Goals of "exploring"
Ways of looking at things creatively

Heart shape
Figure with unusual components
Monster, Alien or Critter
Basket of Flowers
Twisting & Turning
...more themes 1.....Sep2001-->Oct2002
...more themes 2.....Nov2002 --> Mar2004
...more themes 3 ....Apr.2004 -->2005
...more themes 4 ... Feb.2006 -->
Themes used previously, plus more themes found online

More ideas here at GlassAttic --on the Clay Ideas page:

EXPLORATIONS in Creativity

Using Themes

Our guild offers the option of a theme exploration each month. The idea behind these monthly explorations is not to simply do something relating to the particular theme... but to do something (or some part of it) which you've never done before.
.... For a newbie, this could simply be trying the technique. But for someone who's done a lot of a particular technique, it would mean coming up with some part of it, or some technique change. that is new for them. . . . The idea is to practice being creative.

One way to practice getting inspiration is to intentionally notice things your environment .... just get into a noticing mode. Then try to apply any aspect of that thing or things to the theme in some way (see more below).

One option would be to make any of these exploration objects into ornaments if you're concerned, or undecided, about what to do with them later.... don't let that stop you).

Goals of "Exploring"

--to break "functional fixedness" - to be able to see new ways to look at things and solve problems, not just the "normal" function or way of dealing with something (think "sideways")
... (a toddler kept wanting to play with Granny's yarn while she was knitting; the toddler was put in a playpen, which didn't make her very happy; a sideways solution would be to put *Granny* in the playpen; or learning to see items from the hardware store for something other than their intended use --something I think we already do!)

--to realize there are no right or wrong answers
-- want variety, and many ideas in different directions, (there is no one "right" idea) --in fact, want to encourage outrageous ideas
--want to encourage taking "risks" because no answer is wrong; "failure" is defined only by not trying again

--to realize that sometimes the best ideas have been stimulated by making "mistakes" and seeing something different or fixing it in a way that creates something new, or misunderstanding what someone has said and thinking what a great idea (then realizing that's not what they meant--hah!)

--to be stimulated by other ideas).... if in a group, this also encourages supporting others which leads to everyone getting more ideas

--to percolate (giving the ideas a while to percolate in your brain) ....sometimes the best ideas bubble up after you've slept, done other things, or let time go by.
I find that if I've worked on something or on an idea, after at least some time has passed, more and more ideas will be stimulated from the least little thing until I'm starting to see them everywhere and they become a real avalanche (... even after I've moved on to something else!).

Ways-of-Looking at things creatively

If you have no trouble coming up with ideas, you're already ready to start J

For everyone else, try using one of the following techniques as a way of getting potential ideas for any exploration theme listed below:

Many years ago (1980?), I took a short workshop on creativity. I don't remember if there was a name for their method, but it impressed me a lot. Some of the ideas below are the same or similar to some I learned that day, and also from book The Thinker's Toolbox; some of these may overlap.)

Magnify or Exaggerate -- make bigger (in size or concept), exaggerate some aspect, or make outrageous
Elaborate --add details, "explain" more, or make something new by adding
Minimize or Reduce -- make smaller or less important (in size or concept), or minimize parts
Eliminate -- take some things away, simplify/streamline, or get down to the essence

Combine -- put together a different way or combine with something else
Separate -- break into parts
Rearrange -- put the parts in a different order
Reverse -- make it be opposite of what it is in some way
Substitute -- use what you have, but substitute one or more parts or ideas

Hypothesize -- say "what would happen if I did this or that?"
Empathize -- put oneself in another’s place as you comtemplate it or describe it, or actually put yourself in the place of the item/idea (this one is very weird for some of us . . . )

Categorize -- sort by various traits (heavy/light, dark/bright, busy/simple, geometric, organic, elegant/whimsical, functional/decorative, etc.)
Symbolize -- any symbols associated with?, make it a symbol or metaphor--something which stands for something else, or brings it to mind
Associate -- free associate; list other things that come to mind as attributes, etc., your own personal associations, or intentionally dream about it (see below**), etc.
Describe -- express in words (in detail); use another person as a sounding board to come up with new ideas or simply to hear yourself saying things that you hadn’t used words for in your mind, or just to help come up with more ideas.
Compare -- what’s different, what’s alike about something else
Applying another category of attributes to your theme --compile a list of attributes of anything you pick at random (or something relevant) --e.g., shoes, the Internet, rock and roll, last night's mood, a famous person, etc.. You can pick a random word from the dictionary using the open-and-point, or the #'s method (# of page then # of definition on page). Try not to think about your original theme while you list these attributes. When you're finished, apply those attributes to your theme. 

Exploration THEMES
(make these all as potential ornaments if you want "something to do with them later")

Photos of the current month's Exploration Theme for my guild are often listed on our webpage:
http://home.earthlink.net/~sbpcg/ (must click on See More there to view them all)

HEART-VALENTINE ...theme or shape
(for Feb 2001)

General possibilities from my website: Liquid Sculpey effects, cutters, wavy blade, clay gun stuff (Balinese filigree, weaving, etc.), marbling, Skinner blends, scraps, canes, faces, mica effects, special colors or types of clay, translucent or glow-in-the-dark effects, covering something, metallic or other powders/glitter/leaf, mosaic, onlay, stamping/texturing, molds, carving/turning, transfers, lettering, paint, mokume gane, faux's, inclusions, jewlery, vessels, books/postcards, quilt theme, sculpting/body parts, armatures/PVC/cornstarch pellets, miniatures, snowglobe, mixing media (wire-coils, feathers, beads, etc.), framed, etc.

Other Ideas for Valentine/heart themes: ruffles, stacked, "candy" hearts with written messages "candy" hearts with written, transferred, stamped or carved messages, or other candies/chocolates http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/houses_structures_gingerbread.htm , heart-shaped box or a heart-shaped house, or regular house with Valentine colors & items with or without decoration (candy hearts, cupids, chocolates, ribbons, etc.), or in a --small scene or larger one in any setting, illustrating a romantic theme, etc., Elissahearts, FimoSoft glitter metallic clays, etc.

