Clay Harmony

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Ready for Their Close-Ups

Just a handful of the fabulous items from the Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild. These and many more are currently displayed at the Midwest City Public Library through the month of April.


Guild Display

The Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild set up a display in the Midwest City Public Library today. There are three large display cases, and we managed to fill them to capacity with an artistic arrangement of polymer clay items in a wide array of styles. It seems many of us like Southwest or Native American themes, because one entire case was filled with artwork inspired by those motifs.

The display will be up throughout the month of April. The library’s address is 8143 East Reno Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK. Come by and take a look at our artists’ handiwork!


Get Your Motor Running!

atlasIn order to make the many items needed for my space in Showplace Market, I have to be efficient with my time – so I made an investment in upgraded equipment.

A pasta machine is very useful to roll out sheets of clay and condition it so it’s more pliable. I had one, but the stiff clay caused all the nuts on the inside to fall off with the movement of the machine. I had to completely disassemble it to put it back together. It was difficult to clean, too – bits of clay stuck to the scraper blades and made streaks in light-colored clay when it was put through the machine after darker colors. There went another half-hour to poke a toothpick up underneath the rollers to scrape the unwanted bits of clay away!

I did some research online and found a place that sold a more substantial pasta machine that had been modified especially for use with clay. It seems that the manufacturer had recently changed the metal scraper blades to plastic ones, which makes it difficult to use with clay because the clay sticks to the plastic.

So these people fabricated their own metal scraper blades and also modified how they were attached to the machine. Now it takes me about one minute to take off the thumbscrews on the scraper blades, wipe them clean, and replace them so I can get back to work creating things for my store.

I also bought a motor drive for this wonderful new machine, which will speed things up tremendously, too. Where it might take me at least 15 minutes to condition a single two-ounce block of clay with my old machine, last night I conditioned a whole pound of clay, plus two other small blocks in an hour. And since that’s the least fun part of this process, the quicker I can get done with it, the better!


What’s in a Name?

I chose the name Clay Harmony for my polymer clay business for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that I will choose colors and designs that work harmoniously together. I’m not much into clashing or shocking color schemes, although they have their place in design, too – especially for items geared toward younger folks, it seems.

A second, deeper meaning of the name is a more personal one. I want my designs to reflect balance and harmony – a more spiritual aspect, if you will. The mere act of creating anything of an artistic nature is inherently spiritual, and polymer clay is so versatile that my creativity is virtually the only limitation as to what I can do with it.

The concept of balance has always been an important one to me, from the earliest days of my involvement in desktop publishing. The visual “weight” of images and type on a page affect the viewer’s attitude toward it, whether consciously or subconsciously. If it’s out of balance, it’s just slightly disturbing. Of course, a little disturbance may be the designer’s intent, depending on the purpose of the document.

The same principle applies in polymer clay items. It just has to “look right” (which to me means being balanced). When it’s in balance, there is harmony, and that harmony is pleasing to the eye of the beholder.

Going beyond color schemes and balance, I’m interested in tribal or ethnic themes in my creations – especially African and Native American images. I’ve been to Africa and have several friends from there, so I’m sure my experiences will influence my pieces from time to time. And since I’m from Oklahoma, the “land of the red man,” it’s a given that Native American symbols and colors will appear, also.

As I grow older, my desire for inner harmony, as well as in my relationships with others, is more pronounced. All the above aspects make Clay Harmony the perfect name for this endeavor, and that name makes me very happy indeed.


New Venture

Recently, I decided to start a new hobby. I hadn’t had an actual hobby for about 20 years, since I started a desktop publishing company in 1988. I guess I always felt that hobbies were a waste of time, and I should remain focused on the efforts that paid the bills instead of playing.

Now I’m older and my priorities are a tiny bit different. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, to paraphrase the saying – so I started keeping my eyes open for something fun to do. A few months ago, I saw a segment on a TV show about the Beads of Courage program. Artisans all across the country make glass beads and donate them to pediatric cancer patients. Each time they undergo a procedure or have to stay in the hospital or have chemo, they choose a bead and wear the beads to demonstrate their journey through cancer. The part that tore me up was seeing a little two-year-old girl playing in the hospital toy room, with her father standing nearby. The girl had a big strand of beads around her neck, and her father was wearing half a dozen more. He said, “These are hers. They’re too heavy for her, so I’m wearing them for her.” In her short lifetime, that little girl had accumulated enough Beads of Courage to topple her over if she had worn them all.

Well, that did it for me – I started researching how to make glass beads. I liked the idea, but soon discovered that it required a propane torch and other specialized equipment. Plus, the glass rods were prone to shattering if heated too quickly. I could envision my cats jumping up on the table and setting themselves on fire or me putting an eye out with flying glass, so I stepped back from that avenue of creativity.

In the process of looking for books on glass beads, I saw some on polymer clay beads. I discovered that some of the same techniques could be replicated in clay, and the materials were less expensive and required much simpler tools to manipulate. Bingo! I had found my new hobby!

I started buying books like crazy and accumulating some clay and tools, but then asked myself, “Now what?” So I visited the Central Oklahoma Polymer Clay Guild monthly meeting and got acquainted with a group of experts who could show me the ropes. I discovered just how versatile a medium polymer clay is, and saw some of the group members’ items they had made. I was really sold then!

One of the first things I made was a bracelet, and when I showed it to a lady at the fitness center I go to, she immediately ordered one for herself and one for her sister. And when I showed her bracelets to some people at work, four of them ordered bracelets, too. Suddenly, my new hobby became my new business almost overnight.

I guess my priorities haven’t changed that much, after all. But if I can earn some money by doing something fun, that sounds like the best of both worlds to me. So here I go!