Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Polymer Clay Extravaganza

This review is written by Charline of 2BeadOrNot2Bead.artfire.com

As do most polymer clay books, the introduction to Polymer Clay Extravaganza, by Lisa Pavelka begins with a discussion of the medium, comparing clay types (although Kato clay is not discussed), and covers conditioning, leaching, measuring, baking, color blending, storing, and work surfaces. It moves on to tools (cutting, rolling, shaping (pattern cutters and clay guns) and the ever faithful pasta machine. It then discusses surface techniques (pearl powder, paint, rubber stamps, and metallic leaf and foil), glazes, adhesives, and sealants (clay glaze, acrylic floor wax, liquid polymer clay, superglue, and epoxy). It finished with information on polishing and cleanup. As the entire introduction is accomplished in 6 pages, each section is essentially the Cliff Notes version of each subject.

The next section is called basic techniques and covers one type of Skinner blend (2-color balanced), making a jelly roll cane from the Skinner blend and, subsequently, a flower millefiore cane from the jellyroll. The pictures for the Millefiore cane might be a little confusing for the neophyte caner, as the jellyroll is not only a different color from the Skinner blend jellyroll instructions that precede it, but have a “separation” line halfway through the jellyroll that is not explained. Furthermore, although reduction of the jellyroll is discussed textually, there are no pictures to illustrate what the reader would see during the process nor during the reduction process of the Millefiore cane. Even more to the point, the distortion that usually takes place during cane reduction is not discussed. Again, because of this missing information, I don’t think the instruction is particularly helpful for newbies. Furthermore, the people who do know how to reduce a cane and what happens during reduction for either cane process probably don’t need the instruction in the first place.

The project sections are much more complete than the preface material.

* Polymer Clay and Paper Crafts walks the reader through making:
* Two types of polymer clay decorated greeting cards.
* A scrapbook where the principle decoration piece is not polymer clay, but a metal embossing sheet. The bordering leaf or feather (it wasn’t identified as one or the other by the text) is referred back to the Skinner blend jellyroll cane – and again, the separation halfway through the cane to form the vein or spine isn’t explained.
* Polymer Clay and Memory Crafts explains making:
* A photo holder with a Millefiore base and wire photo heart clips.
* A whimsical Tooth Fairy to put on a painted papier-maché star box studded with metallic leaf covered stars.
* A stamped gold picture frame dusted with mica powder.
* A mini-photo album using some of the techniques used in the picture frame.
* A photo keepsake box that is trimmed with threaded beads and flowers.
* Polymer Clay and Desk Accessories has the reader creating:
* A Victorian business card holder using a self-colored picture burnished onto clay by hand. This project shows how to make a striped cane. My main issue with this is tells the reader to bake the transferred picture before trimming it, but doesn’t tell HOW to trim the baked piece of clay (scissors, Exacto knife, fingernails or teeth??).
* A mesh pencil caddy, with a very simple covering. This project shows the reader how to build the caddy from wire mesh; that’s convenient if there isn’t a Dollar Tree or other everything’s $1 store in your vicinity (I bought a bunch there a couple of weeks ago, before I read this book – maybe I’m psychic).
* Flower pen and stand – this is probably my favorite project in the book, because of the stand. And FINALLY, the way to put the split into the Skinner blend jellyroll is explained. However, it repeats the information for building the entire Millefiore flower, again without explaining or depicting the reduction process.
* Mica shift checkbook cover, with a brief description of sanding and buffing.
* Polymer Clay and Jewelry provides tutorials for:
* A heart locket pin, using a stamp and mica powder, to include how to add a metal hinge, embellishments, and pin back.
* A spirit song amulet, which repeats the stripe cane instruction (although with different colors). The amulet has a cutout at its center and is completely sealed designed to include a message to the recipient from the giver. As such, this would be difficult to sell unless you make the amulet after the purchase and the buyer provides you with the message to be included.
* A faux dichroic heart pendant using metallic foils and Liquid Sculpey.
* Polymer Clay and Home Décor takes the reader through the construction of:
* A switch plate for a baby’s room with a stamped base and small decorations.
* A candle holder using leaf pattern cutters and a repeat of the Skinner blend jellyroll cane in fall colors. A knitting needle is use to make the division in the cane by surrounding the cane with a darker outer wrapping and pressing it toward the center of the jellyroll.
* A mosaic address plate on a painted wooden base (only numbers).
* Polymer Clay and Garden Décor provides instructions for:
* Garden stakes with sculpted carrots, corn, and tomatoes in a checkerboard frame (not a checkerboard cane, however, but individually cut out squares of color on a white background), with extruded clay borders inside and out.
* A decorated terra cotta pot with flowers made from the Skinner blend jellyroll cane (this cane really gets a workout in this book!) and a textured sheet of clay around the bulk of the pot. A single repetition of the tri-color stripe cane is twisted and used to create stems for the flowers.
* A cute little garden angel on a stake is the final project in the book. She has a flower decked dress with bell sleeves and a draped skirt, complete with “train”. Her hair is made from simple gold clay in a teardrop leaf shape and she carries a bouquet of simple 5 leaf flowers in a bed of green leaves. Her wings are a large stamped heart with a leaf border.

The book ends with a gallery of complex clay art (purses, vessels, jewelry, a business card holder and more) done by “talented polymer clay artists” as well as some done by Lisa herself. None of the pictures give credit to the artist who designed and built the piece, which I find a little distressing.

Overall, as someone relatively new to the polymer clay medium, the book has shortcomings that I know would have caused me some serious confusion when I was starting out. Now, after 6 months up to my elbows in clay, there’s not much in here I haven’t already tried (except for the pen holder – got to do that one!!!)
Charline Ahlgreen

1 Smooshing Thoughts:

Creative Critters said...

I've done a few projects out of this book already, and I really enjoyed them. I like Lisa Pavelka and all her different techniques.