SOME WEBSITES with examples
aking a heart cane using a cutter --Arlene Thayer
http://www0.delphi.com/polymerclay/PCC/hearts.html (anyone can enter this address)
Petra's hearts with overlaid translucent canes (website gone)
many hearts (symmetrical and not, mokume, etc.) (website gone)
Terry's chrysanthemum cane heart pendant & earrings
Marcy's multi-"pieced" hearts & other hearts
(click on all galleries)
Karen's Valentine jewlery
Bob's layered, onlaid
hearts (updating, may not be available Jan 12)
Melnik's heart amulet pendant (formed over an armature, but hollow --see Rock Containers for more info) --same as Donna's?? (website gone)

faun's mosaic heart (website gone)
*Annie's many interesting hearts, some with wire, etc. (website gone)
Pewter heart swap
Heart swap
Trace's symmetrical
pattern hearts (see Natasha beads in Beads for more) (website gone)
Jan shows how to use a rolled snail shape to cut in half, resulting in a heart shape; can be mirror image --could do with other shapes too though (Jan's "mirror image bargello shell" hearts)
*Eliz's bubble/balloon vessel lesson & samples of tiny vase-like bottles, with & without stoppers (be sure to click on second page!)
Use the heart as an accessory, e.g.:
Valerie's cracked gold foil & blue heart
Dave's earth-colors mokume hearts

some of the results of our heart theme exploration (South Bay Polymer Clay Guild) (website gone)
http://www.desiredcreations.com (more shots of heart purse there somewhere)

FIGURE with Unusual Components
(theme for Mar 2001)

Create a whimsical figure with unusual body/head/arms/legs/hair components. In other words, make these parts different from what one would expect. For example make the limbs skinny and lo-ong, balloon-like, wild and crazy, or elegantly mokume, etc., or create the parts with beads, cord, wire, etc. These could end up being pins, computer sitters, tiny earrings, attached to vessels or background slabs, freestanding or sitting on a base, etc., or just exploration samples. If you don't feel you can make a face or can mold one, simply use a shape with no features or add two holes or beads for eyes. Or you might have the "face" appear in the pattern of the clay piece you use. Another possibility might be a themed figure, e.g., a sea creature with a shell for a body or head, seaweed for arms, etc., or a sampler figure with several techniques explored. Animals (besides us)are okay too. Another place to find inspiration is in looking at whimsical fabric dolls.
whimsy: etymology, date 1653 --full of, actuated by, or exhibiting whims, capriciousness; lightly fanciful, subject to erratic behavior or unpredictable change

General Possibilities from categories on my website: flexible clays, translucent or glow clays, cutters, wavy blades, clay gun (ropes, Balinese filigree, braiding/weaving, etc.), color (e.g., marbling), blends, scraps, mica effects, covering things, powders, metallic waxes, chalks, leaf (foil), mosaics (inlay), onlay (applique), frames & mirrors, stamping & texturing, molds, carving, turning, transfers, paint, mokume gane, fauxs including ivory, turquoise & wood, inclusions, beads (Natasha, twisted ropes, chevron, tube, any kind!), buttons, "rock" vessel people, mixing media (wire-coils, feathers, beads, etc.), Christmas/Halloween, etc., quilt, miniatures .

Some relevant pages from Glass Attic:
Sculpting http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpture.htm
Sculpting body parts http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm
Armatures & Mesh http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/armatures_mesh_PVC.htm
Heads/Masks http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/heads_masks.htm
(+ small heads, in Fingerpuppets
Molds http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/molds.htm
Mixing Media http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/mixing_media.htm
Glues http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/glues-Diluent.htm

More Websites for inspiration
*Garie's many whimsical sculptures & chess set (film "spool" cannister)
Faun's tiny figures (some with wire hair); lesson on faces, hair, etc. (website gone)
"wild women" swap (many many styles and techniques) (website gone)
Kim Korringa's mosaic people http://kimcreates.com/gallery.html
Rebecca Nogy's bead-arm, face-slice woman
*Wanda's fantastic dragonflies & bugs using different cane components (website gone)
antkar's figures (some over light bulbs) (website gone)
Dotty McMillan's lesson on covering a prescription bottle http://www.jewelrycrafts.com/clayproj7.html
*Karen's lesson on face-and-body egg figure (Santa, etc.) http://www.sculpey.com/Projects/projects_WoodenEggSanta.htm
Garie's covered pingpong ball creatures http://www.garieinternational.com.sg/clay/pinponballs.htm
Owen's figures (some fiendish), fish, wire, skeleton, etc. (website gone)
Sculpey Flex's & Glows http://www.sculpey.com/subset_kids.htm
Melnik's jointed figures (simple heads) (website gone)
Dawn's Dolly Dangles (website gone)
Melnik"s simple small figures, some with dangles (website gone)
Comport's jointed figure http://www.nwpcg.org/ravensdale/rave/rave98.shtml
(from Armatures category)
~tiny, jointed doll figures. . . I use "floral wire" for armatures. It is the linen-covered wire that florists spiral around long-stemmed roses. You can find it at Hobby Lobby in their artifical flowers section. It's about $.99 for fifteen 18" pieces. They have different guages. For shoulder sockets, you might check out fishing swivels. It's a bead between two wire loops. The loops can be turned individually. The shoulder "muscle" over the arm socket might just be so thin and delicate that it would have to be made out of something other than clay. Maybe belt lining (available at fabric stores) embedded in the clay. I used chain like the kind used in pull chain lights. You know the kind that looks like tiny balls or BB's? They migh be too big for your dolls but it was also embedded right into the joints. I am going to try this on my marionettes next…
. . . all the results (on doll joints) went into my miniature polymer clay dolls book . . . 3. Make holes through the limbs with a fine knitting pin before baking - think of the little limbs as tube beads. Make corresponding holes in the body. Then thread pipe-cleaners through so they are completely posable too. You glue the ends of the pipe-cleaners into the tops of the lower legs, the tops of the lower arms, and then thread on the limbs, then glue the other ends into holes in the body. Sue Heaser  

