In today’s post I am writing about the Polymania 2016 event which took place from 18-20 of March 2016 at the Mercure Hotel in Bristol.
It’s the second time my friend Clara Jane Hayman from Cara Jane Contemporary Jewellery has organised this three-day workshop for polymer clay enthusiasts. And like last year Cara Jane, Bettina Welker and Donna Kato were teaching us how to make their beautiful jewellery projects. In addition my friend Claire Wallis from CW Art also taught a class – she and Cara Jane taught a half day class each– which meant that Cara had more time to organise the event and react to problems behind the scenes. Last year she taught a full day every day and she realised that doing so and organising everything is really challenging and exhausting.
Last year I commuted every day from Cardiff to Bristol, mainly to save money, but it turned out to be rather stressful, especially for my husband who was driving the journey back and forth twice each day. So this year I decided to stay at the Mercure, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. My room wasn’t ready when we arrived in the morning and also not late in the afternoon. In the evening I could finally move in and after using its warm and rather shallow pool I wanted to have a shower in my room, which didn’t work. In the end they told me I could move to a different room which was apparently an upgrade – so I had to get dressed and pack everything up again.
Anyway back to the actual event.
I found a table, had a brief chat with a few people I recognised from last year and from Facebook. After the rather long registration was over, the first half-day class for our group was taught by Claire.
I met Claire last year at the event and was just in awe of her amazing cane work. She loves nature and animals and they crop up in her work a lot – she is also a bit of a geek and loves creating comic strip canes and jewellery. You can find her website here. This was the first time for her to teach at this event and she also teaches online classes at CraftArtEdu.
Her project was a nice and easy one – great to ease you in and ideal for beginners. We had to make two faux Boulder Opal rings. This required a lot of colour mixing, working with mica powders and glitters (messy!) – and chopping. I love the resulting cane and rings – because they really do resemble Boulder Opal- that’s the beauty of working with polymer clay, you can mimic so many different materials. I had lots of the mix left over so I made a few more pendants and rings with it for the shop.
After lunch it was time for a swap and Cara Jane took over the teaching. Hers was another ring project, which was a faux wood and turquoise ring. This required us to create two canes – one for the wood which basically holds the turquoise in place and the turquoise. Canes can be quite time consuming, especially when you work with Kato clay which takes a bit longer to condition. Our group ended up being the last to finish that day as it just took way longer to assemble and bake the finished rings. As I was struggling with my shoulder pain it wasn’t exactly easy for me. I ended up giving my ring just one layer of turquoise.
The trickiest part of this project is slicing the cane and adding the holes without too much distortion. Also finding the right sized tools to make holes with is tricky. I actually bought a set of round cutters from MonkeyAnn, who sold her polymer clay tools together with Penny Vingoe from Clayaround. Those tools come in handy for future projects. I still have lots of the canes left and will make a few more pieces with them.
I think I finished at about 6.30 and finally managed to get into my own room after the bead swap. Like last year the bead swap was a bit chaotic. We all had lists to tick off the names of people taking part, however I ended up with lots of leftover beads to take home. I also took home a bag with some pretty beads.
Below are four of my favourite beads.
In the evening I joined a group downstairs for a snack as I wasn’t that hungry. All I ordered was an apple spritzer and a cheese and ham toastie. It took the waitress an hour to finally bring the food and the correct change. After dinner I went for a quick swim in the pool which was frequented by a rather noisy hen party. It was nice and quiet when they left and I had the rather warm pool to myself. After sorting the shower/room issue I collapsed into bed.
The next morning I had a delicious veggie fry up (you got to order one when you’re in a hotel) and some croissants – yep the whole weekend I ate far too much for my own good – the cookies and little cakes they laid on for our course were really yummy!
At 10 we were all joining our tables and our group was taught by my friend Donna Kato. I have written about Donna in last year’s post which you can find here. In a nutshell Donna is one of the most famous and established polymer clay artists and has been claying for decades. She is the author of two ground breaking clay books (which she signed for me last year) and has also developed the Kato Clay which is fantastic to work with –it’s strong, has gorgeous colours, is durable, ideal for intricate canes and also requires little sanding. It’s also the most expensive on the market.
