Monthly Archives: July 2014

Riffing in Polymer

I don’t know which of the many visiting artists at the Bead House Studio in Rhode Island introduced me to this term but it stuck. Riffing is definite part of my process. I start with one idea of what I’m making but while I’m working on the first instance, I’m already thinking of how else I could make it…what other colors, what other shapes, what I could add to it to make it different…I guess exploration and experimentation are central to how I work and live.

I made this observation several years ago when I attended a course with a friend. I made one of everything…every technique the instructor showed us in the week-long course. My friend made fewer pieces but each one was elegantly crafted. That’s when I discovered that I just like to experiment…chasing the serendipitous outcome…and that’s okay because it where I get my fun. And, I also can accept that other people would prefer to spend time ‘getting it right’. There was a time in my life when I would have had to see one of us as ‘wrong’. My world didn’t allow for differences to be neutral…if we were different, one of us had to be wrong.

Much of my artistic journey over the past 10-15 years has been learning about myself and what creativity means to me. I know when I was younger my insecurity and perfectionism made it hard for me to risk in areas where I had no experience or expertise. While I could regret the years I didn’t have art in my life, I also realize I was never freer than I am now. One of the joys of being this age, in my mid 60s, soon to be 70s, is that I can claim my own artistic sensibility and don’t have to fall into the slimy pit of “compare and despair.”

riffing in polymer clay

Riffing in Polymer

I think “what if” is a natural response when creating…or I should say it’s natural for me. I learned the rock technique in a Kathleen Dustin class but didn’t really need to make very many rocks (I’d rather collect them on the beach….). So I started thinking about how I could use the technique in something that I could wear. I’ve always been the “Accessory Queen” so having “sets” of jewelry made more sense to me. The next thing I knew, I had spent several weeks in ‘production mode’ and had enough rock-like beads to make lots of necklaces, earring, bracelets and even some rings.

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Here’s what it looks like when I’m mass producing the beads…

polymer beads

I make lots of different colors and shapes before I begin designing jewelry

polymer necklaces

Experimenting with color in polymer…same shapes, different colors

Another great technique I learned from the wonderful online resources that Maggie Maggio has created. I was intrigued by the approach to color that she wrote about in her book with Lindly Haunani, Polymer Clay Color Inspirations . I was intrigued by the idea of making links in polymer clay and she has generously provided detailed instructions and templates <for creating split ring necklaces. Here are a few of the ones I created while riffing.

split ring necklaces

I’ll be teaching a class in Hollow Forms at Metalwerx Studio in Waltham next week so I’m glad I’ve done lots of riffing with hollow forms of all shapes and sizes. I know as a student I always appreciated teachers who gave a broad overview of the possibilities. Some of these hollow forms were created after classes with Kathleen Dustin and Jeffrey Dever.

polymer hollow forms

All shapes, sizes, colors and designs

Sow’s Ears to Silk Purses

Many years ago my brother railed at me for my seeming inability to face life in it’s naked, brutal reality. He accused me of making “silk purse’s out of sow’s ears”. He saw it as a character weakness and something I should at least be ashamed of, if I was unwilling to work to change into a more ‘realistic’ person.

I’ve mulled over this statement of his for at least twenty years. At first I was defensive about it, offering proof that I didn’t do it all the time and, even if I did, it didn’t make me a bad person. I would cite all the gritty reality I dealt with in my traveling lifestyle and all the difficult and challenging client situations acheter cialis europe. If that wasn’t evidence enough, I would reference all the thousands of hours I spent in support groups and personal growth programs, dealing with the wreckage of our past. I don’t think I ever convinced him that it was okay for me to be a porcine tailor.

Today I have a different take on this life orientation. I can admit, even proudly admit, that creating silk purses from sow’s ears is my life’s work. Today I call it living the “embellished life”. As I look around my home I see signs of the embellished life everywhere. I have transformed my 1950s ranch home into a rich sanctuary for me and anyone else who comes by. Every room is painted in bright primary colors, with rich metallic glazes sponged over. (A visitor once remarked that my decorating style could be characterized as “early Vatican”.) I am surrounded by Tibetan thankas, oriental rugs, brightly-colored IKEA furnishings and lots of books. I’ve opened up all the walls so light, air and energy flow freely.

bright living room

Bright colors, lots of sunshine…and cats!

So, I suppose decorating my orthopedic shoes falls in that ‘silk purse’ category…silly but entertaining. I couldn’t stand looking down at my feet and seeing ugly black shoes that screamed “orthopedic’! Too many memories of the exact same shoes poking out from under black habits….not my idea of a ‘fashionista look!’

decorated shoes

Zentangled SAS

And then there’s the challenge of having a basement studio in New England…dark and gloomy in the winter, cool and damp in the summer. I saw a marvelous studio in a magazine article where they had dug out the area around the basement door so they could have a patio. It was in California or the Pacific Northwest so they were able to have a slider and use it year round. I adapted the plan to my New England location and it’s worked out just as fabulously as I imagined!

studio door

Beautiful sunset and glorious grasses inspire me as I work in my studio