Archive for the 'Clay' Category

October learning

I’ve been working with polymer clay for just over a year now. Mostly it’s been Just In Time Learning – working with a different focus, trying to find a way to achieve my result or express my thought in polymer clay, picking up just enough to get by in the moment. The recent weaving project (30-Sept-2022) drew on skills in weaving learnt years ago. I’m not claiming great skill as a weaver. It’s more working from an existing base, having a skills vocabulary in place, familiarity with materials plus a pre-existing stash, already knowing some of my preferences and what I have enjoyed doing. I wanted to have that feeling of competence, of building on foundations, of growing and extending, when working with polymer clay.

October has been a start. Just a start. It’s reminded me of just how much experimentation and repetition is needed to build knowledge in hands and mind. Lots of photos and very brief notes. Some failures, some successes, most suggesting further investigations.

Initial samples following Debbie Crothers crackle art beads tutorial.

Going further with Debbie Crothers, adding in her Curing Kato liquid tutorial. Love the crackle, but significant damage in curing process. Need to learn to hold and support the pieces.

Not exciting in themselves, but the first results I felt were usable.

A different crackle, using gold coloured leaf. Even distribution is boring. Beautiful smooth blend (Lynn Yuhr technique) visually lost.

Another crackle, using a bit of old cane cut thick plus a very thin lightly cured sheet. Thinking of maelstrom, and there’s a hint of that movement.

Swirling with yarn? Overcooked the liquid Kato – and the threads.

A rummage through the scrap drawer. Graphic line variations.

More scraps, more crackle attempts, more swirling using some improvised bits of wire.

More using Debbie Crothers’ crackle and liquid Kato coating techniques.

This little dish is another crackle with the old cane and thin lightly cured sheet, plus the liquid clay coating. Lots I like about this.

A little bit from Debbie Crothers (the bead forming, the clear coating), a little from Lynn Yuhr (her online clay + metal class), a little from me (my interpretation of a storm at sea – reading Moby Dick). These are a little heavy, but fun to wear.

This remains a work in progress. I wanted to combine polymer clay with wire basketry, but the twining I began with (not shown here) needs to be cut out and rethought. It wasn’t stable enough to hold the beads near the rim as I envisaged. I was pleased with my base form, which holds the wires stable very neatly.

The veneer was in the stash, and used a tutorial purchased from Hélène Jeanclaude.

Yes, more of Debbie Crothers’s crackle. The condensed but smooth colour transition is from Lynn Yuhr. The metal forging I first learned in a class with Keith Lo Bue. The round beads came from my mum. I love the feeling of richness these multiple connections give.

The pod forms are from Debbie Crothers – there’s a great series experimenting with the form on her youtube. The crackle effect is from Debbie’s purchased tutorial. The more general swirl pods use clay from one of the scrap experiments shown above. I coated them with some gloss paint which is peeling off in spots – but only on the swirl pods. Does the rougher surface of the crackle pods give better grip? Humidity was very high when I was painting the general swirl pods. Perhaps I didn’t leave enough drying time between coats.

The spacing beads and clasp were from an op shop broken necklace, and have been sitting quietly in the stash – I suspect pre-marriage, so for over 40 years. Finally the right project came along.

I love wearing this bangle. It’s an eye-catching statement. And I love the little sculptures it forms when I take it off at the end of the day.

These little forms are based on yet another Debbie Crothers tutorial – mini clay pots. I just love her style.

Playing around. It looks like a circus act.

More play. At the end of the day, cruising around the internet, I often find some clay in my hands, just fiddling. These are small, and both are attempts at using text in clay – little worms and strips of black, carefully arranged on a glass tile, the formed clay rolled over. Text as pattern. Semi-hidden meaning. Lots of possibilities.

Yet more play. Interesting that the unsupported curl at the end survived curing in the oven.

Taking the “knotted snake” a step further. These earrings use clay scraps from last year’s Grief project, and the patterning is based on mum’s clothing. It feels right that she should be part of these party-ready earrings.

Just fun. Input from Debbie Crothers, Keith Lo Bue, stash. Feels powerful to be able to whip up my own charms. Wire wrapping leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Another experiment with the snake form. It makes a chunky but happy bangle.

