Touchstone Creations

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Art Blog

On this blog, I share pictures of the pieces I create for my TouchstoneCreations shop at Etsy.com, as well as some of those I'm working on and those that might never make it that far. I include lots of photos and blogging about work in progress and thoughts about my artistic endeavors.

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Wolves!

Posted by Julie Benner on October 30, 2013 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I am quite excited to say that I have finally successfully sculpted some wolves! It took me a while and several false starts before I got three pieces that pleased me. For some reason, red foxes come fairly easily to me, (see Red Fox, Napping Fox, and More Brooches) but wolves were a different story. Foxes are somewhat cat-like and flexible, and they like to strike cute, sculptable poses, such as curled up in a furry ball, or sitting daintily with their tails wrapped around their legs. This is in strong contrast to wolves, who in most of the pictures I've seen, stand stiffly on their long, difficult-to-sculpt legs, glaring balefully at the photographers. I was determined, however, and started with a young black wolf in a sitting position. He came out well, his amber eyes contrasting nicely with his dark fur.

 

 I wanted to try a fully mature wolf next, and decided he would be in a relaxed, resting postion, with silvery gray fur this time. I was happy with the result of this sculpture, after quite a bit of work to get it right.





The last wolf in this trio is a silvery white wolf, lying down with her head up, alert and watchful. She was a challenge to sculpt and also took some time to get right. But she was worth the work, and I am happy with all three of these wolves.




Koi Suncatchers

Posted by Julie Benner on October 2, 2013 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The week after labor Day, we always camp in a wonderful cabin in a campground on Lake Michigan. That week I have plenty of time to relax, take long walks, and work on new ideas with my polymer clay. This year I was playing with the idea of making a mobile.

 

Koi are Japanese ornamental carp, pond fish, which come in a variety of patterns and colors: reds, golds, silvers, whites, and blacks. I envisioned some colorful koi fish swirling lazily around on wires suspended from the ceiling. I still think that would be beautiful, but it turns out mobiles are really hard to balance! So for now the koi became suncatchers to hang individually in the window, or wherever else needs a dash of piscine color. Christmas tree ornaments, perhaps?


This project was a bit of a departure for me, as I visualized a two-dimensional fish, cut from a template, rather than something hand-sculpted as all my other pieces are. I developed two different templates for variety, from photos of live koi. Then I used my pasta machine to roll translucent clay to a #6 thickness. I cut around the templates with an exacto knife, and textured each fish on both sides. Then came the fun part: coloring them with mica powders -- no paints! Then baking, a couple of coats of clear varnish and a color-coordinated metallic cord  to hand them from.







Swans

Posted by Julie Benner on July 19, 2013 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 My latest focus was on a water theme. I finished three swans, each different from the other, all brooches. Unlike some of my recent brooches, these do not have the Inuit or the steam punk look. I also created a couple of water lily pins in keeping with the water theme, but I am not going to include them in this post.

 

 The first of the three swans was a fairly realistic piece, somewhat stylized, but softly realistic in color and shape. His neck took a lot of fiddly work to get right, I found, as the sinuous shape is tricky to render correctly. That part took by far the longest. He has a soft-focus look to him. I used Pearl Premo clay to sculpt him, coloring him with white MicroPearl mica powders, with a touch of copper and black for the beak and eye area, before baking.



Two metallic-look swans followed the white one, both inspired from an Art Deco brooch, but different in style and shape. The first has spread wings and a more detailed, feathered look, while the second is more abstract and stylized. That swan is also the smallest of the three brooches. Both of these were sculpted in silver Premo polymer clay and brushed with silver, gold, and copper mica powders before baking.









More Brooches

Posted by Julie Benner on June 28, 2013 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 



Until recently, my work has been on a minature scale. Tiny birds, animals, and fantasy figures, fashioned into earrings, pendants, or figurines, made up the majority of my pieces, nearly always sculpted in the round. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine suggested that I make some brooches, which I hadn't tried in years, and then only a few pieces, which were stamped into the polymer clay, rather than sculpted. In my previous post, Metallic Ravens, I wrote about the first pieces that I sculpted in bas-relief rather than in the round.

 

Excited about my new technique, which was larger and bolder than my previous work, I decided to try a red fox in a similar Inuit-inspired style. To my surprise, this was not successful. After numerous attempts, nothing came together. The fox seemed to demand a more naturalistic approach, so I worked with that idea in mind, and persisted until I was pleased with the result. I think this fox pin is charming.

 

The same thing happened with my next brooch, an owl. Again I started working with inspiration from Inuit art prints, but again it wouldn't come together. The owl also needed a more realistic look. In the end, this owl brooch is more stylized than the fox, but much more realistic than the ravens. I almost despaired of him a few times, but he came together in the end, and I really like the resulting brooch. 

 

I finished three brooches during this period, and the last, a bird, reverts back to the metallic-looking, somewhat abstract, Inuit print style. He is the most stylized, the most abstract; so much so that his breed isn't clear, except that his position hints at a woodpecker. This bird is the most like the ravens I made earlier.

Metallic Ravens

Posted by Julie Benner on May 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)



 

My work has taken a new turn that I am excited about. I decided to work on some brooches yesterday after a few weeks of low production. I had some wonderful dark Premo "Blue Granite" polymer clay that I thought would make a dramatic crow or raven, but I wanted to do something different from my earlier ravens. I love Inuit stone carving. In an earlier post, I talked about some of the pieces these carvings inspired. This time, I envisioned something flatter, for a brooch, and I thought about those wonderful Inuit art prints I have seen and enjoyed over the years. I found a wonderful print of a raven, which directly inspired the first of the two brooches I completed yesterday.

