Sunday, June 6, 2010

Charms for Charity -Metal Clay artists from around the world coming together

For the past few years, the metal clay community from around the world has come together for a fund raising drive called Charms for Charity, creating bracelets and necklaces incorporating metal clay charms .

The original  Charms for Charity was a fundraising drive in remembrance of Robin Whittemore, who lost her fight with Breast cancer in 2007, while waiting for a bone marrow transplant. This year's charities are the American Cancer Society and the Marrow Foundation .

I've just completed my charms and am ready to ship them off - 3 charms in kanji represent Hope, Love and Strength, a nautius shell with dichroic glass cab, kitty cat, dragonfly and love letter - along with checks from generous friends in the Brookline Town and School community.

We'll all be holding our breath waiting for news of the winners in the drawing on July 30,  at the PMC conference at Purdue

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Musings on Tonya Davidson's Master Muse Program

Tonya Davidson has assembled an amazing group of artists in her Master Muse program. A technique or material is featured in each of the challenges and her merry band of muses responds with some innovative designs- and a detailed tutorial on how to recreate each piece. So far there have been 18 challenges and  her international group of artists (Lora Hart, Kelly Russell, Angela Baudel-Crispin, Donna Penoyer, Barbara Becker Simon, and Ruth Baillie among others) have responded to the call.
The most recent set of challenges has inspired me to give resin a try. All these have used Susan Lenart Kazmer's Ice Resin. I've always been a bit put off by Susan's clown head and pencil stub designs, but looking at some of the other design elements she's created using resin, I've been intrigued, but not quite sure how to incorporate them into metal clay or polymer . Three of the Muses have answered that question for me.

Kelly Russell created a metal clay dragonfly trapped in "amber" using a box design in tinted resin.

Lora Hart created a metal clay speciman container brooch with an ice resin center that is an homage to medieval jewelery design

And Ruth Baillie's Hugh the Chameleon brooch in metal clay with tinted resin accents is whimsical.

One of the  things I love about the challenges is that several different artists all show their take on the same element  or process.  Ruth and Lora both did brooches with hand made findings - and each pin design was unique. And each artist gives some background to their design process, so you get a peek into how their creative juices flow and what inspires them.

So far the Muses have done clasps, steampunk stencilling, torch fired enamel, art clay copper and pmc together, and now ice resin.

The Master Muse website has brief summaries of each project and detailed tutorials are coming soon for purchase on Tonya's Wholelottawhimsy website, and I'm patiently waiting to buy my first (hopefully this week the first 3 tutes will be offered for sale). But in the meantime, I've got an idea for a metal clay and resin pendant, and going to  mix up a batch of ice resin this afternoon and give it a try.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Doing the Happy Dance

About 3 weeks ago, I turned in my "final 3" projects for jurying in Chicago - the last step in becoming a Senior Instructor for Art Clay World. And, along with Gail Moriarty, who also took  the level 2 class with me at Carol Babineau's studio, I've been waiting patiently to hear the outcome. I just received a congratulatory email from Carol.

As my dear mother used to say, "Yippee, Skippee!", sort of a back in the day equivalent of WHOO-HOO!

I've doing some preplanning for my retirement (998 days and counting), and one of the things I'm looking forward to doing is spending much of my time writing and teaching. Achieving the Senior Instructor certification from Art Clay World was one of "those" things that I needed to do to accomplish my retirement dream.

Now I'm looking at the Master Registry Program, a rigorous 5 tier evaluation program based on 50 specific projects, testing one's ability and creativity using metal clay. So far, 14 artists have successfully completed one or more or the tiers, and judging from the map of those in the program,  I'd be the first to enroll from Massachusetts. It's a bit of a scarey endeavor for me, but one that I believe will help me stretch and grow. Julia Rai, the first to sign up for the program, and the first to reach Level III, details her experience in her blog.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Absolutely Everything

well, it's Friday again, and it looks like I'll be stopping by Absolutely Everything in Topsfield MA on my way home again.
This is a dangerous detour for me...and my wallet, as I always find something I just HAVE to HAVE. Today, I'm on the hunt for Style Stones, which I plan on using as texture tools with metal clay. hopefully , I'll find what I'm looking for there and and will be able to post some new pics over the weekend.

this promises to be a busy Weekend - I'm heading out Saturday to Salem, MA to the Peabody Essex Museum and their new Mayan exhibit - got a great writeup last weekend and the premise is fascinating -"ancient Maya viewed their world as inextricably tied to water."