There are so many great youtube videos using translucent polymer clay. I’m interested in the layering possibilities, and the idea that a single cane can be used at multiple scales. These first attempts are plain awful. Not translucent enough. Very obvious air pockets.

Also No.

Slowly improving. Thin slices of cane, put in a fold of baking paper, through the pasta machine at thinnest setting. I could burnish it direct from the baking paper onto the base clay, which greatly reduced air pockets.

Areas of interest, but … this idea has been parked for now.

I’ve joined a beginner’s print-making class. I want to slow down, really focus and pay attention. I’d like to move between different disciplines of making, pushing pattern and motifs further. This is my linocut print from week 1, the image based on one of the crackle bracelet photos above.

More learning opportunities!

Week 2 was drypoint. I selected a photo of a roof-top fishpond – a hidden corner of calm in the centre of Sydney.

My line version. How could I take this into polymer clay?

Sona Grigoryan has a fabulous video “Texture Feast”. Above you can see my foamy texture plate, made following her directions.

Earrings using the texture were ready in time to wear to the class. They’re meant to suggest fish leading from the pond, dripping water and weed.

So many flaws, but so much fun! One of my prints from the class.

Some more samples using the texture plate. The one on the left is actually flat. The turquoise clay is a very thin layer. The relief areas were sliced back to show the silver coloured clay underneath. I really want to explore this further, but first…

I used the foamy plate to make a texture sheet in polymer clay. A video from Patricia Roberts-Thompson was my guide.

I’ve also done a series of tests using clay rolled to different thicknesses. I’m using Kato clay, with the addition of some Kato softener.

I’d like to build a library of my own textures, so will start November looking at some of the possibilities.

Weaving questions

Weaving of emotions (29-Aug-2022) has reached an end for now. I found a response of sorts to each of the 18 planned emotion segments. I wouldn’t call it finished. It feels like there is a next step – but I’m not sure what that might be. My reaction to it at the moment is…

Exhausted?

Definitely not Disgusted.

I’ll wait for an idea to present itself. There isn’t a swatch for Patient. Perhaps I don’t spend a lot of time in that state…


A friend pointed me to multiple weaving references in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and in particular chapter 47, The Mat-Maker. I found both spoken (https://www.mobydickbigread.com/) and text (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm) versions. I decided to make my own sword mat.

The printed text provided the warp. On the right of the printout is a graphic representing the spoken version from the Big Read.

An interesting exercise, but a little flat.

The swirling maelstrom suggested the perils of fire at sea.

Coffee aged, candle-fire singed, seared plastic threads (to me suggesting the fallen wreckage of masts and rigging).

Perhaps poetic, but fragile – and shedding.

In honesty, a solution to a practical problem. But perhaps suggestive –

  • ship in a bottle
  • message in a bottle
  • catching lightening in a bottle
  • not storm in a teacup
  • genie in a bottle – be careful what you wish for
  • bottling up emotions

Finally, an idea or perhaps a question that appeared from nowhere while drifting to sleep.

(Always pen and paper nearby of course).

Could I make a something, could it hold together, just beads threaded onto wire?

Yes.

The central part is the purest version, simply following the sketch.

After threading the beads I wanted to make it more 3 dimensional, to get some height. To do that with stability I added some twisting of the wire, controlling spread by limiting material.

The finial idea was another night’s drifting. The main form uses 20 gauge artistic wire. The cut ends at the top are bound together with 32 gauge. The beads are polymer clay – made from left-overs of past experiments which were marinating in the stash. I didn’t have any more to use at the top, and in any case had concerns about weight. I think this solution fits well.

Swirling

A video may, or may not, appear above. A friend suggested this vessel, this idea of maelstrom, appears best in motion. There is clearly much to learn – formats, the quality/size tradeoff, editing software…

The clay discs with wire connectors used techniques from a workshop with Lynn Yuhr via Metalwerx. There is some netted wire-work, made a few years ago when I was building an inventory of component pieces. All put together using random weave and some twining for extra stability and linework.

Energy, growth

Energy

This dish is around 17 cm diameter and 4 cm high. It uses techniques learnt in two classes I took with Lynn Yuhr earlier this year. See some of Lynn’s fabulous work at https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/

Lynn is a great teacher, very knowledgeable and organized, and she has clearly put a great deal of effort into making sure her virtual classes are a good experience for everyone. Metalwerx, the provider, supports with a great environment for virtual learning. I took another class with Lynn and Metalwerx last week – given current time zone differences starting at 6am Sydney time. Absolutely worth the effort.