Even more websites for inspiration
*assemblage figures with differently colored-patterned pieces (from wood, but still inspirational)

EGG theme or shape
(for April 2001)

General possibilities from my website: Liquid Sculpey effects, cutters, wavy blade, clay gun stuff (Balinese filigree, weaving, etc.), marbling, Skinner blends, canes, faces, mica effects, special colors or types of clay, translucent or glow-in-the-dark effects, covering something, metallic or other powders/glitter/leaf, mosaic, onlay, stamping/texturing, molds, carving/turning, transfers, lettering, paint, mokume gane, faux's, inclusions, jewelry, vessels, quilt theme, sculpting or body parts, heads/masks, armatures/PVC/cornstarch pellets, miniatures, mixing media (wire-coils, feathers, beads, etc.)

Other Ideas for Egg themes: Spring, bunnies, Easter eggs, egg viewer or with window/scene inside, egg house, bird house, foil armatures for heads/animals/whatever, rattle eggs with rice/beans/beads/bells inside, small or Easter eggs in nest or basket, on stands, with legs or wheels, hinged, etc.

One way to clean and cover an egg: Make hole in both ends (one larger) and blow out yolk; be sure to pierce yolk first. Sterilize them by soaking in water with a bit of bleach; a baking soda rinse can neutralize the bleach if it bothers you. To remove moisture and strengthen the shells, microwave on high for 15-30 seconds or bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 min.. Cover a raw egg, or one with an underlayer of clay; bake or not. Some people like to use a layer of white glue or LS instead, then add and bake. You can cover a wooden egg (coat with Sobo, then let tack), but possibly not a papier mache one (cracking).

One way to cover a plastic egg: Buy the rubbery plastic ones; some brands that will work (from last year): --Dudley (has the hole in it already). Paper Magic Group --Walmart (no name on the bag...just says 12 easter eggs..green label with white letters). --Walgreens have their own brand of semi-soft plastic hinged eggs (Fill & Fun Hinged Eggs) --Target's 48 eggs for $2.99- with holes in them (--the eggs I purchased from Michael's melted.) Bake at 250-265 degrees, or a use a thick first layer of clay; some may melt inside but hold up long enough to support the covering, leaving a shiny inner coat. Poke a hole if they don't already have one, to release the heated air (can use heated needle), then put a hole in you clay at the location of the original hole. Hinges are okay . . . just shave them off.

One way to dissolve parts of an eggshell: Cover empty egg with strips or tiles with clay leaving lots of spaces. Cure. Submerge egg in regular vinegar for a 1-1/2 days? Pick out skin with tweezers (or use stronger vinegar for less time).

Some Websites
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/eggs.htm (see many more websites in Eggs category)

Leap year egg swap, (website gone)
lori's? eggs for egg swap, (website gone)
Egg Swap 1-Delphi, http://creativeside.com/cache/eggersu/artworks_by_lucille.htm
all kinds of eggs, message board, etc., http://www.creativeside.com/
Miki's open-work and animal-armature eggs, http://members.xoom.com/mikizeggs/
*Karen's lesson on face-and-body wood egg figure (Santa, etc.) http://www.sculpey.com/Projects/projects_WoodenEggSanta.htm
Jenny's fat cats built on ceramic eggs, with "clothing" (website gone)
*lori Greenbers' 's visual lesson on covering a real & a plastic egg (& how to sand and buff it) (raw base layer method)
Sharon V's fairy baby in egg with autumn leaves (website gone)
Bob's flat, layered egg shape http://www.crosswinds.net/~rwiley/clay_gallery.html
Treebelly's different! eggs (houses, rattle, "boxes", onlay) http://www.treebelly.com/art/eggs/eggs.html
egg "house" in tree (opens to show interior --not polymer, but could be?) http://www.minimotion.com/minipage/egghouse/eggpage.html
arismiller's flattened twisted-beehive finish on egg (website gone)
Sue's Skinner blended (dark to light!) egg (website gone)
Cathy D's "flower & leaves" cane on an egg (website gone)
*Sally's slices of translucent and gold folded cane (website gone)
pysanky lessons
http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/amorash/ukregg.html http://www.hgtv.com/HGTV/project/0,1158,CRHO_project_18346,00.html

Monster, Alien or Critter

(for May 2001)

Create a monster, alien or any kind of critter (preferably a creepy crawlie type). These can be scary or silly or weird, or anything else you like.
Use any technique in polymer clay. For example:

wire/mixing media
pens, eggs
distort a mold, for a face

Here are a few online examples:

Plankspanker’s SOD’s: Dragons, Wyverns, Orcs, Demons, Aliens, etc.
*Tommie's darker sculptures & others' work--some "garage" style at Spooky's Dungeon
http://www.cjnetworks.com/~tjturner (CHECK)
Dinko’s (lesson) on funny bird
Johnny's PolyPals
*RebeccaK's fun amorphous monsters (also click on More Monsters)
antkar's simple bug-like animals (powdered, etc.) (website gone)
Cindy's simple weird sculpted colored heads
*several scenes (with jackalopes, Joanie & others?) (website gone)
Nora Jean's snakes (website gone)
*assemblage figures with differently colored-patterned pieces (from wood, but still inspirational) http://www.pekin.net/pekin108/wash/artwood_ud/index.html
Faces/sperm, radio bugs (Victoria)
*Wanda's fantastic dragonflies & bugs using cane pieces (website gone)
Garie's masks (some scary)