and Sunday I'll be  trying to get a studio back in shape "after the floods" - basement still drenched, but drying slowly, so I'm going to tackle my breezeway room - currently stacked high with seasonal stuff, it's time to clean it out. I'm hoping that between this and next long weekend (thanks to Paul Revere and the Boston marathoners, I have next Monday off), I can turn this nice little room into a 2-3 person teaching studio, at least until the basement studio gets cleared our and cleaned up. Should be interesting- and hopefully I'll find that set of keys that went missing last year in the rubble.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

claying with Julie Picarello

after a busy couple of weeks finishing up my Sr Cert Art Clay  projects, I'm rewarding myself with a weekend with Julie Picarello and her mokume gane mixed media workshop through Bead Designers International (check out her amazing work at

lots of clay to condition in preparation for this great class and I'm looking forward to getting together with friends and claying for a weekend.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

amazing wood sprites

I've been busy since returning from Maryland, Cabin Fever and Synergy, dealing with the after effects of two weeks away from the real job - and from the flooded basement that awaited by return to Massachusetts. This time, because I was away when the basement flooded and we lost power for several days, the sump pump that keeps me relatively dry was not attended to,  the water rose about 8 inches and entered the finished half of the basement. so I've been pumping, wet vacing, dehumidifying and tossing out.

this is the first weekend I've really had to myself, so today, after some metal clay work with Carol Babineau and a Central Ma Polymer Clay guild meeting, I decided to finally check out some of the etsy sites - and came across some incredible polymer clay wood sprites by Chopoli  .

This polymer sculptor from Rosenheim, Germany has quite a talent for combining polymer clay and wood bark. Some of the sprites'  and gnomes' faces are incredibly beautiful and human like, others are pure fantasy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

History at Synergy2

Synergy 2,  the 2010 conference for the International Polymer Clay Association, is being held at the Tremont Grand in Baltimore. This Building was the site of an early Masonic Lodge and is loaded with history and very fancy decor.

on the first night of Synergy2, the old and the new collided for me. As a big fan of Ace of Cakes, a Food Network weekly series about Baltimore -based Charm CIty Cakes, I was thrilled to discover that the Synergy Committee had contracted for a Duff "special " cake.

This cake depicts several polymer clay techniques, including flower canes, beadmaking  and mosaics - and was very yummy (except for the gum paste jewels around the base of the cake, which looked scrumptious, but had the consistency of unflavored, very poofy marshmallows).

After the cake tasting, I visted the ladies room and came face to face with a story related to my home town, Jamestown NY, and the company where my grandmother Haupin spent most of her work life- and where my mother was a Rosie the Riveter during WWII. the plaque and signatures hidden in an alcove explain it all.

Maryland madness

So, I've been in Maryland for almost a week, staying with family and attending Cabin Fever Clay fest. This was my second time attending this whirlwind polymer clay event. It is hard to say which of the 7 classes I attended that I enjoyed the most.

What was great about this year was that there were more "multi-media" offereings, and I really didn't have the self imposed pressure of  completing projects in each class (good thing because I was up late -for me- almost every night watching the Olympics  )
so, in Dayle Doroshow's class I did complete 10 different folded paper books (and polymer covers for 4 of them)

 in Laurie Mika's class
 I completed some  very thick mosaic ATC's.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Traveling Studio

While there are many joys that come from working in both polymer and metal clay, one of the big frustrations that I have is the packing and repacking or tools, supplies and materials when switching gears from one medium to another in a class setting. Yes, many tools I use in polymer clay I also use in metal clay, but there are some I don't. I have a series of transportation options for my studio on wheels. The biggest and definitely the heaviest is a very heavy duty 3 part metal tool cart that I use primarily to cart polymer goodies off to retreats. Then I have 4 heavy cloth rolling bags- two designed for scrapbooking, one a big hand tool bag from harbor freight, and a rolling carryon Samsonite bag. Then there are the big blue, insulated, zip top trader Joe's bags that catch the overflow when travelling. finally, if I'm teaching and have to drag along a kiln and/or a toaster oven, I have a rolling flat cart. Right now, all my studio supplies are in disarray- spread out over my studio, the basement and what used to be (and hopefully will be again) my dining room. As my brother , Bill, so sweetly put it, I can't die before he does, because he doesn't want to have to deal with "the mess".

Two weeks ago I was finishing up an intensive metal clay class series in Nashua. Because I'm a firm believer in bring something you may or may not need, it's safe to say that I packed everything but the kitchen sink from my tool and supplies area that could be used for metal clay, including many of my polymer tools. This took the two larger rolling bags and two of the insulated trader joe's bags. I finished the class and headed back to life in the "real world", sliding all the transport gear into the studio.

Next week, I'm heading off  to CFCF2010 for 4 days on intensive polymer clay classes, so now it's time to regroup, sort out the tools and such and go over the supply list for each of the 7 classes I'll be taking. I'm excited about these classes, because they're with artists whose work I've always admired, but with two exceptions, I've never met.

I've got a full day class with my old friend Jana Roberts Benzon. It's always a treat to get together with her - a wonderful teacher with a great sense of humor and an amazing talent. She'll be debuting her "laser cut technique”. This three dimensional intricate design reminds me of aerial views of a city - and it will be a great way to use up those bits of cane I have stored in ammunition cases (we polymer people are very good at repurposing all sorts of things - let us loose in a hardware or sporting goods store and we can come up with any number of repurposed texture tools)

I'm doing a faux raku bracelet class with Tony Aquino, with whom I had the pleasure of studying last year. Tony is the chemist for Kato clay, and a talented artist and teacher. Ask him how to incorporate something non-polymer into your process and he'll come up with a creative solution

and then there are the new folks - well, new for me- Laurie Mika is doing a mosaic ATC class (spent lots of dollars on multimedia goodies at Absolutely Everything in Topsfield, MA getting ready for this class and Dayle's); Laurie is also presenting at the International Polymer Clay Association (IPCA) conference and devised the magnificent Synergy Collaborative Tile Project. Laurie's also doing one of the development sessions at Synergy

Dayle Doroshow is teaching a bookmaking class, using folded papers and polymer covers at CFCF2010 and she's also presenting at the IPCA's Synergy 2 conference- on creative spark and how to nurture it.

