ArtSci Designs

I made my way to the home of ArtSci Designs this weekend for an open house and to see the beautiful polymer jewelry that my friend Terri makes in her Conshohocken studio.

Terri is a scientist who spends most of her days looking at the microverse through a scanning electron microscope. She translates the microverse into art you can wear. Here are just a few of her creations: bracelets in a color for everyone. She makes other kinds of jewelry, too-earrings, pendants, and necklaces mixing in sterling chains and findings, semi precious gems and handmade glass beads.

Terri has a lot of shows scheduled in the Northeast in the coming months. Follow ArtSci Designs on Instagram here, or Facebook here, to see where she’ll land next.

Some New Polymer Clay Products to Try

People are always asking me what’s the best polymer clay to try, where can I get ideas for polymer clay projects, where can I buy polymer clay, and what are the best polymer clay tutorials?

The best polymer clay for you depends on what you’re using it for. Everyone knows that Sculpey III is soft and not very durable when cured. But it comes in a rainbow of colors. It’s best suited for children’s projects.

Cernit is becoming more popular in the United States and for a good reason. The array of colors are stunning, and it is sturdy and beautiful when cured properly.

Kato Polyclay is known for its strength and ability to hold its shape making it ideal for caning. I’ve used Kato clay in the past with great success. It can be a little challenging to condition, but the results are worth it.

I generally use Premo Sculpey which is durable, flexible, and very strong when properly cured. I blend my own colors, although they do have a large number of colors for people who don’t care to mix their own.

You end up with scrap when you work with polymer. There’s really no such thing as “waste clay” because everything can be used. But sometimes I forget to separate my colors (here’s a video showing how that’s done) and I end up with a lot of mud.

So I was thrilled when Donna Kato announced a new product, Kato Blackout Clay, at Clayathon. (Here’s the video.) Blackout clay turns any color of polymer clay to black. I’m always using black. I was excited!

But was there a problem? Like I said, I use mostly Premo which cures at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Kato clay cures at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. How would the blended clay hold up if I mixed them together? My friend Patty came over the other week and mixed up a bunch of clay and we tested. Here are the results.

We mixed Kato Blackout clay with Premo. The Kato was 12.5% by size. (I trust Patty on this. She can recite Avogadro’s Law from memory. And it’s been a long time since high school.) She cut out 1 1/2 ” circles of thicknesses ranging from #1 on my Atlas pasta machine (about 1/8″) to #9 (thinnest setting). We baked them on a tile at 275 F for an hour, let them cool, and then I tried to destroy them. I could not.

As you can see, I was able to bend each circle almost in half. I don’t have a picture of the thinnest disc, but believe me, it didn’t break. I don’t recommend you do this with all of your clay, but I wanted to see how well the Premo and Kato Blackout clay worked together. The answer is, “just fine.”

I also tried a little of the Kato Liquid Gold clay. I smeared some on some previously-cured Premo clay and liked the effect.

You can buy Kato Blackout Clay and Kato Liquid Gold here.

Clayathon Online 2022

A lot of planning went into Clayathon 2022. We had an incredible team of volunteers who worked together seamlessly, who supported one another, and made it happen. With registrants exceeding 450 this year, I was concerned about how we would handle them all on a Zoom meeting. But there were no problems. Everything and everyone came together.

The sense of community was palpable. Although most Clayathon registrants came from the United States and Canada, a number of registrants from Russia, who came to us via polymer artists Juliya Laukhina and Olga Guseva, joined us. It seems surreal in light of recent events that less than two weeks ago we were together online sharing tips, techniques, and talking about our personal histories and sources of inspiration.

From Juliya’s presentation
From Olga’s presentation

Donna Kato and Anna Ko of the Van Aken Clay Company dropped by to show off some exciting new products. Their video just went live on YouTube and here’s the link.

Wendy Moore joined us live from Australia where, aided by Kathleen Dustin and Cynthia Tinapple, she educated us on the history of Samunnat in Nepal, which is an organization dedicated to empowering Nepalese women who have experienced violence or abuse to become financially independent. One of the programs Samunnat sponsors is teaching women to make and sell polymer jewelry. You can support this wonderful program by buying some of this jewelry for yourself. More information here.

The Gathering grew out of an interview of polymer artist Debbie Jackson by Cynthia Tinapple after the murder of George Floyd. Debbie issued a call to action and assembled a group of 14 polymer artists, 7 white and 7 black. They met weekly on Zoom to have hard, unflinching conversations about race, society, and the impact it had on their lives and art. In October, 2021, they opened a group show, Truth Be Told, at the Two Villages Art Society Gallery in Contoocook, NH. For the exhibit, each artist chose a word that she felt related to the topics discussed in the conversations and created a piece of polymer art around it.

Several of the Gathering artists joined us online at Clayathon to discuss the exhibit and their contributions to it. It was a moving, challenging presentation.

Syndee’s New Tips and Tricks

We ended Clayathon on a lighter note with an entertaining presentation by Syndee Holt on what’s new on the polymer horizon and what’s trending in general.

I wrote about Loretta Lam’s incredible presentations in last week’s post. If you are interested in purchasing her jewelry or her book on jewelry design (which I heartily recommend,) press here.

