Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild Auction

Who doesn’t like to take classes with nationally known artists? Now, imagine doing it for free. You can if you’re a member of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild and you  come to one of our meetings where we present an artist from our Guest Artist Program.

Jana Roberts Benzon, Barbara McGuireChristie Friesen, Julie Picarello, and Dayle Doroshow are just some of the Guest Artists we have hosted at our Guild meetings.  The artist might teach a Master Class for tuition paying Guild members on the Saturday before our regular meeting in addition to demonstrating at the Sunday Guild meeting, or just come to the Guild meeting. In both cases, the Guild pays the teacher’s fees for the Sunday meeting out of money raised from member dues and  Guild fundraisers like the upcoming auction.

Can you imagine getting more bang for your buck than joining the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild?   No other guild in the country has a program like this. If you’d like to join,  go, to our web site,  and follow the instructions.  Dues are $40.00 for the coming year.

Our upcoming Art Raffle will be at our June Meeting.  You can  support this great program by bidding on wonderful items donated by local and nationally known artists.     You don’t need to be a member to attend the raffle in person.   Plus you ‘ll be able to view many of the items online May 31 and even buy and allocate your raffle tickets online if you can’t attend the meeting!   Visit our website on May 31. We hope to raise $800 to finance two Guest Artist visits with the auction. We are still accepting donations.  Please email Terri if you would like to make a donation.

Here’s what I’m donating. I’ll be bidding too!


Same time last year Life’s Rich Fabric

The Story of Shari’s Rainbow

I don’t like to remember people on the day they died; I’d rather remember them on their birthday. It seems happier somehow. My sister-in-Law Shari Baskin was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1950 and died last September in Baltimore at the age of 58. She moved to Baltimore with her family in 1955, rarely traveled and worked in retail for most of her life.

Shari was known among her friends and family as generous person. Once my husband Ken admired a leather jacket she was wearing and she took it off and gave it to him. She dearly loved Max, her only nephew, and made sure his holidays and birthdays were filled with gifts. She did the same for her family and friends.  She asked for little in return save loyalty and honesty, because she always suspected that any generosity paid to her came with hidden conditions she would be expected to fulfill without warning.

Shari’s parents were good people, but damaged by their families. Shari’s mother was incapable of respecting Shari’s boundaries because of her own tortured personal history. She loved Shari very much, but she constantly worried and fretted about Shari, projecting her own fears onto her daughter in an effort to shield her from hurt and disappointment. She thought this was love, but Shari experienced it as an attempt to control, and her response was to cut herself off emotionally and sometimes physically.

Shari’s mother saw her children as an extension of herself and didn’t understand that they were separate people.  She was terrified that they would be hurt by life. She worked hard to prevent this and her efforts manifested themselves in ways she did not foresee. For example, she got frantic with anxiety and exploded into anger every time when her children took steps toward becoming independent. How many of us are afraid of success and sleepwalking through life because of a dynamic like this? How many of us are so terrified our children will be hurt that we won’t let go and we call this love?

For years, Shari only dated men who were emotionally unavailable. She never let a man get close to her until she met Ray, her life partner for the better part of fifteen years. They were both complicated people, battered by life. Their relationship was far from idyllic. But they could relate to one another on a level few people could understand.

Ray was in a motorcycle accident that left him a paraplegic in August 2007.  He was still in the hospital and Shari had just moved their belongings into a wheel chair accessible apartment when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2008. When Ray died in April, Shari moved in with her mother to take care of her because she, too, had lung cancer. Her mother died in May. Then Shari began to change.

The changes weren’t obvious at first. She spent every day sitting on the porch, thinking. Ken, who relocated to Baltimore to take care of Shari, didn’t interrupt her or try to control her. He didn’t try to make her talk. He didn’t insist that she was sick and should be in bed. He didn’t get angry when she started smoking again.

And another thing happened. Instead of abandoning her, her friends lined up to help. All the favors, hospitality and gifts she had spread among those around her over the years started to come back to her. Shari never asked for anything, because she never expected to receive anything unless she paid a dear emotional price. But her friends and relatives wanted to give back and asked nothing in return. Shari was mystified, but too sick to refuse. So she accepted help for the first time in her life. And as the weeks passed, her view of the world shifted. She was recreating everything she had believed.

Shari didn’t change because her mother died. We all have the power to change and Shari was no different. Shari didn’t change because she was dying. I have seen more than one person die repeating the same insane mantras they recited though their lives. Was it religious?  I never asked her if she believed in God. In the end, I don’t know why Shari changed. Maybe it was because she accepted the fact that unconditional love can exist and under the direst of circumstances.

Even though we knew Shari’s death was close, Ken and I took her to Nags Head, North Carolina that August. Ken’s son Max and his wife Leigh rented a beach house for all of us. Shari spent most of her time outside looking at the beach and the ocean. We didn’t need to do anything. Being together was enough.

A few days after Shari died, her friends, Sandeye and Phil Jurus went to a restaurant for dinner. Both were grieving terribly and Phil prayed for Shari to send him a sign that she was all right. As they left the restaurant, Phil noticed that it had rained while they were inside, and he looked up at the sky. He saw something that he feels was Shari telling  him  she was at peace. Here is the picture he took:

This time last year.

Sanding Polymer Clay Beads in a Rock Tumbler

I’ve seen so many questions about this technique on the Internet that  I had to share what I’ve learned from my experiments.

I prefer vibratory tumblers  to rolling tumblers because they’re quieter and work more quickly.   Plus, they are less likely to distort the shape of the beads. When my beloved Vibratech tumbler (no longer made) gave out earlier this year, I researched vibratory tumblers and  liked what I read about the Raytech brand. You can read more about Raytech tumblers here.

