Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quilts and Clay Part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting this review. My only excuse is that my brain was so overloaded yesterday by my day job that it temporarily short-circuited. (Oh ok, and that the finale of So You Think You Can Dance was on last night).

Anyway, Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures, by Christi Friesen is a fun and useful addition to your library if you like polymer clay. Or even if you don’t. I should start by saying that I successfully avoided polymer clay for years. I smugly fast-forwarded through all the polymer clay segments on my recorded craft shows; let my eyes slide right past the polymer clay books at the book store; and refused to even discuss it with my friends. Like PMC silver clay, metalworking of any kind (including the kind that requires big, scary torches), and raisins, I just didn’t have time for it in my life.

Deep down, though, I secretly lusted after polymer clay (as I do PMC silver clay and torches, but probably not raisins), so when my partner breezily announced one day that she had an “idea” in her head that had to be accomplished in polymer clay, I was relieved and a little giddy. I ran to the car, drove her to Michael’s, and proceeded to fill up a big basket with all things polymer-related. We bought clay in every color imaginable, and any tool that we could get our hands on, including a pasta machine for rolling the stuff out. Apparently my brain was paying attention enough to pick up on—and store indefinitely—a lot of that fast-forwarded information from the craft shows, which is a good lesson and a warning not to ever record and then fast-forward through horror movies or political speeches.

My partner, who is a casual but brilliant artisan (she seems to have no interest in art, but occasionally breezes in, throws together a magnificent stained glass window or intricate geometric drawing or mouth-watering piece of jewelry, then goes right back to reading novels about vampires) finished her polymer clay project and used all of about 2 blocks of clay. Which leaves me, of course, with drawers full of clay and a pasta roller just waiting to taunt me whenever I enter my craft room.

SO. All this is to say that I am a novice and somewhat reluctant polymer clay user. Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures may be responsible for making me a little more enthusiastic, though. The book strikes a nice balance, I think, between offering introductory information about polymer clay and projects that can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. The “mixed media” part of the title might make you think that Friesen offers a lot of new and innovative ways to incorporate all that OTHER stuff in my craft room into polymer clay, and while I can’t vouch for how new or innovative the ideas are, her incorporation of other mediums lends a real depth and layers of detail to her polymer clay pieces. Friesen incorporates materials like fibers, paper, metal, glass, paint, and found objects into her projects (and mica powders! I have mica powders!). She never loses focus on the primary element, though—the polymer clay.

The two things I like best about this book are Friesen’s fun and casual writing style (though her occasional use of explanation points can be a little distracting! But she just seems so excited about polymer clay! So you know her enthusiasm is somewhat contagious!). Despite her casual style, though, her step-by-step project instructions are thorough and well-written, and I didn’t have any trouble walking in my imagination through each of the projects.

Which leads me to my second favorite thing about the book: the projects. Her style is fun and somewhat whimsical, so the chapter called “Oh, Grow Up!” includes pieces like thistle pins (complete with prickles and spiky “hair” from a chip brush) and leaf and flower designs. Friesen’s liberal use of beads, paint and powders helps push polymer clay beyond the basics in projects such as her imaginative and almost life-like “Aztec heads,” her whimsical gecko and sea turtle sculptures, and her “ammonite fossil pin”. Even better, Friesen sparks my imagination, and I can envision lots of variations on her ideas to make my little polymer clay pieces my own.

If you’re at all interested in polymer clay (or if you’re finally willing to admit there’s a little polymer clay figure in you fighting to get out), Christi Friesen's Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last might be just what you need to get the clay out of the drawers and into the pasta machine.

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