Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Be a Breast Cancer Warrior!

Only one picture today but it's an important one. Dawn Barker, who lives in Texas (I think) is the creator of this fabulous bra. She used polymer clay, glitter, and mica powders to create discs which she's sewn to an existing bra. Dawn was asked to take part in a local breast cancer fund raising project and this beautiful piece, Warrior Armor, was her contribution. The participants, some are artists, some are breast cancer survivors, were asked to decorate bras which will be on display at various fund-raising events. Dawn's bra is dedicated to her favorite breast cancer survivor, her grandmother. Let this artwork serve as a reminder to all of us that breast cancer does not discriminate - it can affect anyone at anytime! Please remember to do monthly breast self-exams and get a mammogram when it's time. In addition to working with polymer clay, Dawn creates amazing mosaics and also works with silver. You can see more of her lovely work here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Arabesque Canes on DVD

I recently had the opportunity to watch the new polymer clay DVD from abba dabba Productions, Arabesque Canes, by Jana Roberts Benzon. Kaleidoscope-style canes are really popular and a lot of fun to make and, if you've been feeling a little intimidated by them, Jana's DVD is one of the closest things to an intensive hands-on workshop that you'll find. She offers clear, concise instruction and covers every step of the process in great detail. The exact amount of clay you'll need, the simple tools that make the construction of the cane much easier, great tips on how to pack your cane to prevent distortion, and Jana's unique reduction method - it's all covered here in more than two hours of quality instruction.

One of the things I enjoy most in any book or DVD are the little tips and tricks that are often unique to the artist or author and Jana has included lots of these, as well. I really enjoyed seeing her process and approach to building an intricate cane design. After viewing the DVD, I think it would be fairly easy for even beginning clayers to change up the colors and individual components of the cane to make something of their own design. Jana has shared her process in such a way that it can be adapted to each individuals own personal style and that's definitely a sign of a good teacher.

With Jana's blessing, I'd like to pass along this word of caution . . . In the past, I normally used a stiff blade and flexed it to cut curves in clay just as Jana does at one point in her DVD. But, a few months ago, one of mine literally exploded and broke into many jagged little pieces that flew across the room and over my head. Luckily, no one was injured but I did almost pee my pants. As much as I like the control of a stiff blade, I highly recommend that you bend only the flexible ones.

Congratulations, Jana, on your wonderful new DVD! I have a feeling there's going to be lots of beautiful "arabesque" canes popping up in the claying world!

Here's one more piece of lovely eye candy from Jana for your viewing enjoyment. And, don't forget that if you're planning to place a pre-order of the Krafty Lady art moulds for Synergy and take advantage of the opportunity to buy below retail cost and with zero shipping that I'll need your list by this Tuesday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Special Synergy Offer

Several years ago, I tried the Krafty Lady Art Moulds from Australia and fell in love with them! These are, without a doubt, the best molds that I've ever used with clay. They're flexible, silicone-based molds that need no release agent and can be used with practically any art material you can think of. You can also bake both liquid clay and regular clay in them. I was so impressed with these molds that I've been selling them at workshops and retreats ever since. I'll also have them available at the upcoming Synergy Conference for the NPCG during vendor fair. The above photo is an incredible example of what you can do with these molds. This piece was made by my very talented friend Michelle Zimmerman, who used four different molds to create this amazingly cool piece of art. Michelle is a talented sculptor who is actually responsible for creating one of my favorite molds in the Krafty Lady line, the baroque torso, which now comes in three sizes. She's used the larger size in this piece which is now hanging in my studio.
This piece from Marla Frankenberg is another favorite using the baroque torso. I love the "tattooed lady" effect. And here are a few pendants I've made using the regular torso mold. This mold is available in a set containing both a front and a back but is also sold separately. I used only the front of the mold in these pieces.

There are hundreds of molds available and rather than show up with just a small variety to choose from, I've recently been offering the students in my classes the opportunity to pre-order exactly what they would like. I would like to make that same offer to those of you who are attending Synergy next month. Here's your chance to get the molds you'd like at a cost that's less than retail and with no shipping fees. All you need to do is to go to the website of After Midnight Art Stamps (the U.S. distributor of the molds) and send me the stock number and description of what molds you would like. For example, "AM 123 angel wings". The prices that you see on the site are what I'll be charging for those that send me their order by Tuesday, January 29th. I'll order the molds next week, pay the shipping and handling costs myself, and send you a total via e-mail before the conference. Simply bring a check or cash to the conference and you can pick up your molds from me during the vendor fair. There's no need to pay in advance and this offer is only valid for those who are attending the Synergy conference. For those who don't wish to pre-order, I'll also have a selection of molds available for purchase at the regular retail prices.

