Ugly Cane School and Some Inspiration

I must confess that I have been singularly uninspired these past few weeks.  This hardly ever happens to me.  I’m back in the pottery studio and even threw a few pots last week which is great considering that I had CMC joint reconstruction surgery in October.

I have amassed a collection of canes over the years that I haven’t used and that have become crumbly with age.  A few years ago, I played with a bunch of them to see what I could come up with.   Today,  I dug up a few of the components I made and they’re not bad.  I think I’ll take a few to Clayathon and see if I can combine them with wire work to make some necklaces.    In the meantime,  I am going to dig through my old canes to see if I can do anything with them.  More on that next week.

Anyway, here are some results from my first ugly cane experiment.  I made veneers by passing sliced canes through the pasta machine and laminating them on sheets of clay.  I kept rolling and laminating until I came up with something interesting.  I set some of the pieces in metal, mostly heavy-gauge copper wire which I squared in my rolling mill.   I limited my color palate, something I did not do with the ugly cane experiments you will see next week. Let’s see where these ugly canes take me.

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Lentil-shaped component
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Unfinished piece.  I was still trying things out.

I made some pendants using jump rings to attach the lentil-shaped front component to a back component. While most lentil beads are attached at the edges, the parts of these swing freely.

 

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I also tried different ways of setting the polymer bezels in the metal.  This one is suspended by a jump ring drilled into the big ring which is soldered onto the long bail

I attached the polymer piece to this pendant by drilling holes in the polymer and threading 30 gauge wire to wrap around the metal frame.

 

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I attached the polymer here with tabs I soldered onto the frame and bent around the polymer.  Read this post for more information on tab setting.

 

Earrings
Simple earrings with grommets and silver wire.   They are very light.

More examples of  uses for ugly canes next week.

A Cane Slicer on the Cheap!

I am gearing up for Clayathon 2020. I haven’t touched polymer in a while but started working with it again recently because I figured it would be good therapy for my hand and thumb.

I used to make a lot of canes and even wrote a little article on making geometric canes which you can read here.   There is so much better information on Youtube nowadays. But once you make the canes, you have to slice them. Below are two videos showing how to make inexpensive cane cutters. I made the first video (which I totally forgot about until someone saw it on YouTube this week and left a comment) to send to a friend to see if it was feasible to manufacture and sell an inexpensive cane cutter. Maybe it would have been, but the project never came to be. None of my ideas for the cane cutter, however,  are particularly brilliant. If you find anything that inspires you, please feel free to copy, share, or whatever.  I

 

The second video by Unruly Housewife, shows how to make a cane cutter that works on the same basic principles as mine (which were not original with me), but that is much easier to make.  Her instructions are clearer and her video is definitely better shot than mine.

A third low-cost option for a cane slicer is this one developed by Sherman Oberson and sold through Penn State Industries. Not very high tech, but it holds all shapes of canes steady for slicing and its small size makes it handy to throw into your toolbox.

 

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Happy cane slicing!

 

Polymer POST

I have published several posts about one of my favorite local art programs, the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours (POST).  But this year is the first time I have ever encountered polymer artists on the tour.   My friends Patty Pickup and Terri Powell (ArtSci designs) joined together in West Philadelphia to showcase their work for this years’ Open Studio Tour West.   They were the only polymer artists on the tour this year, but I am hoping this will change as more people start to recognize polymer as a serious art medium. 

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Patty’s Spruce Hill home was a great place for the display

Patty has an incredible, huge studio on the third floor of her home.  To see pictures of Terri’s studio, press here.

Patty’s latest work.  Her color washed-pendants are very popular.

ArtSci designs yummy carved and backfilled bracelets look good enough to eat.  I own a set of these and love wearing them.  If you are interested in purchasing any of Terri’s work, you can contact her through her web site here.    Patty does not have a web site yet, but I’m sure that’s only temporary.

 

 

 

 

Retreat to Pittsburgh

Patty’s car died so we decided to take the bus from Philly to Pittsburgh rather than rent a car, or go by train or plane.  It was pretty easy for me since the bus station is a few blocks from my house and my husband dragged my suitcase for me which was filled mostly with a pillow, some clothes and some beading implements.

OurBusIt’s a free for all when people disembark from a bus.  People don’t wait for the seats in front of them to empty before entering the aisles like they do on planes.   It’s like everyone on the bus forgets his manners or else they think someone on the sidewalk is giving out twenties and you won’t get one unless you trample the person in front of you.  But I found out that if I waved my arm cast around, people would stop in their tracks.  I had already decided that the cast looked like part of a super hero costume and I was right!  I wave it around and people fall aside like dominos. TAKE THAT!

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I dressed my cast with this lovely name tag when I got to the Retreat.

WorkroomWe had a large and lovely work space although it soon became clear to me that I could not do much beadwork.  I can bead left handed but supporting the work with my right hand was not comfortable.  So I put the beadwork away and schmoozed.

KoiPondSpiratancenterI also got the changc to wander the grounds of the Spiritan Center where the retreat was held.  They  have lovely grounds and an incredible Koi pond.

Typing is still a bit uncomfortable for me.   So here are some pictures from the retreat for you to enjoy.  There was a lot of talent there!

Vintage Items at Clayathon Auction

We had a few vintage items this year. Not everyone at Clayathon was familiar with the work of Mike Buessler who specialized in landscape canes. The pin you see below is a cane and it is the exact reverse image on the other side. People have made landscape canes since the time Mike retired his tissue blade, but he was the first and the best.

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Mike Buessler landscape cane pin

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Carolyn Potter mosaic inlay pendant

I am not sure if Carolyn Potter is still working in clay. Her work was certainly beautiful as this mosaic pendant attests.

