31 December 2014

A review of 2014

This was my first post of the year:

This year I want to continue teaching polymer clay but for my own personal creative work I just want to "do what inspires me", as I spent so much of last year preparing teaching material and samples. In particular I want to:

1.   Focus on one-off artworks/sculptures to sell through galleries, gallery stores and selected shops.

2.   Experiment with lighting, starting with translucent polymer clay covered candle holders and then larger scale electric lighting (this may involve some non-polymer clay materials for larger scale pieces but it is something that really inspires me).

3.   Try and win an international polymer clay award, to add credibility to my teaching ability.

4.   Expand locations to teach polymer clay workshops. 

When I look back over this year, some things I have achieved and others have fallen by the wayside. Sadly I do not feel I have spent that much time doing what inspires me, partly because other things have happened (the first four months of the year were spent on my application to CreativeNZ, for a grant to attend the EuroSynergy Conference in Malta, which was successful; then organising for and attending the event at the end of April/beginning of May, which was a fantastic opportunity) and partly because I have been working through a backlog of old ideas and completing unfinished projects.’

1.   I have created a number of one-off sculptures: ‘Rainbow Cauldron’, ‘Colour Play’ (wall hanging), ‘Global Reflections’ and ‘Colour Rings’. As I have only sold one these and still have my ‘Out-of-this-World’ sculpture, I am running out of storage space in my small studio. This is making me think that I would be better going back to 2-D artwork which I can hang on the wall. Also, as mentioned in my post of 1 October, I want to spend more time developing my ‘dot mosaics’.

2.   I have made some  LED candle holders with polymer clay over spherical glass bowls. These are quite effective but I still need to do more experimentation to be able to make large self-supporting hollow polymer globes that could be used as lampshades for electrical lamp bases. My fear is that polymer may not be strong enough at the thinness required for translucency and that I might have to move to a different medium to achieve the effects I have in mind.

3.   The receipt of a ‘Best in Sculpture’ award for ‘Spring Trio’ at the 2014 IPCAwards, presented at the EuroSynergy Conference in Malta, was the highlight of this year for me. It gave me a tremendous confidence boost but then actually made it really hard for me to create anything new, as I was scared that whatever I did next would not live up to my winning piece.  

4.   Apart from teaching a short course of polymer clay evening classes at Glaze Ltd, other polymer clay workshops have waned because of lack of participants, which is disappointing after the amount of time I spent last year preparing teaching material. This year has led me to review the workshops I offer. I had hoped that teaching through recognised art centres would make it easier to attract students than doing the promotion myself. Whether it is a sign of the times or still the fact that New Zealanders are not aware of or interested in polymer clay, I am not sure. Anyway, I have decided to take a year out of teaching so I can concentrate on my own work and will only teach small groups of up to four, at home, if approached.

Once I have developed my dot mosaics further, I might look at teaching workshops on this technique, with the emphasis on contemporary mosaics rather than polymer clay. It seems such a shame to do this but I so enjoyed the teaching and apart from the few regular members of the Auckland Polymer Clay Guild, it seems so hard to raise general interest in polymer clay. This is why I may have to place the emphasis on mosaics – and then introduce polymer clay through the back door.

19 December 2014

Still a long way to go!

My first dot mosaic in progress

I am really pleased with how my first dot mosaic is taking shape but there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately I did not complete the whole picture in time to enter it in the Members Merit Awards exhibition, at the end of November, which was my original plan. I had no idea how long it would take me, and at the rate it is going, it might just be ready for the exhibition next year.

As this is my first artwork using this 'dot mosaic' technique, I want it to be the best I can do, so it will take however long it needs. I have no idea how long this will be but I am finding it hard to continue at the moment, due to social events and planning the run up to Christmas but more so because I feel some trepidation about what will happen when I eventually come to grout it.
After all the hours I will have spent making the tiles and gluing them in place, I would hate to ruin the whole piece by using the wrong grout mix. As I have used an art canvas as the base, I need to make sure that the grout will flex and not crack. To put my fears at rest, I have decided to make a small dot mosaic on a canvas, so I can experiment with the grout mix before I apply it to this piece.
I am not likely to get any more studio time in before Christmas now so here is how my artwork, titled 'A New Approach', looks now. Next year I will post more progress photos as the dot mosaic develops.

'A New Approach' - in progress @ 29.11.2014

02 December 2014

APCG Christmas Challenge 2014

Tuesday 2 December was the Auckland Polymer Clay Guild's last meeting of the month. Below are the entries from participating members for the Christmas Challenge 2014. The challenge was to make anything with a Christmas theme.

