How are people inspired by history, landscape,  myth and memory?   On a cold night in November, some lucky people got to peek into the mind of fashion designer  Mary McFadden and find out. After the  Moore College of Art tapped  McFadden for its 2008 Visionary Woman award and presented an exhibition of her designs and selections from her personal textile and jewelry collection, McFadden reciprocated,   delivering  a slide show and lecture on the creative process behind her ethereal, feminine fashion collections.

“I travel,” she said, “take thousands of pictures, buy sixty books and then go back home and read them all. Then I design the collection in a half hour.” The audience gasped. “But it takes a long time to get to that point!” she exclaimed.42

Her inspiration came from everywhere: The Elgin Marbles, Pre Colombian pottery, Japanese, African and Middle Eastern textiles. She pointed out that while the pleating found in many of her clothes resembles  ancient Greek robes, they are also reminiscent of a a dessert terrain’s wind blown sands.   The motifs she painted on her clothes came from looking at ocean waves, the sky, and bird’s wings. One look at her clothes and you understand.  But she did a lot of looking and thinking before she put pencil to paper. That was the most important concept I came away with.

Here are some more pictures from the exhibit.

Canes, Canes and More Canes

I initially tried polymer clay because of its amenability to caning techniques.  I had always loved African Trading Beads and wanted to try my hand at millefore.  No matter what I do with polymer clay, I always find myself coming back to caning.

So when my copy of Donna Kato’s eagerly awaited new book, The Art of Polymer Clay Millefiore Techniques came in the mail, I snuck off and read it from cover to cover.


You don’t need intricate canes to have a pleasing design. The simple caned necklaces below were inspired by a design I saw in South Africa.  I learned the spiral and jelly roll cane techniques from Donna Kato’s demos and classes.


Continue reading “Canes, Canes and More Canes”

Klay Kismet

A couple of years ago, I spent a few days at Arlene Groch’s house claying nonstop alongside Arlene, Ellen Marshall and Melanie West. During the course of the claying frenzy, I made some bracelets with long beads usinga variety of techniques.


In October, Barbara McGuire taught a master class in Philadelphia and was the guest artist at the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s monthly meeting. She saw my bracelets and remarked that I had used oneof the stamps she designed. Then I remembered admiring one of Arlene’s stamps and using it to texture some of the beads.  Arlene bought the stamp on Barbara’s web site.


Barbara McGuire is the author of two of my all time favorite polymer clay books,Foundations in Polymer Clay Design and Wire in Design. So I was  looking forward   to her demo at the meeting.  I was not disappointed.  And the members who took her face canes class gave it rave reviews. The Guest Artist Program is one of the best perks of PAPCG membership.

If you want to see pictures from the meeting, go to the guild’s Flickr site. If you’re in Philadelphia this weekend, try to catch the  PMA Craft show where Melanie West is participating as an emerging artist.

And not for the last bit of Klay Kismet:  Arlene happened to go to school with my boss.  How Kool is that?

Dorothy Renc Gray

Dorothy’s favorite method of working with polymer clay is to model it until she feels a form emerge, much the way nature works. It’s no surprise then, that she was always drawn to objects altered by nature’s processes: twigs, leaves, beach glass and stone. She didn’t stumble on polymer clay until a few years ago when she used Sculpey to make a head for a figure she was fashioning from driftwood. Polymer clay intrigued her so much that she joined the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild to learn more. One meeting and she was hooked. Sound familiar?

I always admired Dorothy’s work, but I think she found her polymer clay voice after she took a Guild-sponsored class with Jeff Dever. You be the judge. Enjoy the slide show.

More on Hearts

I watched The Jewelry Making Professor’s Puffy Heart tutorial and recommend it to all my beading friends who want to learn how to make the Puffy Heart. The video is sharply filmed and the viewer is right on top of the beading action. The Professor describes each step as she makes the heart, and you can follow along and pause the video when you need to. While this is not a beginner’s project the video has some clever ideas to help it along, like laying out the beads in groups for each step. The Professor also recommends using bigger (6mm) crystals while learning the project-a good idea when you are trying any new beading technique.

As an added bonus, The Jewelry Making Professor shows two methods for attaching the heart to a chain; one by making a beaded bail and the other with jump rings. If you want to learn to make Puffy Hearts, this is the perfect video for you.

When you’ve made a few dozen hearts and are wondering what to do with them, go to Suzanne Golden’s site for inspiration. Don’t get so excited by all her fabulous beadwork that you miss what she does with her hearts. Thanks to my friend Jeri Schatz for telling me about this wonderful web site.