Jan R's mask pendants, formed over small river rocks ----I bet it'd be a great way to make light little insects too.... neat! Joanie (website gone)
Figuredane's sculptures (movies, monsters, etc.)
(website gone)
~Owen's skeletons, fiendish & other figures, wire
(website gone)
Ria's Halloween theme figures, wizards/witches, etc.
(website gone)
Nora Jean's lesson on building a skull cane & surrounding
(website gone)
~Magestic's skulls & skeletons
all kinds of Halloween ideas, scarecrown, aliens and body parts in specimen bottles
Miracle's (memo holder) eyes showing through egg hole, hands holding sign http://mycraftyphotos.homestead.com/HalloWees.html
*Joanne's ladies (& Tom Jeffrey's) skulls, etc.
(website gone)
~Diane creaturecreator's, scarecrow, etc.
Roberta Altshuler's lesson on her Wild Woman pin (using waxed linen cording for hair, plus molds, leaf, Rub N Buff, layers of clay) http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/cr_clay_jewelry/article/0,,HGTV_3238_1386894,00.html
Jody's monster's teeth
(website gone)
Barbara's types of scales
Dora's lesson for making millefiori fabric (for crazy quilt simulation)

Some pages from Glass Attic

http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm eyeballs, wrinkly/textured skin or scales, hair, clothing, etc

(or any page dealing with the technique you've chosen)

Basket of Flowers

(to be made for June 2001 meeting)

Twisting & Turning

(for July 2001)

Do any kind of twisting or turning of clay (canes, ropes, anything!)


(for Aug 2001)

Anything that is associated with picnics: baskets, food, a favorite place for them, gingham tablecloths or quilts, grass, barbeque, ants . . .


Clay Gun
(for Sep 2001)

Anything created with elements generated by a clay gun (see Clay Guns http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/claygun.htm and http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/claygunTechniquesList.htm)

(for Oct 2001)

Due to the recent tragic events, we felt that any expression of Peace resonated with us all.

(for Nov. 01)

work on something for our annual Christmas potluck gift exchange
(for Dec. 2001)

(no Exploration)
(after xmas party, for Jan. 02)

make a Postcard
(for Feb 02)

Make a postcard to send to someone (even yourself). See info and ideas at:

St. Patrick's Day
(for March 02)

(suggested by Cumba) ..see a few suggestions at http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Halloween,etc..htm#stpatricks

Crazy Patch
(for April 2002)

--Make a "crazy patch" design. Cut small, flattish bits of pattern and/or texture into random shapes, and fit them together like a puzzle, filling in any spaces with more bits.
--Try to use different stampings/textures as well as patterns (some simple, some more complex); powders, antiquing are also possibilities. Don't outline the pieces.
--If desired, Lindly Haunani's idea can be used: select several basic colors, then use them alone, mix them together, or make tints/tones/shades from them for your palette.
--(The results can be used to cover an Altoid tin or other object or as a quilt for a small figure/animal, etc., or just leave it as is.)
--For those online, here are a few examples or inspirations:
using cane patterns only
Rachel A's simple impressions & powders http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4292456065&p=4266957968&idx=10
Sarajane's textures w/ powders (tiles at bottom of page)
Sarajane's use of various textured & powders or antiqued bits (hers are more onlay than laid together as a sheet, but check out the general feel)
(see also the Stamping and Powders and Caning pages here at GlassAttic)

"Vinegar" Eggs
(for May 2002)

This month’s theme will be something I’ll refer to as “vinegar eggs” . . . that is, covering an egg partially with raw clay (leaving spaces), baking it, then dissolving out the shell with vinegar (this is generally an overnight or longer step), leaving just the clay structure behind (Sculpey clay not recommended).

Most of the eggs I’ve seen have begun with ropes of clay laid sort of randomly on the egg. The ropes need to be somewhat connected to create a strong enough structure when the shell is gone. Often flowers, leaves or other clay bits have been pressed on top of some of the joins, or placed so they will connect them. (The clay coverage can be heavy or light, depending on how carefully any remaining shell is removed when necessary.)

You can also use the egg as the form for an object by covering most of it but leaving bare particular parts of the egg (to make a diorama, a baby carriage, a body/head/mask, vases/vessels/baskets, a boat) --especially if the intended shape has parts which extend up past the middle of the egg (so it couldn't simply be lifted off the form after baking).

(For the handout I gave to the guild members with info on how to do these, go to
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/eggs.htm -- top of page, in purple text, "Summary").

Closet Clean-Outs
(for June 2002)

Use up some supplies you've bought at some point, but never got around to using/trying. . . (inspired by a similar idea of NiteFalcon's...thanks!)

(for July 2002)

(Suggested by someone else from the guild in my absence.)

Dream Image (or thought, or "dream-like" image)
(for August 2002)

Make something based on an image, or a thought, from a dream (all clay or mixed media). This could be something from a past dream or a current one, and it doesn't have to be exact ...just something stimulated by a dream. I could even be a dream-like image, if that doesn't work for you.

Some technique possibilities might be sculpting or bas relief, or other techniques like stamping/carving, transfers, metallic powders, painting, mokume gane, watercolor bead backgrounds , scenes or landscapes, caning, glow in the dark or mica effects, etc.

Your creation could end up being a part of a piece of jewelry, or if you make the images in miniature they could be kept in a special box** or you could make a charm bracelet or beads for a necklace from them.

I have a page at GlassAttic on "dreaming" http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/dreaming.htm which includes a method for intentionally having images from dreams, as well as other info, if you're interested. Here are some snippets:
. . . Dreams are a great source of information about yourself and what you're doing in the world, as well as a stimulus for *creativity.* Their vocabulary is everything you have ever done, seen, thought, and felt, etc. --in other words, a palette totally unique to you... (if you can figure them out, the puns in the metaphors are completely amazing and you're often in awe that *your* little brain could come up with something so brilliant :-)" . . . if you can forge this link between your waking and dreaming minds it then becomes a pathway, which will begin to have an increasing traffic of creative ideas. . . and gives the feeling of being more whole or connected to all parts of yourself.. Even with bad images, you "regain control over them" rather than the other way around, by being the one in charge as you (re)create them . . .

**The special box could contain images from any dreams you ever have that seem important to you, or could be for "working on" a problem or theme that you're interested in dealing with.