The dish combines polymer clay, including liquid clay, techniques and design ideas from Lynn, and basketry in wire.

Line, pattern, index

line, pattern, index; palimpsest and piecing

That was the title of the mini research project I drew up for March.

There were some beginnings:

All above but the writing square are samples based on two classes with Lynn Yuhr (https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/), presented online by Metalwerx. Lynne’s teaching and notes were exceptional. Metalwerx provided excellent support and admin.

Sally Smart
The Artists House
AGNSW

Work by Sally Smart at the Art Gallery of NSW thrilled.

The “index” element came from reading Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan. I was interested in the idea of indexing as an act of deep reading. Struggling to read a dense chapter in Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry as preparation for the creative research group, I decided to try indexing. Just developing a set of headwords was challenging and very effective in both engaging a higher level of attentiveness and in identifying the flow of Hirshfield’s argument.

Next I attempted to combine a few of my focus elements in building an index – or a series of indexes – of the Daily Balance photographs I showed last month.

It became elaborate. An example:

Daily balance #5
Combined with an old charcoal scribble, which was then rubbed back and covered with white paint
became a new charcoal sketch.
I then identified what most attracted my attention and…
a pattern was formed

The next step was going to be the pattern expressed in polymer clay, which in a way I can’t now see was going to become one of a set of pattern index cards. There’s a gap in my thinking here. That’s an index?

At the same time I wrote a paragraph triggered by the various elements – the story behind the glass frog which was a gift from mum.

Plus a list of materials which could feed into an index. Which could be based on edited photos of mum. The closest I could find to polymer clay was a photo of mum holding some children’s play clay. The photo has the sharp image of clay, and the pixelated memory shape of mum.

This was A Very Bad Idea. I was obliterating my mother. I’ve removed the photo from this post because I don’t want to see that again. The entire chain of work was abandoned, although I may return to the pattern generation element.

Instead I have diverted to consider a coincidence in the use of language. Dennis Duncan writes of the “compressed story telling” that can appear in an index. Major incidents in Jane Doe’s life in staccato bursts and page numbers. Jane Hirshfield writes that good poetry, and image in particular “by gathering many energies toward a single end, creates an intense compression of meaning; it carries into the mind the solidity, particularity, and multi-facetedness of actual objects.” And leads on to enlarged awareness.

Different forms of compression can distil down, or open out. Which led on to mapping and models, and how patterns can be found by drilling down into the detail of sunflower pollen or by looking up, stargazing the constellations. In Evocative Objects Mitchel Resnick writes of his attention being held not by the stars, but the spaces between. He went on to explore “systems in which complex patterns emerge from simple interactions among simple parts.

Pattern finding – the simple describing the complex? complex pattern from combinations of the simple?

And then there’s the surprise of the unexpected, a disruption in the pattern. (Explored by Jane Hirshfield in Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise.)

More investigation required.

February Daily Balance

A near-daily exercise, the rules gradually refined and occasionally broken over the month.

Artifact

Definition of artifact

1a: a usually simple object (such as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification as distinguished from a natural object
especiallyan object remaining from a particular period
b: something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual
c: something or someone arising from or associated with an earlier time especially when regarded as no longer appropriate, relevant, or important
2a: a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (such as human) agency
b: an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain
c: a defect in an image (such as a digital photograph) that appears as a result of the technology and methods used to create and process the image
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifact (my highlighting)

I’ve been wondering what I’m doing here – a question so big and so vague it’s close to useless. Part of the answer is that I like making: the process of working with my hands and mind and skills, tools, materials; to create something that didn’t exist before and in its small way is unique; to express myself; to connect with myself and others; to help me think. The thinking part keeps growing in importance. There’s the meditative aspect, especially with the rhythm and repetition of my preferred additive processes, keeping the hands and front of the brain busy while the mind quests. Plus there’s a focusing effect, with a conscious effort to use making as a way of extending my research, and the attempt to express abstract ideas in physical form. More and more an object at the ends seems to be a by-product of the process rather than its goal or purpose.

The dual meanings of artifact fit well. And what I’m doing here in the blog, in part, is documenting my artifacts – the objects, ideas, and making. The ratios will vary of course. This post, as you’ve already seen, is on the wordy ideas side.

