Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nastasha revisited and reworked

Have you ever looked back to see what first sparked your interest in the medium you work with now?  Recently, while cleaning out my clogged workroom, I unearthed some of the original products of my first obsession with polymer.  Natasha beads, ( aka inside-out beads) in all their perfect symmetrical cane-i-ness, represented for me at that time all the fabulous design potential of polymer.  And all this yuminess was available without actually having to be good at caning because of the accidental nature of each design.  For me, it was also a natural carryover from the making of millefiore in glass, something with which I was very familiar.

I've since lost my taste creating perfect symmetry (not least because I have no patience..) - primarily because I lack the skill to produce symmetrical canes/designs in polymer that really sing and have depth.  Those amazing canes that make use of skinner blends and colors that are finely tuned to work for maximum effect in miniature....I hold my breath when I see the work of artists in polymer who can really do this well.  But these Natasha beads in my hand?  Pedestrian, to say the least.  How could I breathe some life into something that I seemed to have loved so well?   Go back to what you know.....

In glassblowing, the movement inherent in the forming process naturally adds zest and life to the most overworked designs, especially when you have trained yourself to work 'hot', and always keep the glass as fluid as possible.  It is the land of 'the happy accident', particularly when you are learning.  (And when you are learning, you can't remember how you did it...)  It is these qualities precisely that make glass a magical, energetic and challenging medium.  The glass is a fluid, first and always, and that state adds a quality that is difficult for the hand to duplicate in any other material.

Seizing on this idea of movement, I felt that if the symmetrical planes in the bead could 'flow' to form differently shaped beads ( something other than a squared off brick...)  In doing this, it would be difficult and perhaps not entirely desirable to maintain  perfect symmetry, but the resulting mirror images would be more distortions or memories of each other...sisters, rather than twins!  Fanciful for a little bead, I know...

I contented myself by doing the obvious and making rounded ends to the rectangles - bullets - then bullets with a twist.  Then paint and surface texture entered the picture a little...
I called this set 'Smoke on Cherry Blossom'...



At this point, all of these experiments were made using my scrap pile - always, the perennial challenge of the scrap pile....


Then, the corners of the Natasha 'brick' began to move outwards, and the bead to shorten - they became propellers and pods and mostly maintained their symmetry.  It surprised me how a small change in  the shape entirely changed the character of the final piece.




  I started in earnest at this point to etch and scratch away at the emerging and disappearing lines, the remains of the original perfect mirror images.  I even investigated triangular forms (see diagram) which became pendant shapes (I think).





 Applying paint to the surface of course pulled the etching forward and also removed the very plastic quality of the polymer (of which I am not fond), and emphasized the now (to me, at least) more dynamic quality of the symmetrical lines.  Reading this pompous paragraph back to myself, I have to laugh - as a glass artist I was forever sandblasting my glass pieces because I disliked the 'glassy' quality of glass.  I guess I haven't changed, because I don't like the 'plasticky' quality of plastic, either!

Sorry about this long and rather wordy post about work in progress, it's really a result of thinking about where things come from in my experiments.  I'm not usually so analytical, but it's sometimes interesting (and perhaps a little alarming) to trace an evolution and realize with some regret, and some relief, that I really haven't changed over the years.

18 comments:

mairedodd said...

an absolutely beautifully insightful and interesting post... i think that to know that one was in touch with their basic aesthetic sense from the beginning is quite impressive... it means you have been true to yourself... i often look at your work and simply cannot believe what you achieve... soul and artistry...

jamberry_song said...

This is an amazing post for several reasons. I didn't know what would happen when turning polymer clay beads "inside out". This feels sort of like part science, part alchemy---but all awesome. I really love the natural qualities of the shapes you made and the bizarre almost randomized etchings (actually, they look a lot like primitive cave drawings to me or very rough maps). It all has this bizarre, really interesting appeal; like illuminated texts that one doesn't fully understand. Very mysterious and wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing these things.

Libby Leuchtman said...

Really love the work. The shapes, colors, and textures. Thank you for taking me though your process.

artybecca said...

Great discussion, Claire. You've provided an example of how a person can start with an existing technique and take it into a new direction that reflects their own style. Love the red and black ones up top!
I literally LOL'd at your comment about disliking the glassiness of glass.

Claire Maunsell said...

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments - I realized that I should have included a picture or a tutorial on Natasha beads to see the starting point, will take care of that today!

Lupe Meter said...

I love making Natasha beads! This is great that you took something and made it yours! Love the shapes you came up with. I sometimes can't come up with different shapes other than square, oval, round, and diamond. I love playing around with the Spliced cane as well. I love making donut shaped pendants out of those. I have a clay buddy who makes flowers out of the spliced cane. Your beads are beautiful! Great post!

Genevieve said...

Lots to chew on here...

I don't think its regrettable at all that you haven't changed that much. You will always bring yourself to your work, even if materials change your grow and I find that very interesting.

Palimpa Lim said...

This is a fantastic discussion, Claire! I really enjoyed reading it. You know how precious your beads are to me, and to know more about your thoughts during the process of creating them, makes them even more special and precious to me. Thank you so uch for sharing this with us!

Christine Damm said...

Congrats on having your wonderful experiments posted on PCD today! You just keep evolving in such wonderful ways and it's always so special to be able to explain just how you got to the particular result-- not only for yourself but for the rest of us. You continue to reinforce my favorite point about artistic endeavor-- keep workin' into it! It's a process not an end result. Thanks!

averilpam said...

Fab post, really interesting and thought provoking. One thing I have done with Natasha beads is to run them through the pasta machine which distorts the pattern, then apply a few to a sheet of clay and cut shapes from it to use for pendants, earrings etc.

Roberta said...

I am so glad to know that it isn't just me who isn't fond of making skinner blends and canes. Sure I admire those who have these skills down but I don't enjoy them at all. I am inspired by your words to try new things and not necessarily tried and true things.
Thank you.

My Life Under the Bus said...

These are beautiful!!!! So organic like seed pods yet bright and colorful - I don't like the plasticyness of plastic either which is one of my issues with polyclay - these are stunnig!I haven't mastered making it resemble an ivory or bone or ebony the way I would like - it has a much higher learning curve then you would think!

UnaOdd -Lynn said...

Your work is just lovely! Organic,distressed,such interesting character.

Love, love the orange/black stemmed pod. Just fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. It's funny how you feel about textures. I always felt like painting was cheating somehow, like if I was a really good clay artist I'd get all the effects and colours I wanted from the clay. I've just started giving myself permission to create what I want with whatever I want and apologize for nothing. Your work is lovely. O.K. that doesn't go far enough but it makes me smile and go "Ah. I really like that".
Deb Groom

Anonymous said...

Your work is lovely - your scrap pile certainly has more potential than mine! They don't call it scrap for nothing!

oapcg said...

I love the fluidity and grace of your new Natashas (although maybe they should be called Tasha beads to illustrate their unique diversion from their "mother" beads). Your article is an example of one of the things that I love most about PC artists - willingness to share with the rest of us addicts (LOL)!

laurie prophater said...

I was mesmerized by the process...stunning. They have the look of porcelain or ceramic beads. Congratulations on 'thinking outside the rectangle'.

lily of the valley said...

Brilliant!!! Will try this today.