Autumn Image or Feeling
(for September 2002)

(suggested by Desiree in my absence)

(for October 2002)

(for details, and much more on making masks, see http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/heads_masks.htm)

Full size masks (or half-masks) for wearing or hanging on a wall, wood base, etc.
Medium size masks
Small masks, for pendants/bracelets/barrettes/earrings, onlays for boxes, etc.

--covering with cane slices, rope trim, metallic leaf/powders, onlay or bargello, inlay, faux ivory
--carving, possibly backfilling
--building up face by adding ropes/shapes for nose/mouth/eyebrows, etc.
--mixing media: paint, feathers, beads, glitter, shells, threads, fur, stones, etc.
FORMS, ARMATURES (leave in the armature, or build on it then remove it)
.......You can use a piece of aluminum foil, cornstarch, or Vaseline as a release if you want to remove the armature.
.......If using a form that can't be heated in the oven, wrap foil tightly around the front, put on a layer of plaster gauze; let dry, remove foil; cover the plaster form with polymer; decorate; bake; remove foil.)
--use a push mold of a face, but don't fill completely with clay to leave the back recessed (or fill completely for flat back)
(--can make a mold with a doll face first)
--cover the front of a small or large rock, an egg, or a rounded glass
--cover some wire mesh shaped like you want (Paragona brand, etc.), or another face form
--a ceramic mask from a dollar store with the glitter scraped off
--cover a plastic mask with the clay, bake; ...it will melt but will stay in shape long enough for the clay to harden suffficiently to hold the shape ...pull the melted plastic off the back while still warm
--buy a plastic mask from a craft store, and fill it with plain white Sculpey, bake...shape masks on it, and bake them (with lots of cornstarch as a release)
----fill a styrene mask with plaster
--papier mache mask ..coat the side of the clay sheet with cornstarch or talc; lay it OVER the front side of the mask, not the inside; let sit for an hr or two; remove from the form & fill the inside with fiberfill; bake; cool; decorate ...or cover with alum.foil
--make a plaster gauze mask form on a form, or on one's own face (use a kit or just plaster strips over a Vaselined face)


Tic Tac Toe
(for November 2002)

Make a tic tac toe board and pieces.
There are lots of ideas and techniques for making these and similar pieces/boards, in various categories on my Kids page, under "Games," "Toys," "Scenes," and more.
Some ideas: the board could be a small square of polymer, or made on a wood plaque or even on top of an Altoid box (with the pieces stored inside); the pieces and/or boards could be magnetized; only the pieces or the board could be made from polymer; etc. Many techniques might be interesting for the board, e.g., mosaics/larger tiles, mica canes, onlay, stamping/textures/molds, etc.
…Playing pieces could be anything from flattened beads, to stacked beads, to covered wood or metal shapes, to little sculptures/Natasha dolls, thick cane slices, or just about anything.

(add photo of mine)

Dangles & Wiggles
(for December 2002)

Create anything at all that has dangles, or any part of which wiggles.

--for all kinds of dangle figures, etc., see Sculpting > Websites > Jointed Wire,etc.
--for Ai Ping's roll-around wire balls, etc., see Wire > Some Ideas

Mixed Media Hearts/Friendship
(for February 2003 --no Jan. theme)

(If you aren't into hearts, use anything else which deals with connection, friendship, caring, love, etc.)

Using a heart shape in any way or in any part of the piece, make something which is let's say at least 50% other materials (mixed media).

Some of these other materials might be wire, paper or paperclay, non-polymer beads/seed beads/charms/findings/etc., feathers, threads/yarns, found items from around the house or anywhere, Friendly Plastic, fabric, stickers/stamps, nature materials, anything!

Here is my page on hearts, and a few other pages that might be inspirational as well:

--for hearts http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Halloween_etc.htm (click on "Valentines' Day")
--Mixing Media http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/mixing_media.htm

--Wire http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/wire.htm
--clays other than polymer http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/Characteristics.htm (look down under "Polymer & Other Clays")
--Inclusions http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/inclusions.htm
--scenes & dioramas http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/kids_beginners.htm (click on Scenes & Dioramas)
--Mosaics & Inlays http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/mosaics_inlay.htm
--Books, notebook covers http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/books.htm

Folded Canes
(for April 2003 ...March was another Closet Clean-out)

A cane made with any kind or direction of folding, using a stack of more than one color which has been pasta machined into a long, very thin strip before folding.

(one lesson for an accordion-folded strip of layers with added logs):
--stack 2-5 or more colored (long-ish) rectangular clay sheets (the outer colors of the stack will end up next to each other)
--pasta machine or roll/pull into a really lo-ong, thin strip
--accordion-fold the strip, placing logs, canes (Skinner Blend or pattern), other long shapes, or sheets in-between the folds
--shape into a square or triangular cane (or whatever), and use slices to cover items (or cut the cane and combine with itself at least once before slicing).
….if this strip is made with a really thin stack of colors, many folds will result and the slices can resemble a fine basketweave (if alternating orientations) or a butterfly wing, etc.

More info and ideas re folded canes:
...rather than adding things between the folds:
……..clay can be added to the edges (after indenting them, or removing a section)
…..…clay can be added to the inside of the cane (after removing clay with a cutter/straw/etc.)
…..…lines can be made in the edges simply by indenting then closing the space, or inward lines can be "drawn" by pressing a needle firmly from the outside to the inside
...inks, paints, powders, and leafing may be used instead of clay in folds, edges, etc.
...remember that some of colors need to be strong/contrasting because of the large amount of reduction
...if the strip isn't pliable enough, reheat with heating pad, e.g., before bending (or bend slowly) ...a color will "double up" in thickness when a layer is folded on itself without adding anything in between
...pinch the folds to make them pointy rather than rounded
...use folds/stripes for filling in an area ...use strips to outline objects, or geometric areas, or make lettering ...many rows of stripes can be made by accordion folding, then cutting off the folded ends
...make translucent-opaque canes ("floating" canes)
...cut sides of cane with a wavy blade, maybe angled ...mola designs can be great inspirations
(see more info and websites on folded canes in Canes-Instr > Folded Layers)

(for May 2003)

Making your own clay handles for drill bits, needles, carving tips, etc.
(see Tools, Cutters/Blades, etc.)

