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Review of polyform clay book (Fimo, Sculpey etc.)


Hi all, just thought I’d post this for people who might be
interested. There’s a national (US) polyform clay conference that
should be happening at Arrowmont in TN this fall. The plan is to
pair people from different media with well know polyform clay
artists and see if there are cross media fertilizations that
develop. Charles

‘The New Clay’ A Review Lewton-Brain =

The New Clay is a serious and readable text offering polyform clays as
a material for unique and production jewelry and object making. Polyform
clays are PVC claylike materials which come in numerous colors,
consistencies and working characteristics and are set hard by low
temperature baking. Afterwards they can be drilled, sanded and painted.
Excellent imitations of most opaque and translucent gem materials are
possible. One might at first automatically dismiss plastic-based "Fimo=AE"
and similar polyform clay jewelry as “beginning hobbyist” or a kind of low
level craft work. This well thought out book goes far to counter such a
easy dismissal of the ‘New Clays’.
It is what one does with a material rather than it’s nature or normal
context that counts and Nan Roche gives a great overview of techniques and
pieces which take ‘polyform’ clays to a high level of material control and
Polyform clay has been used to research lost glass cane-making
techniques because of its ‘unique ability to mimic glass’. Complex color
images can be created in the form of a long rod with the image forming the
’endgrain’ of the ‘log’. An image can then be sliced to create multiples or
drawn down (reduced) in size by stretching it.
Nan Roche writes about the material with passion and joy, often reading
like someone speaking who has a lot of experience in teaching workshops on
the material, an example of this being the patient repetition of important
points scattered throughout the text.
Chapters include Basics, Tools, Color, Design, Preparations, Basic
shape making, Canes and loaves, Surfaces, Collage, Sculpture, Findings and
a good appendix on materials, sources, safety and bibliography. The
acknowledgements are worth reading to get a welcome sense of credit
properly given and of a family pulling together. A good table of contents,
index and straightforward section titles make finding specific information
easy and skimming a possibility.
There is a clear unbiased review of brands, sources, mixing
possibilities and characteristics. Tools and skills are described in a
distilled concise manner. Many tools are already in the home: for dedicated
workers pasta makers and blenders are recommended.
The section on color is good to learn from or as a review. The four
page design chapter consists of lucid design principles useful to anyone
whether or not using polyform clays.
Dozens of specific techniques are illustrated by good diagrams and
wherever possible photos of finished work showing the technique used. There
is a wealth of detail here that comes only from close observation and much
experience with a material. It is definitely ‘how to’ and the instructions
look easy to follow. Tricks include transfers, foils and moulds.
Roche’s excitement and enthusiasm for the material crops up all through
the book, as do little hints on design principles.
There is a very good section on the science of the material worthy of
any basic college engineering text. A list of artist’s addresses with the
sources carry out the open, sharing, credit giving nature of the book.
The book has plenty of good clear illustrations and lots of luscious
saturated color photographs on coated stock. The superb photos are rich and
professionally lit. The paper used is nice and thick, such that I had to
check several times to see if I had two pages stuck together. The
attractive cover, reminiscent of Ornament, could have been a tad more
My criticisms are minor. Something about the cover, perhaps color and
photo cropping tend toward a ‘crafty’ look. This won’t matter to some but
may stop ‘serious goldsmiths’ from reading it which would be a shame.
It is perhaps a little daunting in the volume of written A
narrower column width and a bit more white space would make it a little
easier to read. I have a personal objection to the use of the word
’chasing’ for what is really incised carving.
The New Clay could be used as a text for a serious course in the
material. In all a good book worth looking at if interested in beads,
glass, color, precise pattern control, designing possibilities, mimicry or
in making jewellery with these materials.
I’d have to call this book the definitive work on using polyform clays.

Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain

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