I've heard nothing but good things from people who've purchased the molds in the past so if you'd like to comment on them here, feel free to do so.

And, I'd like to say a special thank you to the wonderful members of the Orlando Polymer Clay Guild who attended my workshop this past weekend. This is the second time I've had the opportunity to share a classroom with this group and their kindness, generosity, and talent are simply incredible! I love you all! Their annual retreat, Orlando Clay Fandango (formerly known as Florida in February) is coming up March 13-17 and I believe there are just a few spaces left if you're interested.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

This is a "pigment of your imagination" and this is the class I'm teaching this coming Saturday for the Orlando Polymer Clay Guild. I'm actually combining business with pleasure this time and the wonderful members of the Orlando guild have set up an inexpensive, one-day class for me during my break from playing chaperon for my son's band trip. I just learned there were a couple of cancellations so, if you're in the area and would be interested in attending, get in touch with me right away and I'll give you more details. I recently taught this class in Las Vegas and it was so rewarding to see all of the beautiful pieces that everyone created with this extremely EASY, yet effective technique. This will be my last post until next week sometime but I just wanted to tell you that I have some fun things in the works, including a peek inside Jana Benzon's wonderful new DVD, Arabesque Caning. To see what else I've been working on recently, check out my Flickr site. I'm off to pack! Be fierce and creative!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hidden Missives

Jay King is a wonderfully talented stained glass artist from Arkansas who also happens to work with polymer clay. When I first saw all of his "faces", they disturbed me but, at the same time, I really liked what he was doing and was unable to look away. I was brave enough to write him a little note telling him about my reaction and he kindly replied that my reaction was exactly what he hoped to elicit with his work.

The more I look at these pieces, the more I like them. Some are a bit scary but I find them and the process he uses to make them quite interesting. This one, called Marid, is probably my favorite. George Washiguana and the Barnacle Encrusted Seadoll Skull are pretty amazing, as well.

Of his process, Jay says:

Most are remixes of other faces. Toys and figurines in thrift stores and antique malls provide the originals. I press molds whenever I find faces. The faces are quite small, varying in size from about a half an inch to one and half inches. Each polymer clay face I make is pressed partially into several molds. In addition to molds of faces, I also use molds of stones, wood, shell, nuts, and manmade objects of every sort. Faces are painted with acrylics and scanned. The images are then enhanced and tweaked on the computer.

If you're as intrigued as I am by Jay's artwork, you can see many more of his faces here on Flickr. The little stories and captions that he includes about each face are humorous and quite entertaining, although some of them are way over my head since I'm not a big science fiction fan.

I think I'd enjoy spending a day or two in Jay King's head. I'm guessing it's quite a fascinating place to be!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spilling over with glee . . .

. . . because so many of you had the right answers to the quiz I posted this past Tuesday! And, those of you who didn't have all the right answers only missed one or two. Excellent! Okay, here are the correct answers in order:

The name that was drawn as the winner of the Klew bead from all the correct entries was . . .
Donna Stein! And since she forgot to send me her mailing address, she better put on her most comfortable shoes and start walking if she wants to collect her bead!

If you have time to spare this weekend, spend some of it perusing through the websites of these talented artists. There's much to see and appreciate and learn from.

I have one more thing to end the week with. When I decided to start a blog, I knew immediately what I would call it. "Imagine Uncommon Things" is sort of the mantra that runs through my head and helps to keep me inspired. I recently came across a single sentence in Grant Diffendaffer's wonderful new book, Polymer Clay Beads, that I feel strongly compelled to share with everyone I know. It speaks volumes about inspiration, creativity, and the fearlessness to try new things. And, it says much about him as an artist.

From Grant: "Making something you have never imagined will greatly increase your ability to imagine things you have never made, and then go on to make them."

I could write for the next ten years and not come up with anything better than that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Canespinner

If you've never seen the work of Maryland's Keith Brown, you're in for a major treat. He's recently added some new pieces to his gallery. These "Solomon Knot Pendants" are wonderful. I love his jewelry but, his tins are just as beautiful . It's impossible to pick a favorite!
Hmmm, Synergy is coming up soon and he lives close by . . . maybe we'll get to see his work in person. For those who love precision and geometric canes as much as I do, he has a number of very well written tutorials on his site as well. I think any one of these would be a wonderful addition to an upcoming issue of Polymer Cafe. If any of you know him, be sure you pass this not too subtle hint along.

Thanks for all of your emails regarding yesterday's contest. You still have the rest of the day to submit your guesses and be eligible for the drawing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How Clay Savvy Are You?