 

I chose to go dramatically bigger in size for these brooches. After shaping the first piece, I attached the pin back by baking a flat strip of polymer clay across it, doubly secured by a coat of liquid polymer clay before baking. I signed the piece on the back. I then used silver and Aztec gold mica powders lightly to create a mottled metallic look throughout the brooch, front and back. The second brooch is made from a mixture of the blue granite clay mixed with black. The shaping and texturing on both pieces was done by hand, without any stamps or molds.

 

I am very pleased with these dramatic raven brooches, which complement each other, while each retaining a unique and individual look. They have something of a steampunk look to them, I think, especially the second brooch.

Black Bears

Posted by Julie Benner on April 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)






At last! I sculpted these three black bears a week ago or so, and it took me this long to get pictures and list them on https://www.etsy.com/shop/TouchstoneCreations" target="_blank">Etsy. My camera's memory card was filled up, and I kept not getting around to buying a new one or at least taking off some of the old pictures so I could get the bears out there.

 

These bears were a bit of a challenge for me, as I wanted them to have a more realistic look to them than my stone-look bear has, but I am pleased with they way they came out at last. The sculpting took a while. I wanted three different positions for my black bears. I roughed them in, then let them sit, covered, overnight, before detailing and finishing them. I have found that this works best with more complex pieces, as resting the polymer clay helps it cool a bit so the pieces don't squish out of shape while I am finishing them.

More Dragons

Posted by Julie Benner on March 28, 2013 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)





I really enjoyed sculpting my turquoise dragon pendants. I have been trying for a while to sculpt dragons figurines in the round, but so far I haven't been pleased with the way they turned out, as my sculpting style uses more carving away clay than adding pieces such as legs and wings. With the dragon pendants, however, I think I've hit on something interesting.

 

These pendants are stylized rather than realistic. I wanted to try some more in a different color scheme, and immediately visualized the red color of carved cinnabar -- perfect for a dragon! Here is the first red dragon pendant I have finished. It resembles cinnabar, but has more of a golden sheen to it than the coral red of cinnabar. I plan to work some more with this technique as soon as I can. This dragon pendant is now in my https://www.etsy.com/shop/TouchstoneCreations" target="_blank">Etsy shop.

Turquoise!

Posted by Julie Benner on March 23, 2013 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)






I love turquoise. It's my favorite stone, and my birthstone as well. So today I decided to create some pieces that would have the look and feel of turquoise, without worrying too much about getting it exactly right. 


I wanted these pieces to have some complexity and depth to their color, so I mixed two colors of copper mica powders into the turquoise polymer clay. One of the coppers was fine-textured, and the other was coarse, sort of like glitter, and I really like the results.


 I also tried to keep the pieces rough-cut, like stone, rather than smooth and sleek in their sculpting. After baking, I added touches of turquoise mica powder, as well as a bit more of the coppers, and hand buffed the pieces. I made a small bird figurine, an owl figurine, which I gave to my daughter's friend, a rabbit pendant, and two stylized dragon pendants -- very different from each other. My favorite of all these pieces is unusual. He is the piece that I am holding in the first picture of this post. I call him my Aztec Dragon pendant. All of these turquoise pieces except for the owl can be found in my https://www.etsy.com/shop/TouchstoneCreations" target="_blank">Etsy shop.

Stone Look Sculpting

Posted by Julie Benner on March 3, 2013 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)











For the last couple of weeks, I've been trying variations of a new technique. Inspired by Inuit stone carvings, which are fairly simple, often beautiful renditions of animals, birds, and people, I decided to sculpt some polymer clay figures that have a similar look. I wanted them to look as if they were carved from stone, so the clay itself had to look stony, and the sculpting technique had to be simpler, less delicate, than many of my pieces so far.

 

For my first few pieces, I used "White Granite" Premo polymer clay, and chose rabbits for my subject (Easter is coming, after all). I was very pleased with how they turned out. Next, I used "Gray Granite" Premo and sculpted a bear and a goat. I found that this type of clay looks better if it is varnished afterwards, so the pieces look like polished stone. I especially like the way the bear turned out.

 

Last night, I used some "Pearl" Premo polymer clay and mixed in some pepper and cardamom spices to give the clay some texture. The result was swirly and slightly speckled, looking similar to marble after baking. I made a couple more rabbits out of this clay. I decided not to varnish these pieces.

 

All in all, I have mixed feelings about these carved-stone-look techniques. Some of them I really like, and others I am more luke-warm about. Probably I will go back to my mica-powder-finished sculpting style for a while. I always like to experiment and push my boundaries, however, so I'm sure I will never stop trying out new ideas and following new inspirations for my sculpting in polymer clay.

Stylized Hummingbirds

Posted by Julie Benner on February 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)



My niece is a senior and last weekend was her final appearance in her studio's yearly original ballet. I wanted to make her something special for the occasion. She loves peacocks, but I wasn't sure how to make small peacocks that would look light and airy enough for earrings.

 

Then I thought of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds come in a variety of jewel-tone colors, so I knew I could use similar iridescent blues and greens, even purples, and they would make wonderful earrings. The only problem that I could see was the fragility of the tiny birds in polymer clay. The beaks would be bad enough, but what about the wings? And how to make them appear delicate and give the illusion of movement?

 

After some thought, I decided to stylize the tiny hummingbird sculptures, and use texture for the wings, instead of actually sculpting them in polymer clay. When hummers fly, their wings move so fast they become a blur to the eye anyway. I made a few pendants and a couple of pairs of earrings in this manner, so that I could put some in my Etsy store as well. I am very happy with the results. The pictures really don't do them justice, and my niece loved her earrings, which I presented to her after the ballet in lieu of flowers.


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