Covering existing handles, if they are oven-safe and will not interact with the clay (in this case, remove any oil based paint or varnish, etc., first)

Making handles (for eggs, glass xmas balls, lightbulb vessels, ping pong balls?) similar to the one here:

Mica Shifting effects
(suggested by Desiree: for June 2003)

Mosaic canes
(for July 2003)

especially those based on the demos given at our last guild meeting by Verna Glass and Elissa Powell, which were what I call Multiple Bullseye Canes, with Manipulations

Elissa's lesson on cutting and rearranging a mosaic cane, then using it to cover hearts

more info on these as well as on the traditional mosaic canes is in Canes--Instructions > Multiple Bullseye canes, and > Mosaic canes

Covering sheet of clay with transfer techniques (either black and white or color copies)
(for Aug 2003)

(no theme? because of Ravensdale)
(for Sep 2003)

Masks (see above for Oct. 2002... more details)
(for Oct 2003)

any kind of Box
(you haven't made before)

(for Nov. 2003)

(no themes for Dec. 2003 or Jan. 2004 because of xmas party and member sale/exchange)

Closed Construction box technique
(for Feb. 2004)

(Ai Ping makes pins which are small hollow boxes, often with a window
...tops are often wavy... wonderful surface decoration used on tops, bottoms, and sides, which are often different from each other)

For instructions and photos, see

http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/vessels.htm (closed box construction)
http://www.glassattic.com/imagesOBJ_SEAS_MISC/vessels/Ai-Ping_boxes.htm (photos)

101 uses for Plastic Wrap
(for Mar. 2004)

There are lots of ways to use plastic wrap with polymer clay. Try one or more this month:

... bevel the edges of a cutout using a (sm. or lg.) cutter...creates a dimensionality too (if small, can look very puffy)
.......also use these cutouts as tiles (squares, triangles, etc.) (to simulate a quilt, or to use as onlay)
.......simulate pillow beads or other shapes by placing two beveled cutouts back to back (drill hole for bead, or use in other ways)
...avoid the round dot impression when using a plunger type cutter
press down in mokume gane stacks so the impression is wider and not so much a cut

... sculpt or draw wrinkles or other lines in the clay (makes hills and valleys smooth and also results in less sanding)
......use various tools like spear shaped dental tool, side edge of a tool, needle file or needle, smallest size conical rubber tipped shaper
.........lift plastic between each tool stroke for maximum detailing... the thinner the plastic (like shrink wrap), the finer the detail ....add any bumps beforehand.
.........hair(rough in large hair areas...then split into finer strands --fur too)
The Dane

...create mica effects --use plastic wrap over clay sheet, cutout shape, or cane slice ...press or drag lines to create patterns (lines,stars,etc.) ...use stylus, knitting needle, ballpoint pen or "stamps" and texturing tools --regular rubberstamps may not work well if shallow or detailed

... blend unbaked clay onto baked clay... stretch plastic wrap over thumb or forefinger to add and smooth (won't stick to fingers)
.......works well when using translucent for floating canes, or encasing transfers, drawings, etc., when you want clay or edges very thin (also presses out bubbles)
.......works well for adhering mica slices as well to keep from smearing the effect

...handle, shape or apply Flex clay or other sticky (or too warm?) clays (then won't stick to hands)

...protect a box bottom covered with raw clay from fingerprints when also covering the top before baking (by covering it with wrap)

(..for all these, experiment with different thicknesses of wrap from very thin to thick Ziplocs
.......maybe try other flexible sheets --perhaps drawing on aluminum foil over a flat sheet of clay)

...to bundle two (same-height) stacks of playing cards for use as spacers when rolling clay sheets without a pasta machine (or to create greater thicknesses)
...to travel with bottles of liquid clay, Diluent, etc. (to avoid leakage)…unscrew cap, put a piece of plastic wrap over mouth of bottle and screw lid back on. . Jody B.
..to wrap pasta machine handle if loose, so won't fall out
...to create a mini waterfall (lay wrap over clay rocks and pour 2 day air dried Future) ... add meandering brooks, etc.. Nora Jean
...to shape cornstarch peanuts dampened with sponge?

...the tube from plastic wrap is generally thicker than for paper towels, etc., so will work better for creating a curve in clay while baking

...keep canes (or any clay) as supple as possible by wrapping with plastic wrap (can also keep in closed container)
keep sheets of plain clay rolled on the thickest setting between plastic wrap (so ready to use after pasta machining slightly thinner few times)
.......for Skinner blend sheets, fold and run through direction originally blended it until soft

...use on top of clay (or in ziptop bag) to condition new or old clay .....
beat on (gently or not) with a mallet, rolling pin, etc...turn over and over; or drive over it wrapped with newspaper (tip from Donna Kato's friend)
......for old hard canes, beat with roller on all sides & both ends (molecules will vibrate throughout & clay will soften....apply hits as evenly as possible to minimize distortion. Desiree
.....for old patterned sheets (dried out and cracking) ... place between (smooth!) plastic wrap...hit every inch with mallet or roller...
pasta machine several times on same setting as the sheet was originally run through. Carolyn


.....the old Saran brand isn't good, but
........ "Saran with Cling Plus" Is OK (used to be Handy Wrap, but sold to Saran)... their 8" wide "Saran with Cling Plus Junior" is also fine
.....Reynolds plastic wrap (newer ones too?)
.....Sam's Choice plastic wrap (my favorite for food) is not good with clay either. After 24 hours...
..... white plastic kitchen trash bag (all brands?)... clay got so soft and mushy. . .
....Handiwrap (okay, no longer sold in U.S. groceries...sold to Saran... but they do have stretchable wrapping plastic product)
Glad Clingwrap (okay... even states on the box that it does NOT contain plasticizers)
... most
plastic baggies and zippered bags are fine with clay (usually soft, rubbery, translucent plastic --though beware of the white ink printed on Ziploc brand, etc.)