Layered grief
It looks better in person

Background

A year ago mum had been discharged from the palliative care hospital. Just a few days left, with a lot of laughter and love mixed in with the rest. I still think of her through each day. Sometimes it’s the stab of loss. Or relief that she had most of what she wished for when diagnosed – a final summer with family and friends; to die at home. I’m glad she didn’t have to go through the winter of lockdown. I miss chatting with her – her advice, her opinions on all things large and small, gossip. She was my most vocal and unstinting supporter. And I miss the sense of purpose and value and meaning of supporting her. I hate the lurch when I vaguely think that I haven’t phoned her in a while, then remember why. I miss her smile, the pleasure it gave her, when she opened the door to me. I miss the example she gave of taking simple joy in the world, curious and interested – watching children playing, chatting with workers on their smoko, enjoying the joke of chalked signs in the park.

I’m glad to miss mum. I’m glad to grieve for her. I’m so lucky to have experienced such love, to have known such a person. It’s right and human to honour her and our relationship.

Ideas

Perhaps with time and distance I will see some pattern, some kind of stages in grieving. At the moment I see – feel – complexity and change and repetition-with-variation and layering and unexpected connections. Perhaps a rhizomic rather than linear thing (“structure” seems too strong a word). Is that something I could express in clay?

Memory is an integral part of grieving. My most recent attempt at expressing that was shown 14-Jan-2022.

My notes when beginning to plan this new experiment:

  • extension of distorted memory
  • clearer use of stencil
  • ?dark “Victorian mourning” cane
    • use as background
    • simplified stencil in gloss (?? possible?) black?
    • don’t like link of black to mourning, but works visually
    • peering into the past, overlaying present.
  • a larger, mixed bowl, or a series of cupped hands?

Making

The clay. Once again I used leftovers and oddments from previous work.

Victorian mourning
28-Sept-2021
including build-up and mop-up material
Grief, hope, energy, renewal
28-Oct-2021

I focused on using as much of the clay as possible, laying out slices in a pattern, then filling in the gaps with a cane of scraps of the scraps (a Fiona Abel-Smith technique)

In the photo above the burnished disc of clay is on a sheet of Agreena wrap. Made of silicone, it’s sold as a non-toxic, renewable, recyclable alternative to clingfilm. It’s heavy enough to be able to carry the weight of the clay, thin enough to peel off easily, and is oven-safe. All very handy working with polymer clay.

I didn’t like my placement of the feathers cane at this point, but hoped it would be toned down in the next stage.

Stencilling. The John Chester Jervis jug stencils were used again (last seen 14-Jan-2022) – there is a strong link to the Victorian mourning conventions work. My largest  handheld round embroidery frame was slightly too small. On my larger ThimbleLady lap quilting frame the fabric was not held as firmly, and it was difficult to access everywhere, but worth it I think to avoid moving a frame around and having edges rest on the print. Stencilling was done in opaque black liquid clay.

stencil placement
improvised silkscreen
Left: paper cut stencils in place. Right: stencilled clay

A high level comparison shows the stencilling worked quite well. I’ll go through some caveats later.

Baking. The clay was lifted and placed in a metal bowl, in a “sling” of agreena wrap. That is, it didn’t touch the bottom, the bowl acting as a general support rather than forming the shape. Sausages of foil were used to create an unevenly undulating form, to suggest the distortions and selection that creep into even our most precious memories over time.

Fresh from the oven. The clay slipped down slightly during baking, but didn’t touch the bottom of the metal bowl.

Artifact

The final outcome is one of the largest vessels I’ve made in the past year of mourning – around 19 cm in diameter, and a pleasant weight in the hand. I love the layers of connection – to mum and our family history, to various lines of research, to my ongoing life and explorations. I like the sinuous edge, and that the bowl is open – inviting, accepting.

The underside came off the agreena wrap with a pleasant shine. It’s bright and busy, but in my eyes visually coherent. Even those feathers look better, in their place like a trim on a skirt, linking clearly with the canes in the middle section above.

