I was a student in a workshop this weekend in a whole new subject matter: Polymer Clay. It was exciting, informative and absolutely addictive. This new artistic material satisfies my creative desire to mix materials, achieve bright color results and explore new (to me) techniques.
The workshop was held at a fantastic 3-Dimensional cooperative art gallery in Fredericksburg, Va. called Artful Dimensions, a manageable drive from where I live. I lucked into the class through one of those ‘rabbit hole’ internet searches early this spring. Unbeknownst to me when I signed up, the teacher -- Laurie Mika -- has pioneered some of this medium's techniques, written a popular book on the subject, and has a strong following of polymer clay enthusiasts. She is a seasoned, remarkable teacher.
Although some of the tools used with this type of material are similar to ones used in my ceramic studio, there are lots of new gadgets to explore for creating in this medium. Yay! Various sharp cutting implements, different types of rubber stamps, permanent ink blotters, weldbond glue and colorful laser printed images were used to create the final piece.
In this particular workshop, we learned how to decorate the clay using acrylic paints and laser printed images. The ‘clay’ material itself has different properties and a different feel than ceramic. It feels more plastic and requires kneading and softening by squishing it in your fingers before it is used. I described it to my husband that it reminded me of silly putty from my youth.
Similar to how I manipulate ceramic clay, the polymer can be rolled in a small slab, stamped with a decorative design, and cut out to a shape. Here’s where it’s a bit different. A mixed media embellishment can be glued and pressed into place. Then the piece is baked in a small toaster oven for 20 minutes. Once it is cooled and continues to harden, it is ready for more decoration with layers of paint. Now, I’m on the hunt for a used toaster oven. If you have one you’d like to part with, let me know!
Of course, you can’t learn everything in one single day-long workshop. I did learn enough to know I’d like to pursue this new (to me) material and see how to incorporate it into what I create with my ceramic pieces. My stash of mixed media jewelry bits and doodads are just waiting to be folded in to future projects.
Workshops are a great way to learn new skills, meet great people and explore creativity. I’ve gained all of this and more through the class I took this past weekend.