Those members present voted and for their top three favourite pieces. The winners were:
1st Place: Nicky Herbert (No. 5 - Snowman earrings)
2nd Place: Christine Coveney (No. 4 - Christmas teddy)
3rd Place: Joy Bellard (No.3 - Christmas bracelet)
Here are the rosettes I made for our winners:

And the winners wearing them

Thank you to everyone who took part. Wishing you all a great Christmas and hope to see you next year. The first meeting of 2015 will be Tuesday 6 January.


Members' Merit Awards Exhibition at the Lake House

Unfortunately I did not get my first dot mosaic picture completed to enter in this exhibition (still a long way to go, so it may be just be ready for next years) but I did enter two sculptural pieces, shown below.

Colour Rings
(sculpture with tea light)

Global Reflections
(sculpture with tea light)

I briefly attended the opening of this exhibition before moving on for the Auckland Polymer Clay Guild's last meeting of the year, which just happened to be on the same night.

27 October 2014

Art & Craft Market at Mission Bay - Labour Day

This is my much smaller scaled down set up, without the gazebo, so I can do the market on my own. Here I am just trying to clear the Fashion Clips and PINZ I have left. Next time I hope to use the opportunity to be working on a larger mosaic work, more for publicity and so people can see what is involved.

01 October 2014

I need to do what inspires me

We are well into the year now and, when I look back at the goals I set myself at the beginning of 2014, I do not feel I have spent that much time doing ‘what inspires me’. The first four months of the year were spent on my application to CreativeNZ, for a grant to attend the EuroSynergy Conference in Malta, which was successful; then organising for and attending the event at the end of April/beginning of May. This was a fantastic opportunity and was made even better by the fact that I won a ‘Best in Sculpture’ in the 2014 International Polymer Clay Awards, announced at the conference. Apart from teaching a short course of polymer clay evening classes, other polymer clay workshops have waned because of lack of participants, which is disappointing after the amount of time I spent last year preparing teaching material. Exploration of a few ideas (hollow lighting forms and PINZ) then crept in as well as the creation of a couple of sculptures (from long planned ideas) for exhibitions.

A few weeks ago I spent three solid days thoroughly cleaning, tidying and de-cluttering my tiny studio. I have a few events planned to try and clear old stock from my de-cluttering process. I now feel in a good frame of mind to work on something new and, for a while, to just ‘do what inspires me’ rather than creating work to sell. I posted recently about a new area of exploration that I am calling ‘dot mosaics’ for want of a better term. As I have said previously, my original reason for turning to polymer clay was so I could make my own mosaic tiles. I have searched extensively on Google and cannot really find anyone creating mosaics with round tiles, especially not hand made, which is good as I always want to do something different to everyone else.

I enjoy creating mosaic designs and laying out the tiles. I have not yet tried making a mosaic with round tiles but I am hoping that, if I keep the designs simple and use a range of different sized round tiles, there will be no need for cutting tiles. The round tiles should be able to be placed fairly quickly, butt jointed in a random fashion, just filling the larger interstices with smaller tiles. I will have to see if the design will still read but hopefully by varying the shades of different colours and maybe introducing different textures, as well as leaving a slightly wider grout joint between different elements in the design, it will work.

Apart from being a quicker method for creating mosaics (although I will have to make all the tiles from polymer clay), I hope it will create mosaics with a softer, more organic feel, rather than the normal square or angular cut tiles that are used. We seem to be naturally drawn to circles – it is a natural form, living things are made from cells and is it not said that “there are no straight lines in nature”? I would love to be able to create beautiful mosaics that people are naturally drawn to and want to touch. A very contemporary use of an old technique – both in tile shape (round) and material (polymer clay).


27 September 2014

Fingers crossed for Heritage Day craft stall - EVENT CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER

The weather forecast is not looking good for this event, next Saturday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will improve but a decision will be made on Friday and it will be cancelled if the weather is too bad.

08 September 2014

A new idea - dot mosaics

I have been thinking for the last week or so about creating mosaics with round tiles of different sizes, which I would make from polymer clay. After all, my original reason for turning to polymer clay was so I could make my own mosaic tiles. Yesterday I discovered the ‘Percolator App’, which turns your photos into bubble mosaics. It is not a new app, as it came out several years ago, but it is a new discovery for me. It is fascinating, the way it makes beautiful mosaic designs with circles, I am sure I could use it as the basis for creating actual mosaics.
As the Percolator App only runs on Apple products, I have had to borrow my husband’s iPad, for my first experiment. The photo I used is of a cheap canvas print we had in our bedroom for a while; it has now been replaced with something else and the canvas has been sitting in my studio for a while. I thought I would use it as the base and create a polymer clay mosaic to go over it. Luckily I had not got round to it, as it is quite large measuring 70 cm x 50 cm (27.5 inches x 20 inches), so now it is perfect for my first trial for a large scale ‘dot’ mosaic.
Photo of flower print on canvas
My first go using the Percolator App
It may be a long time before I post the finished real mosaic; I may practice doing a couple of small scale ones first but I am really excited about this new idea.

