Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Making the Jump

Claire (stillpointworks and the NEXT BEND) and I have talked about how artists with varying backgrounds translate their training into the language of polymer clay. She and I both found the material when we found ourselves without full studios up and running (her/glass and me/metal).

Admittedly I have sometimes gotten stuck because my initial big ideas still appear in metal. But a recent epiphany reminded me, re-energized me, regarding the power of polymer. Goes as follows.

Metal can be textured using heat, hammering, stamping, piercing and so on. I could do this in thick sheet metal by annealing (heating) and then using a cross peen hammer.

The metal would not be bright blue unless I made some other changes afterward (patina, enamel) and would require some more time and materials and tools. And if I did not like what I had made or I messed up I could not do this...

...and start all over again.

During my demonstration at the museum two weeks ago some really nice folks stood and chatted and asked questions for quite some time. The husband was taken aback at what he thought was the high cost of such a "tiny brick of the stuff" (polymer) and "my, what an expensive craft it must be". I asked him what he thought the same size brick of sterling silver would cost. Raised eyebrows all around - point taken.

This is not to say that I have lost my love of metalwork or that I still don't think of designs where truthfully, only metal would do. But I am learning to enjoy the ease and speed at which I can work through design ideas in polymer and relish the translation process.


  1. Point SO well made! I have nothing but respect for the techniques I learned as a glass blower, but it is so liberating to be able to start over (and over) when things go wrong and - more excitingly - to translate my vocabulary of physical skills to work this so willing material.
    Important to remember - you would not be so acomplished at polymer if you did not have that metal training!
    And of course, I learn from you all the time...

  2. I was a decorative artist for over 20 years before I discovered polymer clay. I am amazed every day at how much transfers over from other mediums to polymer clay. I am totally addicted now and loving every minute. And as you so effectivelty demonstrated, if you don't like what you made, you can roll it up and start all over again!

  3. Oh, but I liked that blue design!

    LOL. Yes, there is that wonderful forgiveness of the medium...until it is cured that is, and that is my current issue -problems after curing. I am trying to find a way to turn those problems into opportunities.

    Nice post.

  4. I love polymer for all the reasons you stated and more. The color versatility alone as made me an addict. I also like that if I don't like the way something has turned out I can smoosh it up and start again. Very few materials allow that freedom without feeling you have wasted tons of time.

    I enjoy your blog very much.

  5. hoping your show was very successful and your demonstration - had been thinking of you... your aesthetic translated into pc is really magical... i admire what you do, how you see it and then translate... and what a great post -

  6. I bet polymer clay is also ideal if you want to make a baked maquette of your ideas before committing them to more expensive metals.

  7. Love your post! And polymer! Saw you on PolymerClayDaily today... Good for you, and love what you're doing. And many, many thanks for the lightbox help. My necklace on my Facebook page was photographed in mine.

  8. I am so excited to see you working metal again. I wait with abated breath!

  9. This economy has undoubtedly pushed many artists out of their studios, at least for a while.
    I was left without a functioning studio about a year and a half ago (in my case a ceramics studio - see )and have found great comfort and a fantastic artistic outlet and experimentation lab in polymer clay.

    It's wonderful to read your comments and gain a new and different appreciation and perspective for polymer. Coming from a studio where I working to develop colored porcelain recipes that would withstand the 2300 degree firing process while retaining their plasticity, my main source of joy in polymer clay is the ease at which color is played with and manipulated and the I know that many of the techniques I'm learning will directly translate when we get the resources to set the studio back up in a few years.

    Here's to making lemonade out of lemons! :)

  10. Polymer rocks!!! I have tried metal clay and ceramic clay, but polymer is the most versatile medium on the planet. It is not expensive, you don't have to have a lot of equipment. So, for us frugal artists, it is perfect. By the way... I love your work.

  11. Beautiful post! Polymer clay is one of those amazing boundless mediums that can metamorphose into any direction you want to take it.

    The way you can bring your love of metal work into your polymer work is a perfect example of this. The fact that it is so forgiving as well, is just another wonderful feature about it.

    I have found that some of my most creative pieces have come from mistakes or left over scraps from various techniques. Having such freedom with a material and knowing you can always squish it up and start again, takes the pressure off of being perfect and allows for more creativity.

    I love what you are doing with polymer clay and where you want to take it. Glad you made 'the jump'!