Polymer clay is an incredibly versatile medium. If you have never tried it, I hope to persuade you to give it a shot. For the artist it offers an opportunity to work in a third dimension in color. Throughout this website you will find examples of my relief sculptures in this unusually forgiving medium. I like to think of it as working in a two and a half dimensional medium of brilliant color!
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I used to sculpt in terracotta and stoneware. My end product was usually an uninspiring shade of brown or gray. I enjoyed the scale of large, or sometimes life size projects —a study of a torso, a head or a bust... But the color was missing!
Terracotta was a messy and demanding medium. I would almost dread the breathless moment when the kiln was opened! If I was fortunate, all the hours spent sculpting were not wasted, and my work remained intact after having survived the high temperatures.
However, more often that I care to admit, I would discover the work shattered and randomly scattered all over the kiln floor! Often imperceptible air pockets would form, despite carefully wedging the clay. Those pesky air pockets became the dynamite that I had inadvertently included in my work. With heat, the air trapped in them would expand and then attempt to escape, shattering my work.
In my passion for capturing my subjects, I would work too quickly so that air pockets were fairly routine. Consequently, a lot of my work either ended up with cracks, or worse, in smithereens!
However, skilled artists work with porcelain and
other traditional, pliable, high fire media with success. I would be in awe of their skill. I most definitely lacked the patience necessary for success.
Polymer clay, on the other hand, has a negligible shrink rate. It goes in and out of the oven with very little difference in size, shape or color. No expensive oven is required - a simple table top toaster oven is more than sufficient for starters. It is impervious to moisture, so it remains workable indefinitely. If stored carefully, the unfired clay can last for years. Even if the clay hardens over time, there are clay softeners available which can be worked into the clay to restore it to a pliable state. I've successfully reused old clay many times.
In contrast, terracotta has to constantly be kept moist. Even the eventual drying of the work must be done gradually, to minimize cracking (definitely not for the impatient sculptor!)
What I love best, is the incredible variety of colors that are available, in contrast to the dull earth colors of terracotta. These luscious colors, when blended, offer up infinite variations that should keep any artist happy for a lifetime.
All the principles of color and design that a painter skillfully uses can
be translated directly into this delightful medium, with the fascinating addition of a third dimension. There are many fine artists who create small objects of art
and jewelry. But polymer clay can be used for so much more!
I thoroughly enjoy exploring it as a tool for storytelling, by creating relief sculptures that colorfully express my faith. It has been a thrilling journey of discovery of the medium, its potential and the process of storytelling.