The interior is more complex. It is intriguing when held in the hands, moved around to catch the light and to follow lines of pattern. However…

  • the areas of liquid clay are very textured, even after light sanding and polishing. I think this is a side effect of the slightly looser organza screen, moving up and down as I dabbed on the liquid clay. I didn’t want to sand further and start losing stencilled areas altogether.
  • in most areas the “opaque” black still allows the shadow of changing pattern below. Very on theme. However there is a lot of black in the base layer, leading to a visual muddle on what is foreground and what background, impacting the integrity of the silhouettes.
  • The pattern of cane placement is obscured, creating a visual jarring effect in places where different input canes join.
  • on the plus side and ignoring those limitations, the boundary between foreground and background is crisp in all but the smallest detail areas.

As it is, with all the associations it has for me – I am satisfied, happy, when I handle, examine, spend time with the bowl. I’ve learnt in the process. There’s still a way to go in making a stencilled pattern on a busy cane ground work, but I’m getting closer and I have ideas for more tweaks.

More liquid clay experiments

My initial liquid polymer clay experiments (28-Dec-2021) were interesting, but in my first attempt in practice the stencilled clay has very little impact (14-Jan-2022). There is promise, the concept of a larger / clarifying / extending image stencilled on more complex cane patterning remains intriguing. But more work is required. Time to revisit more monoprinting techniques.

Some homemade stamps from past print-making, with liquid clay dabbed on with a cosmetic sponge:

A stamp made with some looped string glued to stiff cardboard and varnished.
This stamp was made from a piece of foam mat, heated, then impressed with a wooden block

Textures from a collotype sampler plate (30-Dec-2015), again with liquid clay sponged on:

collatype plate 8
The original plate, using modelling paste on mountboard as a base
This section uses a piece of mum’s wedding dress
Here a scrapper was dragged through the paste

A gelatine plate was used with a stencil, again with liquid clay applied by sponge:

right to left
* yupo stencil on top then pressed clay on (+ve)
* stencil pressed on clay – transferred on (-ve)
* clay on geli – a little/faint ghost
Using plastic with a corrugated surface as a stamp
Liquid clay was put on the geli plate, some wool pressed in, and then the wool pressed onto the clay
The shadow image left on the geli plate was captured.

I did try a couple of other monoprinting techniques, in particular a variant of backdrawing, but wasn’t satisfied with the result. My method was to sponge the clay on thin plastic, then place that side down on a clay sheet and press through – a little like using carbon paper. Instead of just getting lines where pressed, the whole area of liquid clay immediately transferred. I should try leaving the prepared plastic overnight before use.

Next attempt – silkscreen printing.

Printing through silk screen; plant material as “stencil”. Liquid clay pushed through with old membership card.

I tried to wash the screen quickly – alcohol then soap and water. Traces of liquid clay remained. Not something to repeat. Plus I should have washed and dried screen before using it – bits of dust and dirt were left on the clay.

The screen did what I hoped in terms of keeping plant material in place.

A day later came the next layer of fish imagery experiment. This time some polyester organza in an embroidery hoop worked well as the “silk screen”, and was easy to clean up.

  • Dabbing rather than scraping [with credit card] to spread colour made some differences
    • more flexible for colour placement
      – think this is a key outcome of technique
    • less of indent left in clay
      • if want, could pre-press with acrylic block
        – would probably help definition of colour
    • difficult to get colour into previous indentation
      • if want, could hand apply later.

I later realised the fish is upside down.

Another overnight wait, then colouring the fish.

Used “negative space” stencil to add (upside down) fish)
+ cocktail stick to ease colour into impressed lines of plants.
  • Very little ink picked up on back of stencil – happened to be shiny side of freezer paper, which may be a factor

I really wanted to be able to pick out lines for definition. Time for a side experiment.

  • oddment of clay
  • black ink [dabbed] onto (2 day old) weed.
    onto clay and held with improvised embroidery hoop while pressed – like it!

I also tried decanting some black liquid clay into a small bottle with a gutta nib (from batik work many years ago). I thought this would give a finer line. It looked promising at first, but soon became a big fail.

Inked plant material, ink on thread, other random improvised stamps, the gutta nib lines – all beaded on the surface.

So far I had used a few pieces of scrap clay, mixing in the liquid clay and re-rolling after each experiment. It all ended in the bin.