24 August 2014

Hollw form experiments - failed

After returning from the EurosSynergy Conference in Malta, I was excited to try creating a hollow sphere from polymer clay using a polystyrene ball as the form. Here is my first attempt.
To save wasting too much clay (if it didn’t work) I just covered about two thirds of the polystyrene ball and then baked it according to the directions. It was fascinating watching, through the glass oven door, the polystyrene ball slowly shrinking and at the end how small and compact the remaining polystyrene was.
I thought this was going to turn out well but at the very last few minutes of baking, the shape seemed to collapse a bit at the base, losing its spherical shape.
This was only a small sphere, creating a shape suitable to house an electric candle. I still want to be able to create larger spheres to use as lampshades for electric lamp bases. I am thinking that polymer clay is not structurally strong enough to support itself at the size I am thinking of, although I thought a sphere might be more self-supporting than other hollow shapes.
Next experiment – tissue papier mache base for polymer
I wondered if a few layers of tissue paper would still be translucent enough and strong enough to support a thin layer of polymer clay. So I covered a small inflated ball with several layers of tissue paper and glue ( I think I used PVA glue rather than wall paper paste but I can’t remember now). When it was totally dry, I pierced and removed the ball.
The papier mache shell was not very strong, it crushed with the slightest pressure from my fingers. I did not feel confident that it would support a layer of polymer clay and as I was rapidly running out of translucent clay, I did not want to waste it on another failed experiment.
I concluded that the only way to make the type of polymer clay lampshade that I have in mind is to find a glass shade to use as a permanent base. This might be difficult and I would require a whole lot more translucent polymer clay. Once again I think this idea will go on the back burner, for the time being.

30 July 2014

The Great Art Sale 2014 at the Lake House

Tonight was the opening night of this annual event. I have three pieces in the sale, which runs until the end of August: Rainbow Cauldron, Coffee Time and "Life is like sailing" (clock).

25 July 2014

Rainbow Cauldron

I have just about finished this sculpture, which contains over 900 hand rolled balls of polymer clay in the colours of the rainbow, hence the name 'Rainbow Cauldron'. It will be one of my three entries in the Great Art Sale at the Lake house Arts Centre in Takapuna. The sale runs from 31 July to 31 August 2014. Here are some photos taken from different angles:

23 July 2014

Members and Students Exhibition at MAC

This evening was the opening night of this exhibition. Members were allowed to submit two pieces, so I entered my ‘Out of this World’ sculpture and a newly created wall-hanging titled ‘Colour Play’, pictured below, the later had been sold before I left.

Colour Play
I have also made some PINZ, in a circular design with the same colours, to coordinate with ‘Colour Play’. I like the idea of having small affordable pieces, reflecting the main exhibition piece, for sale in the gallery store. This will be my first public showing of PINZ by Claire, so I will be interested to see what reaction I get.
PINZ by Claire

15 July 2014

PINZ designs ordered

Today I have ordered some small rubber stamps to be made, of my kiwiana designs that were first created for the Fashions Clips I was making previously. I will use these for creating the Souvenir PINZ. While I am waiting for these rubber stamps to arrive, I am busy making some Skinner Blend PINZ with circular designs to match the sculptural wall-hanging, Colour Play, I have just completed for the Members and Students Exhibition at Mairangi Art Centre. The hand in date is this Friday (18 July), although the exhibition does not run until 23 July – 16 August 2014. I hope the gallery will add some of these PINZ to my pendants and fashion clips that are in their sale cabinets during this exhibition.

12 July 2014

Wedding PINZ for Micaela & Adam

We have been invited to a Wedding Ceremony this afternoon so this is the perfect opportunity for me to try out my idea for making a pair of personalised Wedding PINZ for the bride and groom.


I designed an entwined monogram of their first initials and using the toner copy method, transferred this on to pearl polymer clay, which I then set into bezels with a clutch pin attached to the back. After baking, I used magic Gloss resin to seal and create a domed surface finish, which nicely brought out the mica flakes in the pearl clay. I made one with a gold-plated bezel and pin and one with a silver-plated bezel and pin; this was to give choice and to distinguish between his and hers.