Are you ready to find out? There are so many wonderful artists out there working with polymer clay and if you've been paying attention, you know that many of them have a readily identifiable style. If you consider yourself a serious polymer clay aficionado, then you should have no trouble at all passing this simple test. Below are 10 pictures of some beautiful polymer clay work. All you have to do is send me an email with the names (both first and last) of the artists who created these lovely pieces. Spelling counts, so, if one of them happens to belong to Kim Cavender (which it doesn't, of course!), please don't refer to her as Kim Cadaver. Be sure and list the names in the order in which the pictures appear, as well. I'm not giving you any clues but if you can correctly identify the artists by name, you may win a Klew. Everyone who sends me the correct answers by midnight (Eastern time) on Thursday will be eligible to win a bead from my Klew collection because I firmly believe that sharing is a good thing. Please supply your mailing address with your entry because it's a long walk to West Virginia if you have to pick it up in person. And since I have no employees, EVERYONE is eligible to play one time. The winner of the bead will be chosen from a random drawing of all the correct entries and I'll post the names of the very talented artists shown here on Friday. If no one correctly identifies all of the artwork in these photos, I'll be very sad! Good luck and have fun!

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Beginnings

Seven years ago, a wonderful couple named Joan and Mike Clipp took a giant leap of faith and dedicated themselves to creating a brand-new magazine called Polymer Cafe. The odds were definitely against them. It's almost unheard of for an independent magazine to survive more than a year or two and to have one thrive and be purchased by a major publisher is a wonderful testament to the Clipps' dedication and hard work. When Scott Publications took over the magazine, Joan agreed to stay for a while as editor. But now, she and Mike are ready to start a new chapter in their lives and the editorial reins are being handed over to one of my favorite people, Connie Donaldson. Connie is a past president and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild and a talented and accomplished polymer clay artist. Many of you might remember her gorgeous butterfly wreath that graced the cover of Polymer Cafe's Spring 2004 issue (please ignore the remnants of my address label in this scan). She's been a technical writer and editor for about 30 years and began her career by editing refueling manuals for nuclear submarines until, she says, "I could feel the edges of my brain begin to curl up and die". Two years ago, she temporarily packed up her clay and returned to grad school. Connie received an MA in Counseling Psychology from Waynesburg University 6 months ago. For information on her fascinating work as a workshop facilitator in Family Constellation Work, you can check out her website here.

When I spoke with Connie last week, her enthusiasm and expectations for Polymer Cafe's future were so inspiring and exciting that I wanted to share her words with all of you.

Beauty, beauty, beauty! I honestly believe that we humans have a physical—not just a psychological or spiritual—need for beauty in our lives. We all need to experience it to be fully alive. The lucky ones among us also get to create it, and the really fortunate among us get to share it. That’s one of my goals for the magazine: to have every issue contain something wondrous, something well crafted, something that makes a person stop for a moment and forget the regular cares of the day.

I plan to find artists who are creating beauty with clay and give them a forum—to teach or simply to share—the beauty that can be created in clay. I’m looking forward to working with artists who may be a little shy about writing an article, but who create interesting work. We’ll work together to make it into an article.

I also want to share with newcomers the amazing heritage we have from the previous generation of clay artists. We’re so lucky. Polymer clay and its sister, precious metal clay, are relatively new mediums in this country. Many of the pioneers in the field are still creating and innovating. We have the opportunity to learn from them—not just techniques, but, the spirit that has kept them working with this material for decades.

I owe a huge debt to the National Polymer Clay Guild and to many of the local guilds. I want to repay it by having the magazine serve guilds as well as individuals. I’m very open to suggestions about how to best do this.

As you can see, Polymer Cafe's new editor has some wonderful things in store for us. But wait, there's more scoop to share! Scott Publications has made the decision to publish Polymer Cafe SIX times a year! All the details regarding these changes will be in the upcoming issue and, I'm hoping that many of the wonderfully talented artists whose work I've seen online and at classes and retreats will give some serious consideration to submitting articles and photographs of their work to the magazine. Polymer Cafe is the only publication that's dedicated to this wonderful material that we love so much and it's up to all of us to submit articles, images and ideas that will help keep the magazine's pages fresh and inspiring. Connie's first deadline is coming up in just a couple of weeks, so don't drag your feet! Contact her right away if you have an article you'd like to share. You can find information on submission guidelines here.

I'm so very grateful to Joan and Mike Clipp for their dedication and hard work over the past seven years and, for having the vision to start a magazine dedicated to polymer clay. I know it wasn't always an easy road to travel and I admire them so much for sticking with it. I wish Connie Donaldson much success with her new position and I look forward to seeing her wonderful ideas come to life in the pages of Polymer Cafe.