After a few days of grumbling around, a new plan:

Next fish scene:

  • colour on weeds. pressed in.
  • brighten colours with alcohol inks.
  • get “outlines” using +ve and -ve stencils, slightly out of alignment.
  • fish right way up.
  • smoother “slump donut” baking

Day 1

  • white top sheet on scrap base.
  • weeds and violet liquid clay dabbed on. Used acrylic block to push into clay
  • yellow liquid clay + sunbright yellow alcohol ink
  • looks fabulous

Day 2

  • Both colours faded a bit as they dried out – more pronounced in the violet, which didn’t have the alcohol ink boost.
  • organza not as tight – some nice texture
  • bigger “edge gap” on large fish (stencil a heavier card – relatively)
  • layering on yellow doesn’t make much sense, given effectively no white retained.
    • although “proper” blue around weed
  • blue liquid clay + sapphire blue alcohol ink

?? another idea – texture clay to manipulate colour later added.

Day 3

  • straight red liquid clay – want it paler (distanced)
  • tried threads-as-stencil to add definition
  • looked odd, so used alcohol on cotton bud to add to body shape, eye, mouth

–> uneasy un-balance in level of texture / detail and graphic nature.

Day 4

  • red of big fish faded overnight
  • small fish – red liquid clay + chili alcohol ink
    -ve (stencil doesn’t quite fit +ve
  • tried to make thread shaping clearer
  • want to hold nerve and do black edge tomorrow as planned experiment.

Day 5

  • Small fish with dual stencils
  • large fish done without stencils, using cotton bud
I much prefer the line achieved on the small fish

I wanted to introduce some distortion and slumping in baking – suggesting movement in the water. A rough donut of foil was wrapped in old T-shirt fabric, and the clay pushed in gently.

Final sample:

Lots of lessons, both positive and negative. Lots of avenues to explore. Perhaps the biggest problem for me is the wait between steps, not wanting to smudge layers. If I worked in a more production-like mode, for example building inventory for a market stall, I could work on multiple items at each stage, or have multiple items at different stages of the process. But for me at the moment, making is more an adjunct to thinking. Plus some of this seems to be working against the nature and possibilities of the clay rather than taking advantage of the medium. The more exciting possibility is to use just one or two of these ideas at a time. There’s a lot of flexibility to add my own imagery that I’ve developed over years, rather than relying on commercial stamps and stencils.

Reimagined Memory

This post has been sitting in draft form for longer than I’d like. It’s changing, but I wouldn’t say improving. There are so many chains of thought, so many intentions. So much I’d like to say, but when I type it seems … overblown? underwhelming? And yet this piece is deeply satisfying to me. Words fail.


In general, too facts do not explain values. And in works of the poetic imagination, values bear the mark of such novelty that everything related to the past is lifeless beside them. All memory has to be reimagined. For we have in our memories micro-films that can only be read if they are lighted by the bright light of the imagination.

Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space

Bachelard has a poetic and beautiful response to memory. I have returned to this a few times while reflecting on memories of mum, new and renewed. In contrast, Bessel Van Der Kolk wrote of an experiment in The body keeps the score: “We deliberately tried to collect just isolated fragments of their experience – particular images, sounds, and feelings – rather than the entire story, because this is how trauma is experienced.” This darker perspective resonated with my recent jury experience – the conflicting and imperfect recollection of the various testimonies.

Could I show / explore that in clay?

Memory malleable, distorted, overlaid, mistaken, subverted, integrated, enriched.

Held

A few weeks after making this I was moved while reading Laura Marris’s “Atmospheric changes: on meteorology & Camus” (https://thepointmag.com/examined-life/atmospheric-changes-camus/). How do I filter enough to see without being overwhelmed? or too narrow? without skimming the surface? immerse without being lost?

It helped to hold this bowl. Here is a concrete thing that “memorialises” past thought. I love that it settles into the palm of my hand. Is held, stable. I sat, holding the bowl, mind wandering. More and more seeing distortions that somehow carry meaning. I sit with it, resisting ideas of where to go next.

Background

Memory hexagon

I wanted to return to and reimagine memories. A previous post shared some reading on the malleability of memory, the way we edit and reshape history in our recollection.

28-Oct-2021

Left overs of that cane were combined with the distorted end sections, then forced into the conformity of a hexagon. Imperfect mirroring over mismatched seams.

JCJ’s jug

Memories are overlaid, combined, misremembered. I used monoprinting with liquid clay to suggest this.

