anytime soon, though. According to my notes, I made the Fall mask in 2007. At that rate . . .
I used to buy my husband pickled okra just because I loved him. The hot spicy variety Tim likes isn’t always readily available so finding it required some diligence on my part, in other words love in action. Admittedly now, my motive has changed. I still love him, but my ulterior motive for buying his okra is that I want the jars. I’m becoming a pickled okra pusher.
It all happened after I developed a decorated jar lid project for my upcoming Lifetime Learning Institute class. I was inspired by the appliqued lids in Maureen Carlson’s book, Clay Techniques With a Pasta Machine, a little book jam-packed with basic techniques and good ideas.
Anyway, now I have it in my head that decorated jars filled with Tim’s homemade granola will be ideal hostess gifts. So I’m counting on Tim to produce granola and consume pickled okra. (I considered trying to acquire a taste for okra myself, but it’s not going to happen.)