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Lindly Haunani Inclusion Swap Pendant

Lindly is still working in polymer, teaching, writing, and she taught a very popular class at Clayathon. I warned her that one of her pieces from the 1990’s swaps was going to be in the auction.

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Barbara McGuire Face Canes from Angel and Barrette swaps

Barbara McGuire is still very active in polymer as an artist, teacher and writer. It’s hard to retire when you have so many great ideas.

Voulkos Earring and Pendant
Pier Voulkos Earrings and Pendant

Pier Voulkos retired from polymer more than 20 years ago. She set standards of artistic excellence for everyone.

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Pier Voulkos pin

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Grove and Grove Earrings

Michael and Ruth Ann Grove were artists who became involved with polymer in the early days who no linger work in the medium. The earrings above are a good example of their work.

If you want to learn more about the early days of polymer, go to the
Polymer Art Archive.

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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Experience the Golden Age of Swaps at Clayathon

We are having a bit of polymer history this year at Clayathon.  I have donated the items I received years ago in polymer clay swaps for Sherman Oberson to curate.  Some items will be auctioned off.   But everybody will be able to see the collection of polymer pens, beads, canes, jewelry and more made in the late 1990’s.   Most of the work is primitive by today’s standards and most of mine is downright ugly, but the learning curve was higher in those days than is now. Many swappers included notes and cards with their stuff sharing what they did and how they did it. None of this would have happened without the Internet.

 

Polymer Clay didn’t  come into its own  as an art medium until the advent of the Internet.  Before then,  polymer artists found one another pretty much by serendipity.  A few of these artists founded the National Polymer Clay Guild.  The National Guild started holding conferences.   But as the Internet came into its own, more and more people started surfing, found one another, and connected.

The most popular polymer site in those days was Polymer Clay Central.  This was back in the mid to late 1990’s before Leigh and Stephen Ross took over the site from Arlene Thayer.   (I  was not able to find a screen shot on The Wayback Machine because it only started tracking the site in 2000.)

People flocked to Polymer Clay Central for information, news, and to participate in swaps.  It worked like this: Someone would volunteer to host a swap, decide on a theme and would post a call for participants in Polymer Clay Central.   People would sign up and make items according to the theme-one for every participant-and mail them to the host or Swap Meister along with a small amount of money to cover postage.  The Swap Meister would sort through everything and send each participant a box filled with everyone’s creations.

Leigh Ross recalled the excitement of receiving a swap box: “Swaps were sometimes the only way that we could actually see, in person, someone’s work besides our own! I remember the excitement of opening the “swap box” when it arrived in the mail, and the joy of seeing others who were as crazy about polymer clay as I was!”

Here are some of my favorite things from the swaps.  There will be more at Clayathon.

 

You can see many more swap pictures on Polymer Clay Central here and here.

Open Studio at Art-Sci Designs

What inspires Terri Powell, the creative force behind Art-Sci Designs?   Terri spends her days wearing a lab coat and peering into the microverse through a high-powered microscope.  She spends  the rest of her time creating  wearable Modern Artifacts from  a wide range of materials that include polymer, metal, glass and any other materials she might pick up on her world travels.  (Last destination Portugal; coming up: Colombia).  She also develops  recipes for some incredible mixed libations  which she shares (along with  the occasional restaurant review) on her blog The P&P Drinking Company.   I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

I visited Terri at her open studio a couple of weeks ago and she turned me loose in her studio which she did not bother to clean up before hand because creativity is not an orderly process.  (Something I already knew).

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Table

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earrings

I didn’t get as many good pictures of  the finished work as I would have liked but you can see plenty of pictures on the Art-Sci Designs webpage here.

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And  I suggest that you follow Art-Sci Designs on Instagram here.  There is always something surprising and delightful to behold.

Make Stamps for Ceramic Clay with Polymer

Another thing I did at  Clay ConneCTion was to make myself a bunch of new stamps to use with my pottery.    You can make pottery stamp from ceramic clay but polymer is so much easier!   Since polymer does not shrink, you know how big to make the design.  Plus you can cure the polymer much more quickly than you can fire ceramic stamps.  And they don’t break when you drop them on the floor.  And you can use scrap clay!  All you need to do is roll sheets of clay on the thickest pasta machine setting and then cut and stack the sheets to make a rectangle about one-inch square and two inches long.  You can make designs by carving the soft clay,  adding coils and shapes, or impressing textures into the clay.  If your clay is pretty firm, as mine was, you can put a design on each end and use the sides for more designs.  After you bake the clay, you can make more stamps with the design in reverse.  I recommend that you condition the clay well and bake the stamps for an hour.

There’s another polymer stamp making tutorial on the Ceramics Network site. And there are plenty of design ideas around the Internet.   Check out Hair of the Rabbit  And don’t forget Pinterest.

 

Beads

Porcelain beads ready for the kiln.  I can’t wait to see how they come out.

Back From Clayathon

I got back from Clayathon today and I am so tired I can barely see straight.  But we had a ball,  all 110 or so of us.    The Stockton Seaview, where the event is held, is a luxury golf resort with a spa, pool, fitness center, a fireplace in the lobby and a big bowl of apples on the hotel’s front desk. It’s a great place to unwind and have fun.

This years’ Clayathon attracted clayers from as far away as California, Texas, and Canada.  Each Clayathon attendee got a 6-foot table as a workspace.  We had ovens for baking, buffers for buffing, drills for drilling and electric pasta machines out in the hall.  Donna Kato was this years’ guest artist and taught a class before Clayathon started.  Sarah Shriver, Claire Maunsell, Lindly Haunani,  Melanie West and Jana Roberts Benzon taught pre and post-conference classes, too.

I’ll write more on Clayathon next week, I hope!  In the meantime, here are some pictures.
 

 

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For more Clayathon reportage, go to Lisa Clarke’s blog here.