Clayathon Goes Virtual

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Normally, the articles I’ve posted after the annual Clayathon conference are heavy on photographs.   But this year, we took Clayathon online because the pandemic made gathering at the Stockton Seaview an impossibility.  None of us had ever hosted an online conference before.  There was a lot to learn!  In the end, we went for three days and had more than 300 people in attendance via Zoom from all over the globe.  That’s 300 people at one time watching our guest artist Carol Blackburn in two live streams from London each day and our end of the day presenter Syndee Holt, live each day from San Diego, California.  That’s an 8 hour difference for those of you who are wondering. Carol shared a screen in Zoom with her work surface.  Everyone got a clear view. People could ask questions in the chat box.  After Carol’s demos, there were pdf handouts for paid registrants

Pit Crew including
Meeting of the pit crew

In the middle, we had presenters from the Eastern Standard time zone:  A panel discussion with Lindly Haunani, Laura Tabakman and Kathleen Dustin on the impact the pandemic has had on their art,  a live tour of Kathleen Dustin’s studio in the woods of New Hampshire and a presentation by Loretta Lam on her book (which I highly recommend) Mastering Contemporary Jewelry Design.  In the afternoon, we had breakout rooms in Zoom where people could mingle, socialize and trade ideas. 

My work station

None of this happened by accident.  We’ve been planning virtual Clayathon 2021 for months.  We had great people on the crew.  For more information, go to our web site where you can read all about Clayathon.  Be sure to visit the shop where you can buy art from many of the teachers who taught workshops in the days before and after Clayathon.

Clayathon in full swing with screens and screens of participants
Valentine’s Day morning.

Pottery in Progress

Clayathon starts this Friday, so I haven’t had much time to go to the studio lately. Today, I decided to decorate a set of nesting bowls with underglaze.

I think I’ll be better able to concentrate when Clayathon is over, although it should be lots of fun. If you’re curious about the polymer side of clay, check us out at Clayathon.org.

Transitions: Mary Federici

South Jersey Clayathon started in 2005 as a small weekend get together for a group of people from different walks of life united by their love of polymer clay. It has grown to one of the preeminent polymer events in the US, last year attended by 130 people. I have been going to Clayathon since the beginning and am involved with the plans to take the event to a virtual platform in 2021 because of the pandemic.

You don’t attend an annual event all those years without making friendships. So we were all devastated to learn of the death of Mary Federici on September 20th. She never missed a Clayathon.

Hamming it up at the first Clayathon. Arlene Groch is in the front, Emily Squires Levine is left. Mary is at the rear.
Mary at Clayathon 2019

Mary was always good for a laugh. A typical story: one year when she was dating a plumber, she brought a length of heavy pipe to Clayathon that she used to whack the hell out of hard bricks of polymer to soften them for conditioning. “My persuader,” she called it.

We will all miss her.

Coming Together at Clayathon

Polymer artist Lindly Haunani is currently in the hospital with multiple severe injuries she suffered in a car accident last week. She is going to have a very long, painful, expensive recovery.

Lindly was scheduled to teach a class at Clayathon which started yesterday.  Her friend and collaborator Maggie Maggio is flying in to teach Lindly’s class for her.

The Clayathon participants have planned some extra conference activities in support of Lindly.

Watch the Creative Journey Studios website here   for exciting news about Sue and Ellen’s ambitious long term project, “52 Weeks for Lindly”.

Most importantly, Cynthia Tinapple has created a Go Fund Me page for Lindly here. Please support Lindly’s Page on your social media and email it to your contacts, and make a donation if you can.

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

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These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

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Another example

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So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

No Work and All Clay

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Clayathon logo by Robin  Milne

Clayathon starts in a few days and it won’t be too soon for me.  The hotel where we hold it was sold last year  and ensuing renovations meant we had to move Clayathon from February to April.  Nicer weather but too long a wait!  Fortunately, Clayathon will return to its February time slot next year and make that dreary month seem a little less miserable.

Here are some pictures from last years’ Clayathon.

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Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War at Clayathon

I am cleaning out my workshop for two reasons.  The first one is to clear out things I will probably never use like all that novelty yarn that looked so pretty at the time, and all those unopened stamp pads that I acquired from various rubber stamping conventions,  goody bags and sales too hard to resist.

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Yarn

These items and many others are now packed in bags on my workshop  floor, ready to be taken to Clayathon for the Junque Table.  This is my second reason for clearing things out.  Because clearing out your workshop is so much easier if you know that your former treasures will find new life with someone else.

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The Clayathon Junque Table is a time-honored Clayathon tradition and the brainchild of Sherman Oberson, a serious collector of Junque, oddities, taxidermy and various art supplies.  Sherman invites Clayathon attendees  to sort through their supplies and bring anything from the “unwanted” category, the “no longer needed” category,  and the “OMG what was I thinking? category” to Clayathon where he and his crafty pack of  minions sort through everything,  The really desirable or costly items go into the auction.  The remainder go to the Junque table and are covered by a white sheet until the moment when Sherman whips the sheet aside, bellows,“Cry Havoc!,’ and let slip the dogs of war!” and retreats to a safe place while frenzied Clayathoners pick the table clean.

Here are some other things I am bringing for the Junque table:

 

Clayathon runs from April 4 to April 11 at the Seaview Resort in Stockton, NJ.   It’s sold out,  but I will be posting pictures.