I have some fun new things popping up over there! A FREE polymer clay kokeshi doll tutorial went up today!
Saturday January 11, 2014 1:24 PM
I am stuck. Stuck, stuck, stickedy stuck. Back in November I sculpted my heart out creating my initial and winter collections of my Will O’ Wisp light up necklaces. Just now I don’t want to make another one. I have been editing and laying out photos for my tutorial book and the thought of sitting in front of this computer clickety-clacking away makes me want to poke out my own eyes. And yet here I sit typing a blog entry probably procrastinating. It will be my fourth trip upstairs to stare uselessly at my art supplies for today alone, and I cant count the trips to the bookshelves leafing through volume after volume of picture book trying to think of something to do. I really feel like I am pacing in a cage!
I seem to be cornered into taking my own advice. I give it to clients all the time. “Don’t just sit there ruminating and pining away deciding what to do, take the Nike approach and ‘Just Do It'”. So here we go! Just for kicks and giggles, I dug down to the depths of that craft junk drawer we all have. You know the one. That bottom one where you chuck bits from projects that you weren’t sure what to do with, but that also weren’t trash. My hand came out with a very interesting coating of various colors of glitter, brown velvet flocking, and green faux moss, but I chose these three bits of wayward stuff. Just as soon as I wash my hands I’ll figure out what to do with the stuff.
So we have this collection of stuff. Maybe you have similar stuff and can use this as a sort of mini-tutorial. I am going to grab a bite and some clays and see what I can come up with.
Saturday January 11, 2014 3:01 PM
I decided I wanted to do a take on those beautiful framed pieces of miniature art my painter friends create. You know the ones with a filigree frame, a tiny 2 in by 3 inch painting with a glass cab glued over it. I’m no painter, but why not adapt the idea to a sculptural piece.
So it got complex already. I can never stick with simple….BORING! I have a polymer clay backing on there which I hope looks a bit like a daytime sky. Then I have used a 2 part epoxy clay to create a sort of shelf along the bottom of the metal frame piece. I used a needle tool and a ball stylus to create a woody texture, though really I thing it will be most entirely covered with polymer anyway.
Epoxy takes some time to set up so I need 2 hours rest before I can get back to work. I am going to go watch My Neighbor Totoro because it is raining and I haven’t seen it since 1991.
January 11, 2014 8:50 PM
Got down to the fun part! Creating a branch frame, sculpting mushrooms and tiny stumps. It goes in the oven now and will be painted and turned into a necklace in them morning. I think it is turning out well considering all the time I spent staring at craft materials this week!
Sunday January 12, 2014 1:38 PM.
After tinting areas with Pearl-ex, curing, the piece and letting it cool, I am ready to paint. Painting is simple. I use a dark black brown, and apply a wash. Basically mix 3 parts water to 1 part paint. Brush over a small area. The watery paint seeps into all the low spots in that detail you sculpted. with a bit of paper towel gently brush across the high spots leaving the paint only in the cracks and crannies. Let it dry and it really pops out the detail.
I used some bright green to dab on some more moss highlights along the epoxy. I painted over that in a nice brown. Then I added some white dots to make my little shrooms look like the Fly Agaric. The best part though is the glitter! I used a clear water based glaze, brushed that where I wanted glitter and sprinkled some glitter. Just a bit, didn’t want to end up with a woodsy disco ball.
Here it is all done. It had the desired effect. I have 4 more of those big metal filigree things, I can build on the 3-D mini scene idea and see where else it goes….
This method for making a tiny wire and bead crown can be used for any size polymer clay doll you may be sculpting. Or it can be made for any commercially available doll. Experiment with different colors and colored wire!
Free Tutorial! Dare you click here and witness the awesome power of Kraken themed earrings?
I will be creating a series of free tutorials in celebration of my upcoming Mythic Crafts project book! There will also be some mini-books coming out in between. The next free tutorial will be a Tree of Life Pendant. FOllowing the tree will be a mini-project book featuring Crows and Owls with some of the myths and stories associated with them.
SO roll up your sleeves, get crafty and create something fun with me! I’d love to see your finished earrings, I’ll share them if you wish. You can also comment below for help along the way. Happy Sculpting!!!
I am delighted to announce the beginning of my semi-private lessons in my new home studio. As with all my classes, they will be a blending of learning to work with polymer clay and also learning to identify creative blocks and silence the fears behind them. Both topics I have written about here and elsewhere. The goal is to give ourselves permission to be students, to be passionate and joyful in sculpting, not critical and self-judgmental.
Two classes are offered, a 2 session class on sculpting a faerie bust and a 3 session class creating a simple poseable doll. See the attached flyers for information.
Class size is very limited, 4 people per class.
Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality – Beatrix Potter
I believe the biggest and most tricksy enemy of your creativity is self criticism. Self criticism is fueled by negative thoughts which stretch their dark, twisty roots deep within us to tap our fears. Our fears are not innate; they are learned. And one key place we learn them is so often in school. School does not exist really to help us to develop morally, artistically, or spiritually at all. It is there to get us to work. The very way it is structured is similar to the eventual work day most will have. The teacher as “boss”, the grading, all of it similar to the work environment. This is not entirely a bad thing, but it is toxic to creativity.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. – Albert Einstein
Creative pursuits often do not operate on a 9-5 timescale. Don’t believe me? Try this. Today sit down at your desk, clay, paints, whatever and force yourself to come up with a wonderful idea for a piece by noon and have it completed by 5 PM. Spend no more than 8 hours on it. Any more time and the output costs are too great. But above all it must be brilliant and never previously done, salable, and technically proficient. How many of use could pull that off? But this is what the working world and to some degree school expects of creative pursuits. If your idea takes too much time to create, what is the economic value? If it is not technically perfect, you have wasted your time. If it is not able to be mass marketed, it is not worth anything. Your ideas don’t come when you want them to, then how will you have consistent income?
Children who are born into a tired world as batteries of new energy are plugged into the system as soon as possible and gradually drained away. At the time when they become adult and conscious they are already depleted and prepared to accept a world of shadows. -Jeanette Winterson
Is it any wonder the instant we sit down to create that timid little mouse of creativity runs for cover! But it used to be a fearless, brave, and much larger creature. I am envisioning here the ROUS’s (Rodents of Unusual Size) from the Princess Bride. I said before that young children are universally recklessly creative. Yet comparatively few adults are. I believe this is due to the sneaky snake of self-criticism fed on the internalized well meaning criticism of teachers and experts growing larger by the year while your ROUS sized creative mouse shrunk to a teeny field mouse. You know what they feed snakes, don’t you?!
The best way to illustrate why this is so is with examples. I can recall coloring a picture of Jesus in school around Easter. It was second grade. That year my favorite color was purple. Not the charming girly Lavender color, but the super saturated loud color. Since Jesus was cool and I loved purple, he ended up with a bright orange robe and purple skin. I was excited, I thought he looked fantastic in purple, but my teacher did not hang mine up. Gave it back with a new blank one telling me Jesus was not purple with a look of consternation on her face and asked me to try again. I remember that color sheet this many years later because it felt like I got punched in the stomach. I did not very freely play with colors after that. I considered what color things “should” be and made them those colors. As a result coloring was not very fun and exciting. When given tasks like this to do, I did them correctly as fast as I could to move on to the next thing and none of them were very creative.
So every time I picked up crayons after that and thought how grand it would be to color the entire sky red, along side that playful inner voice was another that said the sky is not red, no one will like it, it’s not right. What these sorts of experiences give us is fear. Fear we aren’t doing it right. Fear that people won’t like the purple Jesus. The conviction that there may be something wrong with our creative choices. nOr the worst, that pursuing your creative passion is a useless waste of time.
The path back to your creativity is to shrink your Sneaky Snake Fear voice and re-grow your timid little creative mouse back into the ROUS it should be!
Next to lint, moonies are the bane of the polymer clay artist. And I am not referring to the followers of the Reverend Moon. They are created when you get a little pocket of air trapped under your clay. This may not be visible to the eye until it is cured. WHen the doll is in the oven, the heat causes the air to expand and a little crescent shaped fracture appears in the clay. Very unsightly. Don’t want my dolls going around mooning…
But, alas, there is hope! You can avoid them in the first place by making sure you add as few bits of clay as possible. This is why when I sculpt a face, I am more moving the clay around rather than adding hunks. When you do have to add a bit of clay, make sure to press evenly and firmly as you work it in to avoid trapping air under the addition.
Also, conditioning your clay well and making sure your clay is firm but not crumbly will reduce the amount of moonies you will get. Crumbly clay splits as you sculpt and lets air in.
But if all else fails and you get a visit from the Moonie Fairy, here is how I go about repairing them!
So what killed off this magical creativity you sparkled with as a child? Why don’t you fingerpaint on the walls anymore? I think the answer lies in 3 things that are interrelated: consumer culture, the school system, and the experts. Really, these are all aspects of the same entity that produces fear in us. And fear is the slayer of creativity. I’ll take each in turn.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. -Albert Einstein.
In a culture which values only what can be easily quantified and bought and sold, creativity of the kind an artist or writer possesses makes little sense. Artistic creativity does not live well alongside consumer culture, which values goods over time. It’s sole purpose is to make money and it must do so by convincing us that we need to work many hours to purchase consumer goods to make us happy. If it does not meet these demands and on a tight schedule too, it has no place.
Contrary to this, to express ourselves takes time. Time spent contemplating, experiencing, idle followed next by time spent joyously painting/writing/singing. To consumerism, spending 100 hours on a painting seems a waste, and the days spent daydreaming and thinking ahead of the actual painting utter madness! Art, to industry, should be salable or usable to sell stuff and be “realistic”. Utterly misses the point. When you were a child painting that lovely mural on your bedroom wall were you trying to be realistic? Likely not. You were trying to express what you saw, what you felt, what you imagined it was like to be a tree. Your only concern with realism or mechanics was as a tool to express what you were trying to express. If your parents were like mine, this was totally lost on them, who only saw that you had covered the wall with a mixed media wash of finger paints, crayons, and glue.
