Written by Sarajane Helm
New books on Polymer Clay are coming out fast and furious these days, and it's getting harder and harder to keep up with them. But this is one book that I have been eagerLEIGH awaiting, and now that it's finally out and in my hot little hands, I can tell you honestLEIGH that I was NOT disappointed!
I have been a fan of Sarajane Helm and her polymer clay work for a long time, and I'm the proud owner of a number of her pieces that I fought for on Ebay. I still shudder every time I go to an auction and see that she has a number of items up for bid because I know I'm going to have to have at least one of them!
I happen to be a very symmetrical person. I have a lot of trouble trying to be asymmetrical - or should I say that I am asymmetricalLEIGH Impaired? Sarajane Helm, on the other hand, is, in my humble opinion, one of the Queens of Asymmetrical. Sarajane has an incredible eye for color and design, and imagine, all of her incredible necklaces are designed on top of a big old plastic food storage container that she got from a restaurant supply store! (Click picture at right for a larger view)
I have been the very fortunate recipient of a number of helpful emails from a very patient Sarajane as I try to overcome my symmetrical curse. From these emails I knew that when her book came out, it was going to be a real winner. She has a great way of writing that makes the reader understand exactly what she is saying - almost before she is finished! She creates great word pictures, and what better talent to have for someone writing a book on crafting, especially a book on Polymer Clay!
At the same time, I find her writing to be very friendly and down to earth, like sitting around the worktable with a great teacher. Each subject is approached, explained, and then expanded upon so that the student can adapt it to what they have available.
Sarajane's book is written in three sections - The Fundamentals, Canes and Projects. Each section is packed full of valuable and essential information for the Polymer Clay Artist. Not to be funny, but I found this to be a craft book that I HAD to read completely! It is just so full of real down-to-earth information on working with Polymer Clay that I didn't want to skip over anything for fear that I would miss one of those little jewels of information that was going to make my PC life easier. This book has a good chance of making it to the top five books a beginner needs to own, as well as the top five books an experienced Polymer Clay artist needs for reference.
While I was reading this book, I felt like I was privy to a Master Artist's workshop, and able to see all those little things that you only learn after many years of working with a medium.
In the FUNDAMENTALS section are the following topics: Preparations, Finishes, Baking and Safety Tips, Surface Stamping, Carving, Other Kinds of Transfers, and Making Molds. As a somewhat seasoned clayer, I figured I could just glance over these pages, since I'm sure I already "knew it all"! Well, don't be as "humble<G>" as I was... Sarajane has put so much information into this section that after trying to skim the pages, I had to go back and read every page again from beginning to end. I was just too nosey, and they were so full of an artist's knowledge that I was afraid I would miss a gem of her experience! Sarajane gives the information necessary to answer the topic, but then she offers a ton of alternatives, giving the reader many options for working with Polymer Clay. This includes different types of tools, as well as their inexpensive alternatives and where to look for them.
A very valuable source of information is to be found in the Surface Stamping topic of the book. Sarajane has given us step-by-step instructions on how to get our own rubber stamps made from READY STAMPS, a company involved with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in San Diego. What a kick... get your own rubber stamps and help a worthy cause at the same time!
In the CANES section of the book the author has done a wonderful job of explaining many of the principles of caning through examples and illustrations. She explains like a "natural" teacher, not just the "HOW" but also the "WHY" - in other words, why you put this here and that there! In this section you have the following topics: Geometric and Floral Cane Work, Floral Canes, Reduction, The Chrysanthemum Cane, Square Repeat Canes, The Rose Cane, (not a TruLEIGH Rose, but a very pretty one), Covering Existing Forms, Using Findings, Glues and Joinery, Stringing Techniques (one of my favorite sections), Beaded Pendant and Necklace Variations, and Sources and Resources (with a wonderfully supportive section on Polymer Clay Central).
I was very impressed with the way Sarajane explained cane building, as well as the principle of making a simple cane into a complex cane. She shows us the progression of building the cane, reducing and stacking, then reducing and adding another element, and reducing again!!
There is so much information about making beads, making special accent beads for your jewelry, stringing necklaces, and covering objects that I'm amazed at just how much useful and valuable information is contained in this one book. The section on Reducing a Cane is an absolute must for anyone who is beginning their addiction to caning!
