1, 2, 3, Gogh!
Updated: Sep 2, 2018
While I can totally lose myself in my metalwork, enjoying the pounding and bending, the filing and sawing, on occasion it is a delightful change in pace to completely switch the medium I am working in. I find that using a different medium is an excellent exercise for my brain, a challenge, and a load of fun, too!
I was recently invited by the marketing folks at Polyform Products to do some experimentation with some varieties of their polymer clay and clay tools. I was introduced to polymer clay by an incredible artist nearly 30 years ago and my mind continues to be boggled by the innovative ways polymer artists use this wonderful medium. I am by no means an expert with this material, but I want to see how I can combine my metal working skills with this flexible medium.
Polyform Products is probably best known for their colorful Sculpey clay. I started my first challenge using their Souffle clay, a clay that has a matte or suede like finish when fired. I was given a starter kit with a number of dark colors. But what I wanted to make was beads that mimic the colors and design in the sky of one of my favorite paintings, Vincent Van Gogh’s “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, 1890” (which just so happens to be the background of my website!) In addition to the Souffle colors, I also used a lot of Premo white (which didn’t alter the matte finish at the end.
I really wasn’t sure that I would be able to mix up the colors I wanted from the group of Souffle colors I had but I gave it a try. Surprisingly, happily, I was able to mix up just the right pale blues/greens and periwinkle combos that matched my print of the painting. This clay mixes really easily. If you aren’t familiar with using polymer clay, you can roll it and fold and twist it any which way you want, but my preference for mixing is to slice off some colors, then fold them together by rolling many times through my dedicated pasta machine (which will never touch food!). I worked with a small quantity of clay at first because I honestly didn’t think I would be able to create the right colors and didn’t want a pile of some off colored clay. Well, it worked out!
The small beads of color in front of the sheets are my “recipes” so that I could recreate the colors in a larger quantity later. The intensity of the Souffle colors threw me off at first but I was amazed at how easily I could add a small amount of a second color to change the resulting color. Then, by adding that to white a bit at a time, I could create any shade I wanted. It reminded me of blending colors with paint, a skill I remembered from my school art days!
In order to get the swirly texture of Van Gogh’s sky, I chopped up some of each of my new colors, rolled that clumpy mess into a snake, and wrapped it with the cream color I created (added some brown to the white, with a touch of yellow).
Then I cut small pieces of the snake and did random shapes, swirls and half turns, and pushed it all together into an irregular looking block.
The real surprise was when I used my tissue blade to slice off the top portion of that block to reveal the swirly colors you see below.
I rolled that new creation through my pasta machine a few more times to thin it out, then made several beads with the resulting thin sheet. Next I combined my colors into spiral forms and applied that to another group of beads. I fired the whole group and was pleased with the matte finish.
Using a number of different stone beads, I had a blast combining my polymer beads with my stone beads. I created several necklaces and will probably make some matching earrings to go with them! I will be adding these items to my website when they are all finished. (I need to make some clasps for my necklaces!)
I was recently in Venice and enjoyed browsing the magnificent glass beads that city is known for, but I don’t care for the weight of those beads. Polymer clay is lighter than glass but a large necklace of polymer beads can also be heavy. So, for my next exploration of Polyform Product’s polymer clay, I plan to put my metalsmith hat back on and create some tools to create hollow polymer beads. I have a few ideas, so stay tuned to my blog!
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