Book Review: Polymer Clay–Creative Traditions

5 Stars Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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Books have been my main source of instruction and inspiration for polymer clay. I learn well from many forms of instruction, and books give me the opportunity to try things at my own pace–without distraction.

There have been many books published on polymer clay (I’ll be writing about some of them through this blog), and while most have something positive to offer, there are a few stand-out publications. “Polymer Clay: Creative Traditions” by Judy Belcher is one of these stand-outs.

You’ve probably seen Judy on HGTV’s Carol Duvall Show. She’s an incredibly talented artist with an eye for color and style. With this book, she applies her unique style and techniques used in other art forms (other creative traditions, as the book is titled) to polymer clay:

  • Glass: Lampwork, mosaics, fused/slumped glass
  • Metal: Mokume gane, enameling
  • Fiber: Ikat fabric, Bargello, Kente cloth, mudcloth, batik, quilting
  • Painting/Drawing Styles: Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustav Klimt, M.C. Escher, Georges Seurat, Jackson Pollock
  • Stone, Bone and Wood: Chatoyant stone techniques, bone simulations, wood simulations, intarsia
  • Sculpture and Ceramics: Sculpture, Ceramics (e.g. Raku), printed decoration

There are 21 technique demonstrations that range in difficulty from “beginner” to “intermediate” clay skills. My favorite is the two-color testellation, which Judy also demonstrated on a Carol Duvall Show appearance. The demos are filled with step-by-step color photographs–a must for the more advanced techniques. The book is filled with examples of both the original art form as well as clay pieces that mimic or adapt the original technique.

What sets this book apart? It is both inspirational, with a huge gallery of beautiful art in each section, as well as instructional, with detailed instructions and photographs of each piece. While there are gallery items for each technique demonstration, the focus is on understanding the technique and how it can be applied–not on creating a specific project. This may turn some beginning clayers off, but what I like about this approach is that it gives you ideas to use within your own artwork–a jumping ON point for you to enable new design techniques to energize you and spur your creativity. This book is eye candy, it’s fuel for the creative soul, and it’s one that I have read over and over, each time gaining some new insight to infuse into my work.

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