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(Mother, baby and young child)
This was it! When I saw this image I about came out of my chair because of the rarity of such a find. It was Rare in several aspects; 1- It was a complete scene in perfect frame. 2- It had very discernable features as in the mothers face and head, the young child standing, and the obvious baby being held. 3- I had been able to only do animals up to this point for want of the perfect subject… and now here it was!!

Now that my subject has been chosen, I begin the process by drawing some preliminary lines with my stylus. This just gives me an idea of where to begin and keeps the image in view. Even though several things will change, it helps me stay out of important areas.
Using my flat sculpting tool, I begin to very carefully press in and outline the images. Excess clay is pushed down and outward with my thumb to increase the ‘Relief’ effect.
I continue this process until the entire ‘non-relief’ area is pretty well smooth and mostly even. I don’t make the surface super flat because I think slight ridges and bumps add character to the piece.

Be very careful and take your time during this phase of the work. Delicately press in your outline as best you can. If you make a mistake and press where you did not intend; simply take a small portion from the outer edges, (they will be trimmed later, so it is safe to do this) then place the bit of clay in the area you need to repair. Smooth it slightly and then press in where your original outline was intended.

Other tools, such as the ball stylus, are good for getting into those small crevices, enabling you to be very detailed. One very special note concerning the ‘hidden image’ you are trying to bring out. What you ‘see’ is often only a suggestion of an actual animal or person. This is where your imagination really comes into play. If you ‘see’ an ‘elephant’ for example, but the trunk is not quite right or it needs an added leg; you can manipulate the clay by carefully pulling and pushing around within the design until you have achieved the desired effect. There has even been a few times that the image actually became ‘something else’ altogether. I have found that sometimes while ‘perfecting’ the image, another ‘better and more delightful’ image will appear… and I go for it.

Another great tool for producing better abstracts is to have pictures of animals or people in books or magazines for use as reference.
At this time I begin to focus on specific details such as hints of facial features, hair, etc…
The eyes in my abstracts are always the same. They are not defined and consist mainly in an upward semi-curving line. To me the eyes done in this fashion bring a sweetness to the faces of my creations and softly radiate meekness, gentleness and humility. Of course this is only my personal preference. Your wonderful designs will be completely unique and will reflect your own imagination. That’s why these are so much fun!

Once I have completed the fine details, the measuring card is again carefully placed on top and the messy edges trimmed.

My last step is to do a nice background. I have a few different backgrounds I like to do; for this particular piece, I have chosen a detail called ‘Stippling Mesh’. It is done with the larger end of the ball stylus, and consists of a very gentle continual tapping of the tool until a small area is completely covered and then on to another section until the whole background is filled.

The final piece is now ready for baking. This is done in a regular toaster oven for approx. 20 minutes at 250’. After the artwork has cooled, it is titled, signed and dated and then brushed with a protective coating of ‘Flecto Verathane’. This product really brings out the colors and adds a very nice gloss.

The following pictures are five examples of ‘Freeform Abstracts’. These are created using the exact same process as for the Art Cards with one exception. Instead of flattening the clay by hand; the mixture was rolled into a thick ‘sausage’ shape and then sliced in approx. 1/8 inch slices. These were then carefully flattened and studied in all directions, both front and back, until the hidden image was discovered. Slices have much sharper defining lines and quite often very discernable ‘features’ as in the ‘Gazelle’ and ‘Peacock’. The finished pieces are very beautiful as jewelry or can be nicely framed with colorful mats.

Mary Lamoray
©2005 Text and Photos
Published with permission

Learn more about Mary here...

We want to thank Mary for sharing this excellent tutorial and technique with Polymer Clay Central. If you have a lesson or tutorial, or something you would like to share with PCC, please email Leigh or Stephen and we will help you prepare your project for the PCC Website!

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