A faint flower, followed by a butterfly with some opaque black added to transparent red to darken and reduce transparency.

Further deepening and enriching the experiment, the paper stencils used were originally cut and used in a design on fabric for an OCA course.

26-Apr-2012

The imagery came from a family heirloom jug, and has already inspired other clay experiments.

31-Jul-2021

Glyph

I wanted to add more imagery, more layering of ideas. This time I turned to the glyphs I developed as part of my notebook practice. An infinity symbol was used for “memory”.

15-Oct-2019

Once again I was able to use existing and personal stencils.

22-Jan-2020

Recurring theme

I can’t recall (ho ho) if I’ve previously shared this page of related notes.

Finishing

Much of the liquid clay colour was lost in handling while I stretched and prepared the clay for baking.

Based on a suggestion from Ruth Hadlow I wanted to take advantage of the properties of clay to further suggest the changes of memory over time. I put the disc on clay on an improvised donut of foil, hoping for slumping and distortion in baking.

Fragments

Straight from my notebook, some further thoughts on the result:

  • violet liquid clay not visible
  • red visible, but pattern hard to see
  • blue – or actually, protected areas – visible but a lot of colour lost.
  • bottom surface rough from foil
  • doesn’t seem to have drooped in oven
  • no gloss on any of the liquid clay areas.
  • the form is satisfying. It sits well. It spins and wobbles when touched.
  • good to have cut thick and rolled out. Expanded motif size and get good variation.
  • Lost colour on back – didn’t allow long rest + impact of sitting on glass tile when rolling.
    -> ? focus on one side??
  • tried running water into / over it – as a bowl and as an umbrella. pretty. Different effects depending on rate of flow of water.
    –> ?? attempt an indoor water feature?

Liquid polymer clay

Lynn Yuhr, self-described “artist-teacher-creative-maker-adventurer” at The Flying Squirrel Studio does beautiful work in polymer clay. I love the mark-making, the density and space, the boldness and energy of line, colour and form.

Work by Lynn Yuhr, from https://metalwerx.com/class-detail/exploring-liquid-polymer-clay-1
Work by Lynn Yuhr, from https://metalwerx.com/class-detail/coloring-outside-lines-polymer-clay-0

I’m also a great admirer of Lynn as a generous and helpful person. I was interested in her upcoming online workshops with Metalwerx, but hesitant given Lynn uses Sculpey clay and I have already invested in Kato products. I sent an enquiry and Lynn responded immediately, supportive of my preferences and with detailed questions and suggested experiments to test whether her techniques can be transferred. A week or so later Lynn emailed again – she had acquired some Kato liquid clay, done her experiments, and gave me a full rundown on what should work and ideas still to be explored. Amazing! Naturally I’m now enrolled in both classes – and even that was a problem-turned-pleasure. There were some issues with my non-US credit card plus challenges with online payment providers, and Violet at Metalwerx was friendly and helpful in finding an approach that worked for us both.

The classes aren’t until February and March, so you still have time to sign up. In the meantime, I’ve been doing my own basic experiments. My previous use of liquid clay has been the clear version, as glue between baked and fresh clay, and as a surface glaze.

Early experiments

1. First look, on white and black clay

Row: 1 liquid clay colours mixed with white liquid clay
Row 2: liquid clay dabbed on
Row 3: Using palette knife

The Kato colours are transparent, and barely show on the black. Adding white liquid clay made them visible, but pastel colours. Application methods attempted made glossy lumps on the surface of the clay ground.

2. Colour mixing

The central colour wheel uses mixing to create purple and orange.
In the corners are purchased colours of purple and orange.

I purchased all the colours of Kato liquid clay that I could find from Australian vendors. They seem to mix reasonably well.

3. Variety of marks

Rows 1 – 3: Marks using cocktail stick; piece of credit card; ball of tissue
Row 1: white liquid clay
Row 2: black liquid clay
Row 3: grey (mix of black and white)
Row 4: white pool with black feathered through; white pool with black dragged around; black pool with white dragged around

Dabbing created the flattest marks, but still with a slight gloss after baking. It all depends on purpose, but I find the stamp of the credit card edge gives a more energetic, purposeful line than any of my dragging attempts.

