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.

Into The Forest Opens This Friday

Into The Forest,  the long-awaited collaborative polymer installation spearheaded by Laura Tabakman,  Julie Eakes and Philadelphia’s own Emily Squires Levine opens this Friday at the Spinning Plate Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. 

I can scarcely believe that it’s been more than a year since Laura announced the project at Eurosynergy  and requested contributions from the polymer  community.  They responded with enthusiasm: polymer artists from 27 countries around the world and 37 States around the US sent  an abundance of hand-fabricated floral and faunal elements inspired by their geographically-diverse environments.  Into The Forest is more than an art installation; it is a celebration of diversity and unity. A virtual global forest.

A small version of Into The Forest had its first public showing in Philadelphia as part of a larger “Constructing Organics” show which ran at the Park Town Place Gallery from September 2 to December 30, 2016.    Emily, Laura and Julie have spent  this past year working to make Into the Forest come to life in Pittsburgh.

Here are  pictures of contributions from the Philadelphia polymer community that we made under Emily’s instruction at a meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.   



See you in Pittsburgh!

Trinkets and Some Bowls to Hold Them

It’s not like I don’t already have enough beads, but having access to a pottery studio, glazes and a bead tree has made new beads magically appear in my workshop.  The items you see below are pendants and a couple of bead comes.


Here are some beads in their greenware state and decorated state  after bisque firing and prior to glaze firing.


And if bead making was not enough, I been making  little trinket bowls to hold rings and other small treasures.


I am having fun with different glazes and textures, and finishes.


And I have also been having fun making components for the Into the Forest  collaborative polymer clay project.


Into the Forest in Philadelphia

Last year, polymer artists Emily Squires Levine and Laura Tabakman  spent some late summer days in the  Colorado mountains and were so inspired by their walks through groves of aspen trees  that they decided to collaborate on an installation.

The result  is “Into The Forest” which opened for public viewing in Philadelphia on September 12.  Located  in the South Tower Art Gallery of the Park Towne Apartments in Philadelphia, the installation  is part of the “Constructing Organics” show which features work by three other Philadelphia artists.  InLiquid and AIMCO  co-sponsored the show.

I attended the opening and was excited to see polymer art recognized as fine art. Laura, who lives in Pittsburgh, was not able to attend the opening but Emily did an excellent job of  explaining how she and Laura were influenced by their hikes through the aspen forests and how they translated that experience into an intriguing installation.

Here are some pictures

Painting by Jeffrey Keith



Emily talks about “Into The Forest”


Installation at twilight


The Philadelphia venue is only the beginning for “Into the Forest.”

I first learned at  the EuroSynergy conference this summer that  Emily and Laura, who have been joined by award winning polymer artist Julie Eakes plan to expand “Into The Forest”  into an  international collaborative project.  Laura  announced the project at the end of her Synergy presentation on “Getting Your Work Ready to Show.” She’d  already wowed the audience with her stories  about how she scouted exhibition  opportunities for her incredible polymer and mixed media installations.  After she revealed the plans for the international collaboration she invited everyone to volunteer via a Facebook group set up for the purpose.   I volunteered right there on my iPad and many people in the audience did the same.

You can volunteer too. Just go to the Facebook group page, here.   You can follow the project on Instagram (@intotheforest17).   Read more about the project on the Polymer Arts Blog.

Several  polymer events to support the program are in the works.  Emily will lead one at the September meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.  For information on this meeting, go to the PAPCG blog.




Boris Discovers the Workshop

I have to admit that I was very sad when I wrote last week’s post.    But Boris is is coming out of his shell and worming his way into my heart.  There is nothing like a kitten to beat the blues.

Plumpton used to hang out in my workshop and Boris seems interested in doing the same. It will be nice to have company s long as Boris behaves himself.  But what are the chances of that?


He was fascinated with the pieces of baked polymer that I am playing around with for a wall piece I am making for a fund raiser for the Fleisher Art  Memorial.  Just the thing for a kitten to bat around.

Playing with the colors, shapes and textures inspired me to try a new earring design.

So it looks like Boris might be inspiring me! That’s good. I could use some inspiration right about now.

Mixing Premo with Bacon Bits?

I know that everything is supposed to go better with bacon and somewhere, somebody has already baked Premo with bacon.  But not I, she said.

This post is about failure.  Not only my failure to hear correctly when someone recommended mixing Premo with Bake and Bend (not bacon bits) so it would be more flexible, but also about the failure of my experiment to make an easy-off-easy-on flexible bangle out of polymer.

I know, I know, there are dozens of ways to do it and I have in fact make a few bangles myself quite successfully.  Still, when a new possibiliy for ruining clay comes my way, I jump at it. <Ahem>  Shall we begin?



I began by extruding 10 inch hollow polymer tubes and baking them for an hour.


Then I rolled out a sheet of clay on the pasta machine on #3 and textured it to hide the inevitable dings.
I placed the clay textured side down on a tile, arranged the tubes and filled in the middle with a sheet of clay rolled on the thickest setting.
I folded the ends of the clay over the tubes.
And coaxed them into place.
I used my tissue blade to move the clay as dinglessly as possible.
I was able to smooth everything pretty well. I used Genesis Medium to make sure everything was adhered. After baking for another hour, I tossed the strip into some ice water to cool.
The ends trimmed off to show the hollow tubes.
I threaded memory wire through both tubes. The clay was super flexible and it was not difficult to curl it to accommodate the wire.
But I had wire ends to contend with and the bracelet was a bit too short to accommodate any kind of closure. So I decided to cover the ends with fresh polymer and rebake the bracelet
Aside from the wacko colors, I managed to shape some clay around the wire ends. The ends were embedded in the clay and I used the Genesis Medium to attach everything.