Another thing you will notice as you go through this book is that the author is definitely fascinated with Texture, and she gives us many different ways to apply texture to our projects, as well as spurring on our creative juices and tempting us into finding more interesting and imaginative tools to accomplish the quest of finding the greatest TEXTURE!
The third section, PROJECTS, is another over-stocked section, with more information on one page then you will find in many lessons. With these topics - Vintage Floral, Victorian Roses, Antique, Sea Treasures, Oriental, Art Deco, Country Quilt, Purple Patch, and Techno Tribal - Sarajane not only gives you ideas, but also gives you the information you need to turn those ideas into a real Polymer Clay Impression! (Hummmmm, sounds like a great name for a book!)
If you feel like making an Oriental Polymer Clay Impression in your home, you have the information, the color ideas, as well as design elements to do just that!! I'm going to give you a list of the project ideas that comes with the different topics of this section. The list is going to be a long one, but I think you'll get an idea as to why I'm so in love with this book.
Project Ideas: Lids, Drawer Pulls, Switch and Plug plates, Magnets, Bottle Openers, Vase, Napkin Rings, Candle sticks, Boxes, Jewelry Chest, Tray, Perfume Bottle, Sewing Box, Beads, Shells, Coral, Buttons, Treasure Box, Drawer Pulls, Geisha Box, Metal Box, Frame and Sampler, Masks, Pins, Necklace and Earrings, Jacket, Wall Fan, Tissue Box, Whatnot Drawers, Quilt Box, Light Bulb Vessel, Puppet Desk Set, Flower Power Flyer (wagon), Guitars, Banjo, Mosaics, Sun Lamp, Eggs, Masks and Clocks.
Pick a look and adapt all the ideas to your own home and your own creativity! Or, you can take your favorite Cane and make your own Polymer Clay Impression. I feel the important thing that Sarajane is telling us is to just "DO IT - don't be afraid of it". As she says in the introduction to her book, "Polymer Clay is an artist's dream medium".
Sarajane concludes her book with five pages of Sources, and it has to be one of the most extensive lists I have ever seen available for things having to do with Polymer Clay!
All in all, I feel this book is a must for anyone who is bitten with the PC bug. It is a book that I feel will give you years of creative stimulation. I believe Sarajane is teaching us how to accomplish all these things while making them our own. No two pieces are ever going to come out of this book exactly alike, and the author is giving us a way to accomplish all this creativity while remaining true to our own style and imagination. What a wonderful gift Sarajane Helm has given to all of us!
Click on the Banjo for an Amazing Polymer Clay Impression!
"All I can say is....WOW! I am inspired beyond belief! I am very new to claying and this book has sparked my imagination incrediblely! So much to try! True...this is a "must have" for anyone who works with polymer! Thanks for the wonderful review of it on the website!"
"I was going to treat myself to Sarajane's book for my birthday, but after so many clayers had been singing its praises, I couldn't wait and went ahead and ordered it! I'm glad I didn't wait. The book is wonderfully illustrated with superb photos which definitely enthuse the reader. There are numerous techniques and 'tricks' which are fully explained. Sarajane hasn't wasted much space in her book by going over well-trodden ground, so readers who're confident with general polyclay basic methods won't be bored. I would recommend any serious clayer to buy this book.
"Sarajane Helm's book is, in my opinion, a different kind of book to many we have seen before. Up to now, most polyclay books have tried to be an all in one, complete course. Yet, we are now, I belive, with this book, moving into a new and much needed time in polymer clay publishing - Specialisation.
"I bought this book with great expectations. Perhaps too great. Although it is a worthwhile book, it leaves many questions unanswered and does not give enough information about many techniques in order for a reader to comfortably experiment. Often a reference will be made to a technique, but the reader is told it will be discussed in the projects section. But in the projects section, a note is given that the technique has already been discussed. I found this circular and a little maddening. Or the reader is told to consult some other book or video, but that is discouraging just when you become intrigued. I'm afraid there are much better books out there. I'm glad this one is available and some may find it useful so I wouldn't discourage anyone from adding it to their library, as there are some useful tips buried in the text. You do have to read the book, like Leigh says. Browsing won't do it. <g>"