01 July 2014

PINZ by Claire

For a while I have been thinking about reworking the Art-Brooches I made a few years ago but presenting them in a more modern way and calling them PINZ. They would be small wearable pieces of sculptural art, which I enjoy making, and it is a way to share my creativity with a wider audience, as people more readily buy jewellery and fashion accessories than a larger work of art or sculpture. I could almost create mini versions, to sell in gallery stores, where I have larger sculptural artworks on exhibition.
I think of ‘pin’ as the American term for ‘brooch’, however, the English Oxford Dictionary defines pin (in this sense) as a ‘small brooch or badge’, giving reference to a lapel pin. A pin sounds less old fashioned than a brooch and also means I can spell it with the ‘NZ’ ending, reinforcing that they are made in New Zealand. Back in November last year, when the idea came to me for making souvenir pins for tourists that were actually made in New Zealand, I was thinking of calling them ‘NZ-PINZ’ but have recently settled on ‘PINZ by Claire’. It is short and descriptive, encompassing the important facts: New Zealand made pins by me (not mass produced in a factory in China).
A clutch pin is easier for the wearer to fasten on clothing and only pierces with one hole, compared to the traditional bar pin brooch finding. Using the clutch pin fastening also means I can make them quite small and, due to the light weight of polymer clay, it is also possible to create pins of a larger size than the norm for a lapel type pin. This gives flexibility for creating various pin designs, especially as the design does not have to fit round hiding the bar pin finding.
I am aware that many people still prefer to wear a pendant rather than a pin/brooch, so I will include a free ‘PINZ Converter’ with each large pin sold. The pin can be fastened to the converter, which has a tube at the top to thread a chain or cord through, enabling it to be worn as a pendant. For the smaller pins, I am thinking of a surround mounting, in different colours, onto which the pin can be fastened and a chain or cord threaded through - these will be offered as an optional extra.
I am currently working on various designs and hope to have my first PINZ available for public reaction at the Labour Day Art & Craft Market at Mission Bay on Monday 27 October 2014. I will then seek suitable places through which to sell my PINZ, as well as trying online through www.felt.co.nz and possibly www.etsy.com.

27 June 2014

I have been busy

I have not posted for a while but have been busy. Since returning from the conference in Malta, I have been working on some pieces for forthcoming exhibitions: Rainbow Cauldron (sculpture), Global Reflections (sculpture) and ‘Colour Play’ (a sculptural wall-hanging); pictures will be posted when they are complete.
This is the beginning of Rainbow Cauldron - the rainbow coloured bubbling balls are yet to be added:

23 May 2014

My award arrived today

Here is a quick 'selfie' with my award, which arrived in the post today. I will have to take some better photos later. It will find a home in my tiny studio and hopefully inspire me to create more great things with polymer clay.
Thank you IPCA for arranging the competition and the jurors for selecting my sculpture as a winning finalist.
Also, a big thank you to CreativeNZ for the grant funding, which enabled me to attend the EuroSynergy Conference where the awards were announced.

10 May 2014

A mention on The Daily Polymer Arts Blog

My name appeared in the following post on The Daily Polymer Arts Blog:
http://www.thepolymerarts.com/blog/and-the-winners-are/ stating who won the different category awards and 'Best in Show' in the 2014 International Polymer Clay Awards.

07 May 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Local artist wins international award

Local polymer clay artist, Claire Fairweather, from Browns Bay has won ‘Best in Category for Sculpture’ in the 2014 International Polymer Clay Awards. It was for her three part sculpture titled ‘Spring Trio’.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have received this award” says Claire, “it is the first time I have entered an international competition, so to have received world-wide recognition will be a tremendous boost for my polymer clay art and teaching career”.
Thanks to funding from CreativeNZ, to cover travel costs, Claire was able to attend EuroSynergy (an international polymer clay conference) where the awards were announced. She was the only person from New Zealand at the conference, which had representatives from 29 different countries.
Claire has created a wide range of polymer clay artwork, which was shown in a successful exhibition last month at Beach Café in Browns Bay. If you want to try your hand at this very versatile creative medium, Claire will be teaching introduction and advanced polymer clay classes at Glaze Ltd on the North Shore, more details can be found at http://www.glaze.co.nz/craft-art-classes/polymer-clay-classes.html