I put the bracelet into bake and it was then that my troubles began.  The mess you see below is what came out of the oven.


Oddly enough, the clay on the inside of the bracelet is unaffected and  the clay is so flexible I can bend the bracelet back on itself without the inside clay cracking.  So what went wrong?

Looks like it’s  back to the drawing board!  Suggestions welcome.

The New Clay: An Afternoon with Nan Roche

Who remembers discovering polymer for the first time and maybe running out and scoring a copy of  The New Clay?     The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild was lucky enough to have The New Clay author and polymer innovator Nan Roche at a recent meeting where she recalled her introduction to polymer and how she came to write a classic work on polymer techniques and art.




In the 1980’s Nan  was a hand weaver and had a studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA.     Someone, Nan didn’t recall who, came back from New York city with with a fascinating necklace from the Julie: Artisan Gallery in Manhattan.   The necklace made from an material that no one could identify until a ceramic artist named Kathleen Dustin, who also had a studio at the Torpedo Factory, recognized the material as Fimo.  Dustin remembered Fimo from when she had lived abroad and said that it was marketed to children as an art material.  But the necklace was no toy; it was extraordinary. People wanted to know about the material it was made from.   Information on products like Fimo was hard to get in the days before the Internet, but Dustin did some research and was able to find a US supplier for a similar material called Sculpey.  (Fimo was not sold in the US at this time) She ordered some and started to experiment with it using a millefiore caning technique familiar to glass artists.


People saw Dustin’s work and wanted learn how to use this new art medium.  So, Dustin scheduled a class at the Torpedo Factory and 60 people showed up to take it.  One of them was Nan Roche who described the excitement in the class like  buzz on the floor of Filene’s Basement on a Saturday Morning.

Nan would later recall the class  in the foreward she wrote to  Sarajane Helm’s Create a Polymer Clay Impression,

“As I was being shown how to make my own millefiore designs by Kathleen Dustin, in a fateful class at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the connections were exploding in my head.  I don’t think I slept for several days after that class.  I was so excited!”

The interesting thing about this was at the time, different people  around the country were discovering  polymer and working with it independently.  You can read an excellent account this  in Kathleen Dustin’s articles on  the Polymer Art Archive.

“I went to work at my dining room table  and thank God my area rug didn’t get too damaged, Nan recalled,  “I was so excited that I would wake up my husband to show him what I’d made.”


So I would bring in things that I had worked on in my dining room and people would say, “My God I wanna learn it!” I started teaching classes in my dining room.” Textile artist Helene Bress took a workshop.    Her husband Seymour was just in the process of starting a publishing business  and asked me to write the book. ”  Nan said she resisted initially because she had a full time job and was raising a family, but then  decided  she was ready to leave the world of textile art and weaving behind.  After she agreed to write the book, she spent the next year and a half working  all day, coming home and writing all night.  She  wrote  the kind of book that that she would like to read,  and that’s why  The New Clay explains what polymer is  in such detail and then and then outlines the myriad ways of using it.  Before The New Clay was published,  there were no other materials in English on polymer clay.

And so, The New Clay was born.  You already know the rest of the story.

Here are some other pictures from the meeting.



Instant Karma

Klay Karma that is!  Sherman, Patty and I loaded up Patty’s car and headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to  Nashua, New Hampshire and the campus of Rivier University for the latest Klay Karma polymer clay retreat.


This was my first year at Klay Karma.  Those in attendance were a lively and playful bunch.


We had plenty of room to spread out; something every polymer clayer needs.



I scored one of Libby Mills’ new bowls at the auction!


It wasn’t all clowning around. . .


  The natural light was fantastic!


Here are some more pictures of work from the talented people who attended.  A big shout of thanks to Seana and Camilla and everyone who made the event possible.

Meetup in Olde City: Kathleen Dustin, Artistic Development, and the Clowns of Murano

The first Friday of each month is prime gallery trolling time in Philadelphia. I joined some Greater Philadelphia Polymer Art Meetup friends last Friday for a trip to the opening of Kathleen Dustin’s show at the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia. I took some pictures of our gathering with Kathleen’s gracious permission, but the SD card on my cell phone went South on me so I have nothing to share. If you click on the link, you can see some of the outstanding pieces currently on display.

I don’t know which was more fun-having Kathleen pull pieces out of the case and explaining how she constructed them or listening to her and Beading Yoda discuss their design philosophies. By the way, checkout Kathleen’s newly-designed web site here.

A few years ago, Kathleen gave a wonderful presentation to the Philadelphia Guild  on the evolution of her work.   Which got me to thinking about why it is always a sheer delight to see her work.  Not only is it technically brilliant but there is always a new aspect to it that pushes her body of work to a different level.  Read this Polymer Clay Daily post on the changing focus of her work from representational to abstract.  Then check out these links  from the Polymer Art ArchiveEvolution of Polymer ArtArticles by Kathleen Dustin on the Polymer Art Archive, and Turning Blue into Gold.

Later at a restaurant debriefing session over Italian food and wine at nearby BYOB  La Locanda Del Ghiottone and a bottle of wine from  Pinot Boutique, several Meetup members reminisced about traveling to Venice and to Murano. We all agreed that while Italian glass was beautiful, some of the objects tourists bring back from Murano deserve a place in the permanent glass collection of the Museum of Ugly. I mean seriously.

Don’t forget  Bead Fest Philadelphia this weekend!  Click here for more information.

Clayathon Here I Come!

So much going on this week! Robin Hiteshew’s photography show “Faces of Irish Music” opened in New York and while we were there, I visited the Museum of Art and Design and saw  fabulous exhibit of  the work of Joyce Scott.  I hope to write about those in future posts because now, I am getting ready for Clayathon!


Get a taste of the Clayathon experience by watching the video.