We risk as artists buying into false notions of productivity and salability and valuing our work solely in monetary ways. This often has the result of creating fear of not being able to support ourselves, or fear of judgment from others, guilt that we are spending all this time on something that may be doing little for us financially. And then the ideas dry up! Sweet, merciful crap the dreaded creative block. Now I’m afraid I won’t have any good ideas for a while. Or ever.
I remember hearing Joyce Carol Oates speak when I was in graduate school. Someone had asked her about overcoming “writer’s block” so that they could continue to produce brilliant salable work on a tight schedule. She spoke then of the nature of what seems to be writer’s block. She talked about the concept of “lying fallow”. Coming from farm country I knew precisely what she meant. To keep soil fertile, crops must be rotated as different plants take and give different things to the soil. After several years of rotating, the land needs to be fallow, or rest to be fertile for a fresh planting. If we fail to let the land lie fallow it produces smaller amounts of less tasty produce.
So when we sit down to our computers and canvases and stare into a big blank idea void it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We may simply need to lie fallow for a while, recharge, become fertile once more so that what grows creatively from us is fresh, alive, and vibrant. But a consumer culture does not want to hear that. Time wasted moodling about thinking and being fallow is a guilty pleasure at best! And your editor needs those chapters or that painting NOW. Creativity does not really work this way.
I don’t know about other artists, but my ability to create absolutely has no schedule. In fact, the more tuned in I become to my own ebb and flow cycles of creativity, the more I chafe at my day job schedule that continually pulls me from my work, or interrupts my imagination. I feel like I just get going, I am walking in Faery or in my own little world, the clay flows through my fingers. Then the reverie shatters at the thundering sounds of the financial obligation trolls as they break down my door, chuck me unceremoniously into the shower and usher me off to my desk so far from where I want to be. A bit like jumping into a cold pool after a hot shower.
As I write I have not sculpted very much in weeks. Right now the thought of picking up that clay feels miserable and heavy. I have felt this way before, and it is usually in the winter when all seeds are slumbering in dark places. My creativity and joy in working with the clay tends to quiet during this time as well. When I began to sell my work this panicked me! I needed to produce and NOW if I was ever going to make this my living. And I did produce. And the work sucked. It sucked bad. The production of this suckitude was grim and joyless, and the irony is that it didn’t sell either! This created the precise self-judgment and fear that dries up creativity. My only way out is to accept this and lie fallow for a time!
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” – Marc Chagall
I’ll turn to the school system next….
As I prepare to teach another class I also prepare for the inevitable. Each class I teach I start a ritual I believe every art instructor in the universe does, I have everyone go around the circle and introduce themselves. State who you are and what you hope to learn. Every class at least half of the people make some self deprecating statement that they don’t expect to by any good at this, but have always wanted to learn. It happens so often that I am considering beginning my classes with one of my dreaded soapbox “lectures”.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso
I believe in my heart that every living person has it within them to create something moving, brilliant, and utterly unique. Of this I have perfect trust. Since every person is born unique and only becomes more so as personal history writes her story, how could we help but be completely original? I can feel some disbelief even through coaxial cable. “But I can’t draw worth a damn.” “I have never written anything that got more than a C.” “I never have any good ideas like Artist A”. These thoughts are not yours. They were given to you by well meaning teachers, culture, and “experts”.
“The key question isn’t ‘What fosters creativity?’ But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think, therefore, a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.” – Abraham Maslow
As a child, you were probably incredibly creative, spending hours building and coloring a castle in your closet so that you could enforce your tyrannical rule over your Barbies, Star Wars guys, and stuffed animals like I did. Life was hard in my Queendom, blond vinyl heads would roll with satisfying plastic “pop”! Perhaps your creativity did not have the megalomaniac leanings my early attempts did. You probably created drawings, plays, sculptures that no one had ever done before. They were good, and you were joyous in the creation. So what the heck happened to lead us all to be fearful to put pen to paper or pick up some clay?
In coming days we’ll continue to explore where creativity went and how to make it grow.
This is the final portion of the head tutorial. Since part of this depends on insetting eyes, I will likely be re-creating my eyeball tutorial that live on my previous Livejournal. You can also use tiny eyeball shaped bits of cured clay and then paint the actual eyes after the doll has been cured.
The big keys to the final stages of the face include a reference photo, and if you want to really get your face symmetrical, a mirror. As you sculpt your brain is sort of filling in information that may not be correct later. I remember the first time I discovered this, a friend of mine who is a more experienced sculptor suggested I photograph my doll face then flip it along the vertical axis on the computer. I had what I believed to be a lovely little face sculpted. Doing what she suggested, I recoiled in horror at the lopsided quasimodo fairy that I had created. It looked positively mutated! How could it look so different from what my eyes saw and be so crooked?!
I now use a mirror throughout the sculpting process. If you are ready get a small mirror and see for yourself how your tricksy brain works 🙂
Finally, students ask frequently how to get the faces smooth. Simple answer, those tiny paint brushes! Lots of brushing gently every which way on the clay.