4. Reds on white

Column 1: cotton ball dabber – red liquid clay; senorita magenta alcohol ink + clear liquid clay; senorita magenta alcohol ink + white liquid clay
Column 2: small brush – red liquid clay; senorita magenta alcohol ink + clear liquid clay; senorita magenta alcohol ink + white liquid clay
Column 3: chili pepper alcohol ink + white liquid clay
Column 4: on black clay. from top: white liquid dabbed on, left 5 min then magenta + clear dabbed; magenta alcohol ink + clear; Chili + white; magenta + white

When I first emailed Lynn I was planning to use alcohol inks in clear liquid clay for my colours. She encouraged me to try the purpose-made coloured liquid clay as well, to see if it had similar properties. With this limited experiment I found:
* alcohol ink + liquid clay dried more on the ceramic tile palette, but a quick spray of isopropyl alcohol restored it to usable.
* I have quite a few alcohol inks, bought for use with resin. Useful to increase my colour range. I have yet to try them mixed into pre-coloured (ie not white or clear) liquid clay.
* The Kato liquid clay colours are labelled “transparent”, so they aren’t useful straight from the bottle onto a dark clay. Dabbing an area with white, leaving it to dry out a little, then over-dabbing with coloured transparent clay seems to offer the best results for a good non-pastel colour over dark clay.

The liquid clays themselves reminded me of my Akua print-making inks in viscosity and transparency – a comparison noted for followup.

Alcohol ink sidetrack

Looking at various videos showing alcohol inks with polymer clay, I was inspired by MyVian’s Galaxy earrings to make a quick Christmas Tree ornament as a gift to some lunch hosts.

Attempt 1 didn’t go as planned.

It looks pretty enough, but the mica powder formed clumps and didn’t show well, and I broke the star while sanding. The gold you can see was later experimentation with gold ink. I used a gloss varnish over the inks and mica.

Attempt 2 looks better in real life.

This time I mixed both mica powder and inks in clear liquid clay, to avoid the need for any varnish. Not great, but it looked nice as one small item on Marianne’s tree.

Monoprinting

I mentioned above the material similarities between printing inks and the liquid polymer clay. In a brief flurry yesterday I tried a couple of basic techniques. All use premixed red liquid polymer clay from Kato, on a base of white clay.

In progress
Baked
  • colour dabbed using cosmetic sponge (this is on the publicly available material’s list for Lynn’s class, and is much better than the oddments of tissues etc I used in my earlier experiments).
  • cosmetic sponge cut into a shape and used as a stamp.
  • sponge used to apply to the end of a rolling pin, which was used as a stamp.
  • colour sponged onto bubble wrap, then stamped
  • a stencil cut from yupo paper, colour dabbed over with sponge
  • a stamp improvised with string around an old office stamp. Colour sponged on to stamp. This also left some indentation on the clay base, which looks good (for the right purpose…)
  • a flexible net onion bag used as a stencil, coloured sponged on.
  • a shape cut from a thin sponge material (don’t remember quite what – sitting in monoprinting box). used first as a stencil, colour dabbed around it; used second with colour dabbed onto it and used as a stamp.

All of this is interesting and exciting, opening up possibilities. I love it when different areas of creativity start crossing over. I wouldn’t call the colour “rich”, but that in itself suggests more questions. I’m thinking partly of glazes used in watercolours, layering up. Or a stencilled larger design over a hexagon of more intricate cane clay. Perhaps short interim bakes to stabilise in between layers. Any difference made adding alcohol inks to pre-coloured liquid clay. Obviously also there will be lots to learn from Lynn.

Other experiments

For the sake of completeness…

I’ve shown before some of my colour mixing experiments, mostly focused on pairs of colours (for example 31-Aug-2021). I wanted to start looking a bit further.

Above is a basic skinner blend of magenta and blue, mixed with increasing amounts of yellow.

To be honest, I can’t remember where I was going with this. I think it may simply have been seeking some joy, after weeks of sitting as part of a dysfunctional jury hearing in a trial about the unpleasant doings (or not) of a dysfunctional family – and not even the “resolution” of achieving a verdict.

The scraps of my colour set were chopped up and whirled, following a tutorial purchased from Deb Hart.

My choice of base colour really drabs it down. Next time adjust thickness, and maybe darker (even black), for the base.

And finishing on a happier note, some random cane in the stash became a hair clip.


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