As you probably know, vibratory tumblers can be expensive, but Raytech makes a hobby-sized model that won’t break the bank.   I chose the Raytech TV-5 Complete Vibratory Tumbler Kit from 1 because they had the best price and it comes with a spare bowl and bolt.  

3 I tumble my baked beads with Bon Ami cleanser and water.  I got the idea from a post on  Glass Attic.  I don’t just finish my beads this way; this is the only sanding they get. Of course, if you have a real bumpy bead, you probably need to whip out the sandpaper, but I’ve found that the Bon Ami tumbling method works on hand-formed beads, extruded beads, beads made with bead rollers and it puts a nice finish on most shapes, including disc and lentil, and carved faux beads.  I always drill after I tumble.

4aI wait until I have a bowlful of beads and I put them 4bin the container (which looks like a bunt pan) with about half a can of the cleanser. I pour in enough water to make a slip-like substance that coats the beads. What smooths the beads is the abrasive action of the Bon Ami and the beads vibrating (rolling actually) into one another. If you have too much water, there’s not enough abrasive action.  Too little water, and the beads become embedded in cleanser muck and won’t move.  

The Raytech TV-5 is low tech.  You turn it on and off by plugging and unplugging it.  I sit mine on a cement floor in the basement. It has a clear plastic top that screws on with a rubber and metal bolt.  It’s important to screw the bolt on tightly for two reasons: First, the tighter it is, the quieter the tumbler runs. Secondly, the water will evaporate more slowly allowing you to leave the tumbler on for 12-24 hours at a stretch.

I check my beads every 12 hours or so,  unplugging the tumbler first, taking out a bead, rinsing all the cleanser off, feeling the surface and noting the shape. If I decide to continue tumbling, I might add water if the bowl contents are too dry or a bit more cleanser if the bowl contents are too wet.

Whether the beads get another tumble depends on how smooth they are. There is no exact recipe; each batch is different and things like bead shape and humidity (which affects how fast the water will evaporate) influence the process.  You have to experiment and see what works for you.

When the beads are as smooth as I like, I dump the contents of the bowl 5into a dishpan filled with water and dislodge as much of the cleanser as I can. Then I put the beads in a big mesh strainer and rinse off more cleanser.  I put them back in the bowl (which I have cleaned) and tumble them for a day in water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. The cleanser will get into small cracks (usually in faux beads) and this process removes most of it. Sometimes I finish cleaning any cracks with a toothbrush, but I’m not obsessive about it. This is supposed to be a work saving technique after all.    bead

It is very important to dry the beads and get as much of the white haze off of them as you reasonably can before buffing.   I buff the beads with a high-speed buffer and a muslin wheel.   The result is the nice shiny finish.   beads


The left picture shows an experiment: untumbled baked beads (front) and other shapes made from the same clay  that were tumbled and polished on a high-speed buffer. The beads on the right were tumbled and buffed.

 Why use Bon Ami instead of tumbling grit?  You can pour your waste water down the drain for one thing.  And the grit is made for stones.  The Bon Ami might take longer, but you won’t have to check as often and you are less likely to ruin your beads.  If you have any doubts about the capability of Bon Ami cleanser and water to remove baked clay from beads, look at the picture below.  The two beads were identical and the one on the right spent a few days in the tumbler.


Inspiration is Everywhere

I find inspiration in the strangest places. I spent a day in a boring seminar at the Philadelphia Convention Center staring at the patterns in the carpet and spent the night making geometric canes. The outside light sconces on a neighborhood apartment building are evolving into a pair of earrings in my brain. Patinas on weathered metal gates and fixtures make me think of new ways to finish metal. Bark on a tree can look like nubby raw silk fabric. Plaster ornamentation on old buildings makes me wonder about the workers who put it there and what their lives were like. I like to roam around taking pictures of odd bits of Philadelphia. I see something new whenever I look. I love to travel, but there’s plenty of inspiration in my own back yard. Maybe these pictures will inspire you to start looking more closely at your everyday surroundings.

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Art News Philadelphia and Beyond


Calling all artists: Take Part in the Artists & Art Materials USA 2009 Survey and Help the Art Community! Raise money for visual-arts scholarships, help advocacy for art education and funding, and gain a chance to win one of five $100 art materials store gift certificates by completing the survey online at

The results of this survey will be compiled as part of the landmark report on art materials and artists in the United States : “Artists & Art Materials USA 2009,” to be announced in Fall 2009. An executive summary will be made available to all survey participants. The consumer survey is open to artists working in all areas, including oil paintings, acrylic paintings, watercolors, pastel drawings, pencil, ink, or marker drawings, mixed media or collage, murals or wall art, handmade books, cards, or scrapbooks, functional art, three-dimensional art, conceptual or installation art, communication art or graphic design, digital art, quilting arts, fiber arts, and more.

Survey for Art Materials Suppliers
Survey forArt Materials Retailers
NAMTA  is donating $1 for the first 2,000 completed surveys to visual-arts scholarships through the NAMTA Foundation for the Visual Arts.  Survey participants will be eligible to win one of five $100 gift certificates to an art materials store. Participants must register to receive the executive summary and to enter the sweepstakes by clicking on the link on the thank you page after submitting their completed survey. The sweepstakes and executive summary sign-up is separate from the survey to keep the survey
anonymous. All survey responses will be kept anonymous .

Philadelphia Open Studios Tours is on again for the fall. If you didn’t apply May 1, your studio can’t be on the tour this year.   If you can’t open your studio to the public, be sure to attend in the fall.  It’s lots of fun. Press here for more information.

fIf you want to see what’s cooking  for the summer at Philadelphia’s Fleisher Art Memorial, press  here.

While you’re at it, check out one of my favorite Internet art sites, Wet Canvas.