After watching Louise Fischer- Cozzi's "Sophie Necklace" dvd and marveling at her talent, I'm looking forward to taking a class with her in person - this bangles class incorporates polymer clay laminates and fine finishing techniques. Louise will also be presenting at Synergy - thoughts on wholesaling

Grant Diffendaffer is one of the more "interesting" polymer artist today. At a recent show at the Fuller Crafts Museum , his contribution to the exhibit was polymer clay ray guns! He also uses heavy duty tools in creating some of his bead - his recent book walked us through creating polymer beads with a mini wood lathe. The CFCF class I'm talking with him is making recursive beads - a lot of techniques involved here too.

and last, but not least, is a mobile stackable sculpture with Maureen Carlson. Maureen makes absolutely lovely dolls and many of us use the push molds she's designed for faces in our work. This class uses many techniques and materials to help us express an emotion or feeling - I love the lady with the bird on her head in Maureen's exemplar for the class. And I've always envied the wonderful teaching facility Maureen has up in Jordan , MN

So, as you can see, there's a ton of supplies and tools to organize - and lots of clay to pre-condition so I can get the most out of the classes. and hopefully in the process I can get my studio re-organized so when I get back from these classes I can get to work creating!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


for the past two weekends, I've been driving up to Nashua to take a level 2 certification class in Art Clay Silver at Carol Babineau's studio. For those of you unfamiliar with ACS's cert programs, they're fairly intense- several projects to be completed on site in a limited amount of time.
The cert programs have just been re-written and with a couple of the old projects eliminated (the brass wire and silver pendant and the gauze over clay bead-two of my favorites)  and several of the remaining  projects changed .
So I've been busily crafting, refining and firing away. Today marked the completion of my in-class projects and now I can begin obsessing about what to make for my 3 "submit to be juried" pieces - a ring, a brooch and a pendant , all meeting specific fabrication guidelines.
I do know that the pendant will definitely NOT have a stone as large as the one I created for my in-class project. It was a great learning experience on a couple of levels- setting a stone with corner, and setting a REALLY big stone.  Another challenge has been trying to get the perfect photograph of all the pieces together. aside for a bit of focus issue in the right corner of the really big pendant, this is the best I've been able to do.
of course part of the problem is using a flash with all that shiney silver.
the Dragonfly Inro has different dragonfly scenes on each side - one with bent grasses, the other with cattails, and int underside of the inro cover is adorned with 2 baby dragonflies. Grasses and reeds embellish the sides of the box, too.

so now I'm cruising my favorite supplier sites, trying to find just the perfect stone for the pendant I've designed - either moonstone or a light blue stone would probably be perfect in a 10mm round. The pin gave me the most fits, but I've finally come up with a design I like - can you pick it out of this group of some of the sketches I did for early designs?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Going to Pot

Just before the holidays, I took a traditional hand-throwing clay class with Paula Barry ( ) at the Picker Building in Nashua, just down the hall from Car0l Babineau's studio. It's hard to believe, given art education today - or even 20 years ago, that I don't ever remember working with clay in school.

About a year ago, I'd purchased 25 lb of clay, with the intention of making beads that could be used with metal clay...and now I have a pretty solid 25  lb unfired brick sitting in a plastic storage container.

I had a couple of ideas for Christmas gifts that I wanted to try my hand at with an instructor present- who could hopefully tell me how to rehydrate my 25 brick. My hands were giving me trouble the night of the class, and I found the clay more difficult to deal with than either polymer or metal clay initially, so Paula swapped out my "older" clay for some that was nice & fresh. It was somewhat easier to work with than the original batch, so I started playing.

I'd wanted to make a bunny for my cousin, Brittany, whose name I'd drawn for the family exchange - she's got a big, bad (chews on electric cords) house bunny. after several attempts at a "whole " bunny, I gave up and settled for a head.

then I moved on to beads. I decided to keep it simple - a couple of flattish beads with holes for stringing and a couple of little faces that I've been thinking of using as computer "guardians" - to keep the bugs and viruses away

and finally, with time running out, I threw together a couple of pinch pots.

Then it was time to choose the glazes we wanted added and out the door. I'd hoped that the pieces would be ready for the holidays, but alas, they weren't fired until last week.  The glazes came out a bit darker than I'd anticipated and where I'd hoped for blues, I seem to have greens.

So the bunny will be traveling south with me in February. Overall I'm happy with the results and it was an interesting experiment that I'll probably continue . I'd like to make more beads and experiment with other clays and glazes.