05 May 2014

04 May 2014

EuroSynergy 2014 - a short summary

EuroSynergy is over and I now start my long journey home. All the presentations were really interesting and useful but I was particularly inspired after the seminars ‘Working with polymer on a large scale’ by Bonnie Bishoff and ‘Polymer lab: new approaches to age-old techniques’ by Daniel Torres and Natalie Garcia de Leaniz. I think they will both greatly help with my forthcoming ideas for illuminated sculpture using translucent polymer clay. It was also great to put real faces to the names I only knew of online; being able to talk to fellow polymer clay artists, sharing knowledge and experiences was so helpful. I met a lot of lovely talented, creative people and feel like I am leaving behind a whole group of new friends.
At the opening night speech I got a special mention, as the person who had travelled the furthest. There were a record 29 different countries represented out of the 146 attendees at the conference and this was the first time that New Zealand had a presence. I think most people got to know me (as the lady with the list), as I took every opportunity to introduce myself to as many people as could, where appropriate giving out the silver fern lapel pins I had made, as small tokens of friendship. They proved quite useful for pinning the conference identity badges to our clothes, as the neck string that they came on was too long and interfered with the necklaces and pendants that many of the attendees were wearing.

When the winners of the 2014 International Polymer Clay Awards were announced, I was thrilled to get a Best of Category for Sculpture award, for ‘Spring Trio’. Particularly when the jurors were: Cynthia Tinapple (founder of the Polymer Clay Daily blog), Christine Knoke (Director of Exhibitions & Chief Curator, the Mingei International Museum) and Christine Dumont (founder of the Europe-based community website Voila!). Unfortunately the actual statuette awards were not brought to the conference (for customs reasons?), so I do not have it yet, they will be posted out to us. All the 2014 International Polymer Clay Awards winners can be seen here http://polymerclaydaily.com/progress-possibilities-2014-winners/ 
The small artwork ‘NZ Kiwi’ that I created for the auction, held at the Gala Dinner on the last night, went to Judy Belcher for €80 (approximately NZ$130). I was pleased that it raised a reasonable amount, as I am not a famous name (yet), and also that it went to a prominent figure in the polymer clay world.

'NZ Kiwi' being auctioned at the Gala Dinner
Now that I can call myself an ‘international award winning’ polymer clay artist, I feel I have reached the point where I can stop trying everything as I teach myself new techniques (not that I will ever stop learning). This next phase in my polymer work will focus on the ideas I have had for a while, for illuminated sculpture using translucent polymer clay. I will need to do a lot of experimentation as I develop what I hope will become my signature style.
Once again, I express my thanks to CreativeNZ, for the grant funding that enabled me to attend EuroSynergy. I feel so inspired now, I just need to find some time to put into action my own creations and also to continue to raise awareness of polymer clay as a creative medium here in New Zealand.

27 April 2014

Setting off for EuroSynergy 2014

I am finally packed and ready to set off to the airport to start my long journey to Malta. I leave Auckland for San Francisco, with a 7 hour layover there, then to Zurich and then to Malta. (My return journey goes via Frankfurt and Singapore to Auckland). So when I return, I will have travelled all the way round the world.
This is the card my husband gave me, which I found really touching, as he is long-suffering with my 'obsession' with polymer clay.
I am so excited about the whole event and really proud to be representing New Zealand at the EuroSynergy Conference. I am also extremely grateful to CreativeNZ for making this dream a reality.

Below are the Silver Fern lapel pins I have made, to give to people I make contact with at the conference, as a small gesture of friendship from New Zealand. (Unfortunately the metal stamp I was using broke, so I could not make as many as I had planned).

Silver Fern Lapel Pins

25 April 2014

Creating an artwork for EuroSynergy 2014

This artwork has ben created to take to the EuroSynergy Conference, as an item to be donated for the auction/tombola.
I wanted to make something representative of New Zealand and it needed to be small and light weight to fit in my hand luggage. I chose the kiwi bird, as it is a New Zealand icon, and designed it in a Maori-style.
This is the explanation I put on the back:

Black and white colouring was chosen, as this emphasizes the simple design, and will also fit with most home décor colour schemes.

The following photos document the creation of this artwork:

Initial sketches. I needed to make sure it was my own design and
 not a direct copy of an existing one.

The initial design has been refined. Of these three options, I have
chosen No. 3

The design has been traced onto a thin sheet of black polymer clay.

Then cut out with a craft knife and baked.

And here are the feet. I had a couple of attempts at getting these right.

White clay, with a touch of pearl for sparkle, was rolled out for the base.
The baked black shapes were pressed into the surface and then the whole
piece had a final baking.

The white tile has been trimmed to shape and sanded with grades of
'wet and dry' sandpaper from 400 to 1000 and then buffed with a cloth.
It has been mounted in a frame, which can be free-standing or hung on
 the wall.

Close-up of the final piece
(I should have photographed this before I put it in the frame
because I could not avoid the reflections on the glass )