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.

What I Learned in Claire Maunsell’s Class

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I learned how to make hollow stacked beads and hollow pod-shaped beads.

I learned that hollow pod-shaped beads were only a starting point and that I could take the clay wherever I wanted it to go.

I learned how to assess whether a given paint would work with polymer clay.

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I learned that Claire is an incredibly generous teacher who prepares illustrated handouts bursting with information, ideas, resources and more.

I learned why Pan Pastels look so ##@&^#$@ gorgeous on polymer and I discovered that I need to buy them in all my favorite colors.  Like right now.  Or sooner.

I learned different techniques to crackle, seal, antique, enhance, texture,  carve, wax, paint, emboss, finish and (whatever else you can think of) polymer clay.

I learned about some new software that just might change my life. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration but Repper is pretty cool.)

If I have to  stop to think about whether I really want to leave my clay to go for Chinese food with Sherman Oberson, you know that it had to be a great class.  Here are some pictures of  what I made.   The ideas keep coming. Thank you Claire Maunsell for a great class!   

 

A Melange of Topics Including Melange!

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I needed cinnamon.  My favorite spice store, The Spice Corner,  had closed.   I didn’t feel like running up to Reading Terminal and pre packaged spices from the grocery store were out of the question.  That left Melange, a tea and spice store at 11th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia.  Melange has been open for a couple of years but I had never shopped there before I stepped in that November afternoon.  When I asked if they carried cinnamon, proprietor Boris Ginsburgs  steered me to a shelf that held Saigon cinnamon, Sri Lankan cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon.

“Could you explain the difference between the three of them?”

Boris launched into an explanation that was concise, lucid, and which branded him as a tea and spice nerd. Maven would be a better description.  I ended up buying small onamounts of all three varieties intending to try them in different dishes.    And I will go back to Melange when I need more spices because they have such a big, reasonably priced assortment.

Boris Ginsburgs knows his tea and spices.  Just read through the Melange web site if you want a tea and spice education.  Better yet, go to Melange and buy some new spices to try.

 

 

In other news,  I raised a little money for the Fleisher Art Memorial  by running a make and take bracelet table at their annual Holiday Craft Fair.   I also contributed a piece to Fleisher’s semi-annual fundraiser, Dear Fleisher, 4 x 6  inches of  Art.

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   More than 300 artists contributed work to the fundraiser.   All the work  is  priced at $50.00 and  the artists remain anonymous until the work is  sold. The polymer  piece I donated  went home with a buyer.

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Where Satellite Dishes Go to Die

 

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

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Painting by Jeffrey Keith

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Emily talks about “Into The Forest”

 

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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.

Clay Connections in Connecticut

02.Conn Retreat

Patty and I headed up to Connecticut this week to attend Clay ConneCTion 2016, sponsored by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild. We left Philadelphia and the Democratic National Convention behind us as we sailed up I-95 to the Connecticut  College campus, replete with beautiful trees and the occasional skunk.

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We had a big work room with plenty of space to spread out.  Demos, and there were plenty of them, were held in a separate space.   Pasta machine motors are allowed at the Connecticut retreat which, although I didn’t bring mine, is fine by me.  The room was so large it hardly mattered.  Someone thoughtfully  provided ear plugs.  Another thing I love about the Connecticut retreat is the Oven Anarchy.  Anarchy does not mean no rules, only no government.  So there were no oven monitors, no baking schedules, and everyone was responsible for his or her own project.  I think this is the best way to handle baking at a retreat.  Some might disagree: I know that  ovens lose heat when you open the door, but oven heat cycles when the door is shut too.  But unless you are baking a temperamental soufflé or  a wedding cake, it hardly matters and it is certainly not mission critical to a successful polymer baking.  Besides, retreats are supposed to be relaxing and fun.  So, there.

I tried my hand at making a Bottle of Hope and I made some geometric cane tiles for the Left Right Center game on Saturday night.  I met some lovely new people, rekindled relationships and hung out with old friends.

Here are some pictures

 

Thank you Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild!

 

 

Big, Bold Jewelry Designs at Synergy

I am finally home after nearly three weeks in Europe.  Past of the reason for the trip was to attend the EuroSynergy Conference in Bordeaux.   I rekindled many friendships, made some new friends, attended fabulous programs and mostly tried to keep my head from exploding with all the artistic influences, new products, wonderful people and the inspiring and informative program the conference offered.

One of the highlights for me, however, was meeting Jude Parker and seeing her big, bold, colorful jewelry.  Jude,  who  was attending Synergy with her mother Ann Parker is from Sanderstead, England just south of London where Ann has a business selling craft supplies called Monkey Ann. Visit the web site here.

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Jude’s work is large, colorful and light because  it is composed of hollow forms. It is big and bold and she carries  off the look  beautifully.    Here she is modeling some of her creations.

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This neck piece has a fabric-like feeling to it , but it is all cane work and  deceptively light because it is hollow.  I love the limited palate.  Jude made the findings because she will never find ready-made clasps for the scale of jewelry she creates.

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You can see Jude wearing the neck piece in the above picture.  Below are some close ups of her jewelry.

 I will write more about Synergy in the weeks to come.  Tomorrow I am head to Connecticut  for Clay ConneCTion 2016

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.

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

Retreat to Morrisburg

Tray with tiles attendees made. Auctioned and proceeds donated to http://plancanada.ca/because-i-am-a-girl

My friend Patty and I, ever the intrepid travelers,  decided to take the recommendation of our friend Sherman and drive  to the little town of Morrisburg, Ontario and join a group of polymer artists who meet once a year at the McIntosh Inn for a retreat.

We crossed the border into Canada,  pulled up to the Canadian border inspection station, and handed our passports to the border screening agent in the booth.

“Polymer clay retreat? What’s that?” the  agent wanted to know after Patty told him the purpose of our trip.  

“It’s not like a religious retreat,” Patty explained, “it’s  a bunch of artists who get together and work on their polymer clay projects.”

“Polymer clay?” the agent wasn’t buying it.

I leaned over so the agent could hear me.  “It’s like what men do when they get together with their model trains.”

“Oh!” the agent, replied, “you’re gonna throw clay at one another?”  

I had never heard of that, so I laughed as if I got the joke.  The agent handed our passports back and waved us on our way.

We had a great time, renewed old acquaintances and made new friends.  We drank Tim Horton coffee, ate Butter Tarts, wrestled with the metric system and warned our Canadian colleagues that after the U.S. election in November, we might be back to stay.  

Here are some pictures

To see more pictures, go to my Flickr site, here.

 

 

Claying with the Canadians

I am currently in Morrisburg, Ontario at a retreat sponsored a friendly bunch of Canadian polymer enthusiasts. The retreat started on Wednesday and ends on Sunday.  If the contents of the goody bags are any indication, the retreat will be a blast.

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There are lots of demos planned and

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lots of room to spread out.

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Then we’re off to the glass museum in Corning, NY.