Removable Sleeves of clay
(for April 2004)

It seems to me that removable polymer sleeves of various kinds could be made for use around the containers holding bathroom or kitchen product
....like those for deodorant, liquid soap, hair products, standing toothpaste tubes, etc.
...or for any now-empty plastic or metal product container
...or for originally-empty containers (spray bottles, etc.)
This would allow the original packaging designs of the products and colors to be replaced with more compatible colors or patterns for a particular room, or even to make "matching" sets from all those products (or to match a switchplate or curtains, etc.)... and also to make them more attractive when left out on a counter, etc.
...what about using a metal coffee as a countertop trash container? e.g. (removable or not-removable)

Some product containers can be baked in the oven with the clay (used an armature to keep the proper shape).
...For those that can't be baked, an approximately-correct rolled-and-taped paper version of the outer shape could be used (put wadded paper inside if needed) ....or make a clay form to approximate the shape, then put a much taller paper sleeve around it.

Or, simply create and bake the sheet flat ...then while warm, form it around the container... hold in place till cool (Sculpey isn't flexible enough tho)
...... trim, or measure exactly first? ......or connect the ends together with glue or overlapping straps or clasps (then baked again if the added parts were polymer)?... or create the clasps (straps and fat buttons, knobs, loops whatever) on the flat raw clay then clasp together after baking ... there could even be a series of holes or knobs so that the sleeve would be adjustable)
...Kato clay has a characteristic called "warm repositioning" (although it lost at least some of that when it reformulated) but this technique might be possible with other clays too

(for a few more details & ideas on this concept, see Covering > Misc. to Cover)

Carving Erasers (for molds, stamps, textures, etc.)
(for May 2004)

(see more details and links for these ideas in Stamping > Erasers)

use linoleum cutters (or the tiny Dockyard ones), or Xacto or Testor's knives
...with knives, angle cuts away from the design (don't undercut the image or it won't print properly and might break off a piece of the stamp)...cutting straight down is okay, but angled away is stronger.

Magic Rub white erasers from the office supply store
...other larger eraser carving materials:Dick Blick brand, Safety Cut, Uncle Walter's Carving Block materials.
...not only are erasers cheap, but if you get the thicker ones, you can carve on all sides of them
...and those little pencil top erasers? You can slice the very top off so you have a flat surface and carve an itty-bitty design in to use for texture .

Use as stamps & molds …..can then be highlighted, antiqued, backfilled, etc., if desired

1. I carved designs with linoleum cutters into baked clay (and also into plastic erasers).... then I pressed thin-layered, colored clay stacks (like what you'd use for mokume gane) in contrasting colors into the carvings ...then I sliced off the raised areas. Looked nice -- sort of a variant on sgrafitto - Georgia (..could also do with thicker layer of mica clay? sort of like ghost impressions, or back with another clay before removing? )
2. Julie's lesson on impressing a pattern into the raw clay of a "bead" (which is made by wrapping a strip of clay around a mini wooden spool) by rolling it over a carved white eraser

You can get "outie" images if you carve negative images, and "innies" if you carve it for a positive image on paper.
...you can carve thouroughly for a "cleaner" look, or leave lots of little carving lines in for a more rustic look.

eraser carving (many examples & lessons) --applicable to polymer carving or stamp carving
http://pages.map.com/rclark/tabloid_trash (look especially at BOTTOM of page)

GUIDE LINES for carving
---You can transfer an image to the eraser for carving guidelines (...can sand lightly first if desired): …..may want to do backwards)
…..soft-pencil lines will transfer with just rubbing ……photocopy (toner only?) or inks? ….. transfer with acetone or alcohol, or an iron
---OR just draw or stamp directly on the eraser with a soft pencil, pen, marker, or pigment ink on stamp

Tabletop "Zen Garden"
(for June 2004)

(Original, full size "Zen gardens" are areas of earth covered with sand, with several large rocks, etc., placed here and there. The sand is raked into patterns around the rocks in an active kind of "meditation" to create a feeling of calm and stress relief --or they can be simply gazed upon for the same effect)

However, a mini version of the same idea can be created as well to sit on a table, etc.
These could then be used for calming as with the larger versions, or they could be used to create mini-scenes, or themed items or scenes (Santa at Xmas, pumpkins and tombstones for Halloween .....or for just anything you want to think up.
...Each tabletop Zen garden is usually comprised of a shallow tray of fine sand (or other filler), and at least a few small rocks & 1 rake ...but of course, there could be much more.
...The objects, rakes, rocks, etc., could all be made from polymer clay. . . or polymer items could be mixed with non-polymer small figures or objects, or natural materials like twigs, etc.

Carol Duvall's lesson using a purchased shadow box with wide lip ... glue used around inside of bottom to keep sand from leaking ...rake made by gluing escutcheon nails in drilled holes of a popscicle stick http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/crafting/article/0,,HGTV_3352_1958352,00.html

many more lessons and ideas about to make and to use these small versions on this page:

(severely) Altered Bowls
(for July 2004)

Do something very different to a polymer or non-polymer bowl by shaping it or adding more parts, etc.
Begin with either a polymer bowl (draped bowls, or bowls popped off of custard cups after baking or other armatures are quick techniques for making bowls) or a non polymer bowl, but turn it into something else or severely alter it in some way.

See this page for how to make various kinds of bowls, and maybe some ideas about how to alter them:
(.... also look under "Creative and Unusual Vessel Ideas" on that page)

Reworking Old or Unloved Canes ...or Scraps
(for Aug. 2004)

Re-work some old canes and/or scraps.

This page gives lots of ideas about what to do with canes that are "unloved" or messed-up or left over from other proejcts:
..and this page deals with rejuvenating canes if they also happen to be old, dry, or hard.

