Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Creating a Piece of Wearable Art

I recently finished a brooch that is based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, "The Little Mermaid".
I'm really happy with the end result and am planning on creating more pieces similar to this one in different colors.

I am often asked how I create these pieces so I thought that I would do my best to explain my process in a blog post. I typically work pretty quickly and also very intuitively so it can be difficult for me to explain every part of my process. I also tend to forget to take pictures.

I typically do a rough drawing of the finished piece, but after doing my more improvisational art nouveau fairy brooch I decided to allow myself a bit more freedom and to just play with the materials.

I began by creating a sketch for my mermaid. The sketch is almost the full size of my sketchbook but I shrink it and use a copy machine to create the smaller image that I will then transfer to my polymer clay by placing my image face down on a sheet of polymer and bake according to package instructions.

In past pieces I have done a full color colored pencil drawing and have transferred that to my polymer. I created this piece a little differently. I transferred the copy to my polymer and then played around with colored pencils ON the baked polymer. I like the more textural quality that this gives the piece. Not sure if I'm going to continue to do this all the time, but it's nice to know that it can be done this way. I did three different color schemes so that I had some options. I decided on the far left piece but will probably create pieces using the other two later on.

After I have fully colored the image I typically go over the piece in places with acrylic paints. This is smooths things a bit more and gives a bit more definition. I will then go over certain areas with some pearlescent mica powders. I especially like doing this on the tail so that her tail shimmers like that of a real fish. I added some frosted whites and golds to her tail and some deep blues and shimmery teals to the water.

Once the piece is fully painted I roll out some polymer to use as a frame. I marbled some green and pearly white to create a sort of sea foam concoction and then wrapped the piece in this. I VERY carefully cut away the excess with an exact-o blade and smooth all of the edges.

Now things get a bit more tricky to explain. This is where I just let my imagination go wild. I basically rolled some polymer into long thin strings and began seeing what I could create. I created spirals and waving pieces of seaweed. I carved shell shapes and embedded some small freshwater pearls to create some sea life for my mermaid's habitat. I also had found a really fun iridescent glass bead that resembled a bubble and embedded that in a swirl of polymer. Once I get the frame to a point where I am happy, I bake the entire thing again and then varnish my painting with several coats of matte gloss. This not only protects my painting from being scratched but it also helps to really enhance the colors within the piece and really makes the mica powders shine.

For the final touches I use a very strong metal glue to adhere the pin back to my piece and often will use this glue to really make sure that the glass bead and freshwater pearls stay put as well.

Well there you go! Hope that this was helpful. I will try to do another one of these soon and I promise to try harder to stop myself in between steps and take some pictures!