On a holiday in the States in 1997 I came across the most beautiful beads which a girl was selling from a stall, in San Francisco. They were covered in hundreds of flowers, which I then believed to be painted on. I did not have a clue how you could make something so intricate. I was in awe and they gave me goose bumps. I had to have them! All these years later I still wear them.
I later learned that they were made with polymer clay and the technique is called Mille Fiore and no, the flowers were not painted on.
A few years later I saw a workshop advertised for “Making Beads” with Sara Withers at the Summer School at Oxford, which I went to and this was my first introduction to polymer clay. I was totally bowled over. I had never even heard of this material.
Without hardly any proper tools, such as a pasta machine, etc. we made a “Swiss Roll” with two different colours and we were all amazed about the wonderful result inside when we cut open the “roll”, called “cane”. From these, we made an exciting collection of beads, swopped pieces of our “cane”, and instantly ended up with a collection of several different colours”. Sara had stringing materials, some glass beads and findings (catches, clasps etc.) with her. As with everything, looking back now, I’m ashamed to show them to anyone of course, but I never forget this first introduction to the clay, and keep these “master pieces” as a reminder.
This is what I wanted to do, making beads and I joined the BPCG. However…… soon after my husband and I retired and we wanted a complete change of life. We decided to live on a narrow boat and cruise the canals, all 2.600M of them. We had a boat built, sold our house in Berkshire and about 90% of the contents and lived on board.
I then soon realized that there is not much space for clay, pasta machine and tools, I only had one drawer in fact for craft items, that’s how I ended up doing beading instead, but I kept the clay at the back of my mind.
After two years we went back on land and slowly I went back to the Poly Clay. I still feel a complete beginner, but I thoroughly enjoy working with the material. I now live in an apartment; I have a little more space, but no workroom for myself. So the pasta machine is often on the kitchen worktop and the clay spread out over the dining room table, the carpet may end up speckled! I have no space for a buffer and have to do it all by hand, which means sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of water and sanding paper.
I did workshops with Petra Nieuwenhuizen, Sarah Shriver, Marie Segal, Dan Cormier and Christine Alibert and one or two whose name escaped me. They were all very intense and enjoyable. I’m in awe about the complicated things all these artists make. Wow. It’s a really magical material, and it is therapeutic to work with.
When I was just starting I made a necklace for my mother in very bright colours. The last years of her life she suffered with Alzheimer decease and did not recognise me and could hardly distinguish colours. She had nice golden, pearl and precious stone necklaces, but she wore this plastic one in the bright colours, almost till her death.
I hope, in spite of my arthritis, to be able to work with the clay for many more years and that every one reading this and is not familiar with the material will give it a go and join the guild.
The infinite colour possibilities of poly clay will never stop to fascinate me. I have learned that making mistakes is OK and you NEVER have to throw away clay. It can always be used for something else.
I love both the beading and claying and several other crafts, if there were only more hours in the day……