(.....few examples: slice lengthwise, wrap, roll up, repeat/millefiori, accordion fold, add powders or leaf or mica/pearl/glow-in-the-dark clay, pasta machine it, combine with other canes as "backgrounds" or with something else, etc., etc.)

This page has lots of ideas on what can be done with scraps (and also hard scraps):

(no Exploration for Sep. 2004, due to Member Sale mtg.)

An Exercise ... Use Your Reactions to an Image to Create a New Piece
(suggested by Nancy Banks)
(for Oct. 2004)

Pick any image that affects you in some way (positively or negatively, and attach it to the center of a piece of paper. In the blank areas around the image, write all words (or drawings even) which are brought to mind by the image. Now design a piece, or just a working sample(s), based on what you' wrote about the original image.

(there are also lots of good ideas and tips on examining and recognizing your own creativity on this page:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/creativity,inspir,art.htm )

(for Nov. 2004)

Tsunami ...(donation item ....or Tsunami-theme item)
(suggested by Nancy Jamal)

(for Feb 2005)

Amulet or Fetish
(for Mar. 2005)

non-realistic figures (usually without legs --sometimes arms, etc, or otherwise abstract), are fun to make ...and extremely varied.

...can be 3-D, or slightly dimensional, or flat
......if they're 3-D, can be used as dolls, or sculpts, or as embellishments
......if they're relatively flat, can be used in scrapbooking, altered books, cards, or anywhere
...can have fabric clothing, clay clothing, suggested clothing, or no clothing.
...often have lots of embellishment in the form of stamping, onlays, mixed media, antiquing, wrapping, etc, but these aren't necessary

see lots more info, examples, ideas, and explanations on the Sculpting Bodies page:
(...sub-category "Abstract ...amulets & fetishes"...)

Mosaics... any type
(tile, mini-mosaics, faux mosaics from cane slices, etc.)
(for Apr. 2005)

see info, examples, ideas, and explanations on these pages:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/canes--instructions.htm (click on Bullsye > Mosaic)

Lettering and/or Name tag
(...or name tag with letters SBPCG....)
(for May 2005)

see info, examples, ideas, and explanations on this page:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/letters_inks.htm ("Lettering")

(for June 2005)

like these:
....Jan R's simpler mandalas (made with cane slices on a marbled/etc. background, created on a tile)
...examples of Byrd's mandalas (some more difficult)... she often lays her slices on a ceramic tile smeared with clay (after white glue), then adds liquid clay under each slice/s
...Byrd's lesson on applying raw cane slices, & clay ropes & other clay bits on a tile to make an onlaid mandala design http://pcpolyzine.com/november2001/mandala.html

more info and how-to's, etc.,on this page:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/onlay.htm (click on "Dimensional Onlay" and scroll down few paragraphs to the mandalas)

Shoes, or anything from meeting demo
(for July 2005)

Mary Wales Loomis, who both makes her own shoes and makes wire jewelry, gave the demo at our meeting, so the exploration theme is to do something related to something learned at the demo (including melting toothbrushes and marbling while hot <g>!)

Here is a link to Mary's website and links to her jewelry (though none involve the toothbrushes, pearls, watches, etc.):
http://www.marywalesloomis.com .........http://www.marywalesloomis.com/page11.html

There are links to other shoe related things:
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sculpting_body_and_tools.htm (under subcategory "Fabric & Clay Clothing")

Feat of Clay challenge ...regular size shoes --pumps mostly (made from clay and/or with scenes, embellishments, etc.)

"Artist Trading Cards"
(for Feb. 2006)

Artist Trading Cards, or ATC's, have been popular with stampers and others. They are always a specific size (2 1/4" x 3 1/2), .. but another source says 2-1/2" x 3-1/2".....but can have any type of decoration (flat or slightly dimensional), and be mixed media.

For our purposes, we'll make ATCs from clay, but there can be all sorts of other materials and/or techniques used on them as well as more clay.

There are some examples especially on this page, and also a list of possible clay techniques that could be used:

including these:
...Violette's artist trading cards for a swap

....also Violette's (similar) fancy and embellished polymer sheets for a book. . cover is all polymer too. . . cool!
.... also Violette
's "book" pages and other sheets of fancy and embellished clay, also "covering" side of a bookcase... great card & postcard ideas!
http://creaplastic.free.fr/10vio_06.htm ...http://creaplastic.free.fr/10vio_10.htm

info and ideas re real artist trading cards, and many links (at bottom of page...)
many links for "artist trading cards" (Google results) ... http://tinyurl.com/43duj

more info from Terry (via Expression magazine):
"ATCs can be created right on the surface of playing cards, baseball cards or other collctor cards or on plain or recycled card stock.
BACK IT UP. The backs of the cards should be signed, dated, and include any contact information an artist may wish to give. An address or e-mail address is typical for swaps/trading and allows an artist to send a card to another artist they want to trade with, which is why ATCs are sometimes considered a version of mail art In any case, it's interesting for collectors to know the card's origin: city, state and country.
MAKE IT FIT. The cards can be two- or three-dimensional, as long as the design is flat enough to fit into a standard trading card sleeve."

Themes used previously

(by me)
---layers, layering (Oct 00)
turkey (Nov 00, suggested by Martha B.)
--any kind of framing idea (Jan 01)

(by Ai-Ping Yeh)
22 topics.completed; some were:

jelly roll & bulls eye canes
covering something with inclusions
mixing media
Halloween treat
heart image transfer
3-D image
on a 2-D surface
kaleidoscope effect
color gradations (blends)
glue guns
least favorite cane or color used in some way
shading effects
powders (metallic, Pearl Ex,etc.)
weaving with polymer clay
red blue & white

MORE THEMES ....found online

Polyzine's themed "wreaths" (most collaborations within a guild)... with proposed themes

PolymerClayCentral's list of their many themed "challenges" since 1999



(see also Guilds for other possible activities)