We used Kato Clay for the whole weekend and I also stocked up on clay from Clayaround. I was really looking forward to meeting Donna again, because she is a brilliant tutor – very funny and patient and she loves animals, especially cats. Which is why I also was looking forward to her chosen project – a carved cat brooch. For the Italian polymer clay event she attended in February she originally worked on a beautiful fish brooch and I suggested cats. She ended up teaching the cats at both events. This was a rather difficult and tricky project to get your head around – because you have to figure out which colour you will reveal while carving. You also have to be careful when assembling the pieces and figure out the thickness of the clay for carving. If the clay is too thick, you have to carve very deep which is tricky. So before we were actually carving our kitties we created a practice piece to carve on – I actually made another one which I have yet to use.
Donna sold her own branded carving tools which have a finer V shape than the ones you can buy for lino cutting, so in the end I bought one from her.
I managed to finish the brooch in time, but had to sand and buff it at home. I hope you like it. I will definitely try my hand at carving again, but use my own designs.
Carving kitties sparked lots of conversations about people’s cats. Most people on the course seem to have been owned by moggies.
In the evening we went out for a group meal at the Grounded Bedminster , which was organised by Cara and we were able to choose what we wanted to eat in the run-up to the event. This meant the food was ready to serve and we didn’t have to wait for long. The service was great and I really liked my Salmon dish. And to my pleasant surprise they were selling alcohol-free beer, which is not very common in the UK. I had a really lovely evening with the people sitting at my table. As it was a long day I was really looking forward to my massive bed. Unfortunately I got rudely awaken by people upstairs at about 3 am and I found it hard to get back to sleep – and the next morning my Kindle didn’t wake me up, because it was out of juice.
The final day we were taught by my friend Bettina Welker. It’s not the first course I have done with her (the first one was in 2012 – Polydays, you can find my blog entry here). So readers of my blog should be familiar with her name. Bettina is originally a graphic designer and her designs are bold, often geometric, organic and have surprising and inventive features like unusual clasps. Last year she taught us her amazing swivel necklace (see blog entry here) which took a long time to make, so this year she chose a project you could really finish in a day long workshop without getting stressed out. We were taught two variants of a pendant which had a nifty clasp element – the clasp itself was also part of the pendant.
Hard to explain in words, but pretty obvious when you look at the photos. She also showed us how to use liquid clay for this pendant and how to finish each differently. I only finished the silver and red one – well almost. I glued the buna cord in at home.
However with the second pendant I didn’t cut the inner part out exactly which is why I ended up glueing it into the outer bit. I finished this one at home by giving it a proper clean backing and edge. I actually prefer this one, because of the colours and am working on another one.
All in all this is an enjoyable project to make for which you need a fair amount of clay. Bettina is an experienced tutor, who is very helpful and gives you ideas on how to change and improve things.
Before lunch we had a group photo taken and after lunch Cara Jane had organised a giveaway with lots of lovely prizes. Our table was very successful and everyone came away with a prize – mine was this striking pin by Nikolina Otržan from Orson’s World. I don’t wear pins so I might turn this into a pendant.
At 4pm most people were already leaving and I had to wait until 6, because my husband didn’t get my text message. I didn’t mind, because that way I could help Cara carrying things to her van and chatting with the remaining people Donna, Bettina, Claire, Nikolina (who will be teaching next year) and Monica Scala.
And then it was time to say goodbye.
All in all this was a great weekend.
- Great projects
- The group meal was delicious
- Great tutors (of course!)
- The prize draw
- Having to change rooms
- Some people in our group didn’t seem to understand, that when you hover closely over the demonstrating tutor’s table it’s hard for short people to see or squeeze in. Several times I struggled to see the demonstrations and I asked if people could step away a little so everyone can see (without much luck).
- The bead swap was a bit chaotic
- Missing the Swellegant patina bottle