For the last two years or so, I’ve been having vision problems. I literally see everything, and I mean everything, in terms of how I could translate the pattern to polymer. Photos, fashion (fabric, shoes, you name it), home décor, mixed-media art, things in nature; my mind begins envisioning how I could recreate what I see in clay. Most of the time I share my process in tutorial videos which are shared on YouTube.
How can you begin your journey into the “pattern to polymer” realm? First, if something catches your eye, maybe it’s a color palette that you want to experiment with, or a print of some type, grab a photo (on more than one occasion while shopping, I’ve snapped lots of photos of clothing with patterns and prints to look at more closely later!), or a screenshot, or download the image. Start a folder to save them all so they are readily accessible. Whenever you need inspiration, go to that folder and voila – inspiration awaits you!
Following are some of the steps I take when planning one of these transformations.
Break the pattern in the image into elements. Think about what you have in your creative stash. Do you have silkscreens that might work? (Tip: think out of the box with your silkscreens - beyond just screening in a single color - screen in multiple colors, or silkscreen and then hand embellish areas with paints.) Stencils? Rubber stamps? Image transfers? Texture sheets? If so, gather those you think might work. Substitution is fine – it’s the basic color scheme and design you are aiming for. Prefer to freehand paint something? That’s fine too! The Bohemian Rhapsody in Red veneer below was inspired by fabric - and was created with silkscreened images I hand painted after screening, and a few hand painted flower clusters.
Another option is to create a cane, or multiple canes of the different elements in the pattern, then combine them to create a veneer or slab. Sometimes, all you need is clay to complete the transformation.
My faux abalone pattern is all clay. It was inspired by a sheet of self-adhesive real abalone shell and I’m pleased with the results.
- Think about what creative mediums you have. Consider these options to achieve the colors you desire:
- Acrylic paints
- Pigment or mica powders
- Alcohol inks
- Permanent markers/alcohol based markers
- Crackle mediums
- Permanent inks/heat setting inks
- Metallic finishes
- Metallic leafing
- Heat set enamels
- Wax finishes
Gather your polymer clay. Blend colors as needed, or start with basic white or translucent clays and build your colors with the above mediums.
Most often, I create thinner veneers which I layer on other sheets of clay to create jewelry, etc. If you prefer, you can begin with a thicker sheet and make a slab instead. Thicker slabs don’t need backing. I like to create a good-sized portion of whatever pattern I’m making so I have enough for several pieces of jewelry, etc. If you prefer, you can work on a single pendant or set of earrings, it’s your choice.
Choose what element you want to begin with. Perhaps a background pattern of some type will be your first step, or maybe you want to start by making dimensional elements to add.
Build your layers using the materials you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll add dimensional layers by using molds or cutters to make pieces to add. Below is one of my first pattern to polymer translations. It was inspired by a shower curtain ad! It’s comprised of multiple layers of silkscreened images and a combination of molded and textured flowers cut with clay cutters. It was almost too pretty to cut, but I finally did and created some beautiful jewelry!
Let your creative muse free and just do your best to “mimic” the original inspiration pattern and recreate it in a fashion that makes you happy.
In this recent collage style veneer inspired by a collection of digital papers, I’ve layered alcohol inks, stenciled with PanPastel, silkscreened with acrylic paint, used rubber stamps with permanent inks, then silkscreened with PanPastel for the last layer. It’s busy, yes, but it’s also beautiful in it’s own way. Even small sections of it for jewelry are lovely. So much to see when you really look at each piece.
Prefer something easier on the eye? Design what calls to you - my style just varies vastly depending on the day! This set was inspired by ceramic tile. Hand texturing, subtle colors and details - some pretty basic techniques but fantastic results.
When you are finished with your design, always take a few photos before you begin cutting it up. I like to take my veneer or slab to different light sources and take an assortment of photos. I use these photos for both sharing on my social media sites, and for saving in the folder as reference for future projects.
Next, I determine if I want to cover a box or other object, or create jewelry. If it’s jewelry, I gather what cutters I think will work well with the overall pattern I’ve created and get busy.
It’s that simple. Some of my pattern to polymer translations are very simple with just a few steps and materials. Others are quite involved with layers of patterns and colors applied with an assortment of the mediums. Sometimes they don’t work out the way I envisioned, sometimes they are much better than I thought they’d be. As I like to say, there is NO wrong in art. Just create. Remember to share your art too, and tag it with #HowDoYouSculpey. Inspiring others is awesome. Whether experienced artists, or beginners, we can all learn something new.