I begin this book with a bit of a disclaimer. Considering the hundreds of techniques and applications for polymer clay, those known and those yet to be discovered, it would be impossible to offer the truly "complete" book of clay. As a part of a book series, this book is offered to provide a comprehensive collection of most of the commonly known and universal techniques and applications for polymer clay, including a few of my own.
One would be hard pressed to work with an artistic medium as dynamic, versatile, and forgiving as polymer clay. Developed in the 1930s in Germany, this incredible material has undergone numerous changes over the course of its evolution. New formulations, new colors, and even liquid versions have appeared over the years. Without a doubt, this evolutionary process will continue to move forward, offering new techniques and applications.
The popularity of polymer clay began to grow exponentially after the introduction of individually colored clays in the 1980s. The ongoing improvements of clay formulas plus the introduction of new tools and accessories (including those that have crossover applications for clay) also continue to build public awareness of the medium and its versatility.
My adventures in clay began in the late 1980s, while searching for an artistic medium that would be safe to work with while being a stay-at-home mom. It was love at first touch! I, like so many others who pick up their first bar, was hooked. Polymer clay became my "fork in the road," the path that diverted me from my original intention to return to a television career when my kids started school. I never envisioned becoming a full-time artist, author, teacher, and designer, but the introduction of this amazing modeling compound was nothing short of miraculous.
The single most interesting phenomenon that I find when teaching is that many, if not most, of the people who are trying their hand at clay think it must be difficult to learn and master. Nothing could be further from the truth! I find that, given the proper instruction, resource information, and visual inspiration, most people can produce professional-quality and even saleable results immediately or with a little practice and experience.
Polymer clay's tactile appeal is only one of its many attributes and, by far, one of the most important. People are tactile and dimensional creatures by nature. We interpret what we feel, see, and think in a dimensional fashion. Don't believe me?
Close your eyes and picture an apple. Was your mental image a flat picture or an image with curves and dimensional perspective in your mind's eye? If you stop to think about it, you'll realize that you can easily take a 360-degree mental tour of whatever it is you imagine as a picture. It's this ability that enables people to develop a high degree of skill with clay in a short amount of time. We are not two-dimensional creatures, and thus we are tactile by nature.
Polymer clay is the ideal art form, as it can be used by nearly everyone from children and hobbyists to fine artists. It can be manipulated into nearly every shape, texture, and consistency imaginable. Its flexibility as a mixed-media medium is nearly limitless. Polymer clay is truly the chameleon of the art world with its ability to be transformed into convincing versions of nearly any material you can think of'metal, porcelain, precious stones, glass, and more.
Within this book, you'll find techniques and applications both old and new. Some of these are discoveries I've made in my work over the years. Others are the brainchildren of well-known and not-so-well-known clay artists and enthusiasts. Many of these techniques and concepts have gone on to become universal in the clay world, such as the "Skinner Blend" method for creating color gradients, developed by Judith Skinner.
In the effort to maintain an ethical ideal in regard to the contents of this book, I have done my best to credit the originator of techniques whenever possible and to the best of my knowledge. The serendipity of near-simultaneous discovery over the years of same or similar concepts should be taken into account whenever the issue of artistic credit is involved. I consider this the positive proof of our creative ingenuity and imagination.
If you are new to clay and feel even the slightest hint of intimidation, I say feel the fear and clay it anyway! It's not as hard as you might think. If you have already discovered the joy of clay, I hope that you find a wealth of new ideas, techniques, tips, and inspiration within. The benefits of working with clay are many. "Claying around" can offer relaxation, spiritual connectivity, both physical and mental therapy benefits, and simply the satisfaction that comes from working with your hands. For some, it can even be the road to professional and monetary reward. Regardless of your motivation for picking up this book or the benefits you derive, I wish you the best of luck with all of your creative endeavors, and may every day be filled with clay!