Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: Creating with Polymer Clay

This review is written by Charline of

This book begins with an introduction that talks about the beginnings of polymer clay and its move from doll and puppet making, to a versatile medium for artisan crafting from which almost anything can be built.

There are several pages that discuss the influence of other media on polymer clay, most notably millefiore and lampwork glass, and mosaics, as well as great color pictures of work by and small polymer clay sound bytes by great artists like Donna Kato, Pier Voulkos, Kathleen Dustin, and Susanna Oroyan, to name just a few.

The Getting Started chapter starts with a discussion of various polymer clays by brand. Due to the age of the book, it doesn’t discuss Kato, Premo!, or Pardo clays. It also talks about some brands I’ve never heard of and for which I can find no suppliers (Pro-Mat and Modello). Like most clay books, it then discusses conditioning the clay, mixing and using colors, various tools for use with polymer clay, baking, and general safety rules.

The Special Techniques chapter discusses simple shapes, incised designs on baked and unbaked clay, image transfers, and surface techniques (metal leaf, metallic paints, faux ivory, press molds, Mokume Gane, veneers, fluid shapes, dolls, a couple of methods of making vessels, and the more obscure lost wax and wood lathe turnings. Although the color photos showing examples of these techniques are wonderful, except for Mokume Gane and the vessel building parts, the section is VERY lean on explaining how to actually do any of them. There is a rather extensive section (at least when compared to the rest) on caning, although it only covers two or three types. (The butterfly cane tutorial in it is great, though!)

The Projects chapter of the book is, again, long on beautiful, finished product pictures and short on step-by-step instruction pictures. It covers Jewelry, Decorative Items, and Household Articles sections.

The section on Jewelry provides limited instructions for making “Dancing Figures” and “Autumn Leaves” necklaces (with the latter a much more complete tutorial), buttons (a discussion rather than a tutorial), memory wire bracelets (all text – I’d never be able to make these from the instructions alone), Navajo beads (the cane instructions are very sketchy), mosaic earrings (this has a faux coral, turquoise, and jet composition and the instructions are, again, minimal).

The Decorative Items section includes instructions for a tile made with a self-constructed stamp, beaded baskets, Ikat coiled vessels (with no step-by-step pictures to help you figure out how to make the Ikat cane), a footed platter that reminds me of Central American primitive designs/colors, a gorgeous heart shaped box without instructions on how to achieve the cane patterns used in the construction, and some cute caned children’s shoes – Mary Janes and T-Straps – again, with no cane building instructions.

The Useful Articles for the Home section has instructions for a mosaic clock, journals and scrapbooks, drapery rod ends, a mosaic pattern tin, picture frames, candlesticks, mirror frames, floral napkin rings, dominoes with matching faces instead of dots, a backgammon game, caned Christmas tree ball ornaments, a chess set, bird houses, and cane covered eggs – the latter look like the Ukrainian Pysanky Easter eggs with very delicate lines and bold colors. As I used to make these using dyes on egg shells, I was thrilled to find them in a polymer clay book – that is until I discovered that there weren’t instructions to go with all the glorious eggs shown. In fact, I had a hard time trying to figure out which of the eggs in the picture was actually explained in the instructions.

Although there are many, MANY, beautiful pictures, there is so little explanatory text on how to achieve the effects in the pictures that beginning clayers (like me), will have more questions when they finish the book than they did when they started. If I had to classify this book by who would most benefit from it, I’d say it’s best for a really experienced intermediate clay artisan or expert. However, if you’re the kind of person who can intuit how to do something by how it looks, this book will give you all sorts of wonderful new ideas.

1 Smooshing Thoughts:

TwoBeadOrNotTwoBead said...

In case anyone is interested, the authors are Steven Ford and Leslie Dierks.