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Denny Shirer

Your Company Name: Table Top Forests
Email Address/Web Page: denny@shirersales.com
City & State: Canton, OH
Type of Craft: Pens, Frames, Collectibles

Tell us in your own words, how you discovered polymer clay and how long have you been using it?

I found Polymer Clay a few months ago while looking for information on Glass Paperweights and Millifiori terms for my eBay store. I saw an amazing material that seemed to have no limits in what could be made with it, that is the only limit being one's own imagination. Since I already had a strong background in art and spent many formative years playing with modeling clay, I thought I would start slow and see what my efforts could produce. I now have many of the usual tools associated with the medium and have started branching out into some new areas.

Are there any special artists that you can attribute your interest to or that have inspired you?

When I first started exploring this medium one of the first places I found was Polymer Clay Central and I looked at many of the artists who have shared their work here as well as trying to find them on the internet. I also investigated some other sites and ran across some demo clips of artists sharing their techniques, particularly the Mindstorm Videos and techinques by artists Donna Kato and Marie Segal, the latter who introduced me to using Rub 'N Buff and mica powders. This is the technique I have been using almost exclusively to create my antique pens, frames and boxes.

What is your specialty?

So far I have been concentrating on building some inventory of the few items I have started with to sell at craft shows and on my online stores. These include antique and whimsical pens, victorian style photo frames and small trinket boxes. A local store used to sell clay pens by an unknown artist but I haven't seen them in years or anything like them. I started with an "Old Man of the Forest" pen and am trying to come up with some other items along the same lines but also have used some of the leaf and rose molds to make some interesting vine pens. I really like working with Rub 'N Buff so I have primarily worked just with black Premo and used the Rub 'N Buff and also some Pearl Ex colors for the central color themes.

Can you tell us why you find polymer clay the expressive medium for you?

After seeing what others have done and how easy it was to express my own ideas using this medium, I was hooked. I used to work with regular clay and found it a real hassle to work with and fire especially since I never had my own kiln. I worked for many years using other mediums but nothing comes close to Polymer Clay. With the number of push molds available and the ability to extrude it into varying shapes, which speeds up the process normally done by hand, I can turn out a piece very fast and then am able to reproduce it easily. I have started to make my own molds so my work does not look like every one else that uses the commercially available molds. I can see why there has been a large community of artists that have primarily started producing support products for the medium like push molds and texturing tools. I have been hesitant to use the texture molds available as I have found many items in my toolbox and things I have around the house that work just as well.

Have you published any polymer clay books or do you have any in the works?


I know it is very difficult to express, but have you won any awards for your polymer clay work?

I have yet to preview any of my Polymer Clay products at craft shows but will introduce them this fall alongside my bonsai and fountains. Some initial eBay sales have been hopeful and eventually I am hoping that I can phase out the live plants in favor of just the polymer clay products. Time will tell.

What are your expectations for the future? Where do you hope to be 5 years from now?

I am hoping to expand on the products I am now producing by adding more types of pens, frames and boxes but also hope to get into some larger items like mirrors, larger boxes, wind chimes and other items that my imagination has yet to invent. I don't see expanding into jewelery or beads as there is a ton of competition in these lines. I want to stay unique and offer products not found elsewhere. I am just starting on this journey and hope that the medium will continue to inspire me 5, 10 and even 25 years from now.

Do you have any advice for the beginning polymer clay enthusiasts?

The first thing I did, and would recommend to beginners, is to just look at what others have already accomplished and borrow their techniques and use them to create your own unique art. Try some of the lessons found on Polymer Clay Central and elsewhere and experiment until you find what works for you. Even if you have never worked with any clay product before, you will find yourself even on your first day, making something you can be proud of. Start with the basics, some clay, a few tools to shape it and a healthy imagination. It also is beneficial to ask questions, join a board and post a query on a subject you are unfamiliar with or just search to see if a discussion on that subject has already taken place.

Are you a member of any Polymer Clay group,or any other craft organization?

Unfortunately the closest guild is about 200 miles away which makes attending meetings unlikely. I am in favor of a virtual guild for people unable to join one near them. It is important to get feedback from others who are using the same medium and share techniques.

What brands of polymer clay do you prefer and why?

I originally tried Scupley II but found Sculpey Premo easier to work with, at least with everything I have done so far. Other brands may work better for other projects. I have also used the Scupley Mold Maker clay and found it extremely hard to work with that is until I found someone who mentioned putting it in the freezer before you make the impression. That was the trick needed to make it easier and less of a mess to work with. Premo is a bit too hard to use in an extruder, at least for some of the smaller diameter shapes, unless you first add a couple drops of clay softener to it. So far I will stick with Premo. I'm not that happy with the color selection. I would like to see them offer Terra Cotta and also a larger selection of larger sizes but since I am primarily working with black Premo and can get that locally in the 1 lb size I can forgive the color limitation.

Last and most important can you tell us all about you? Your family, your training?

I am in my fifties and have been working from home for the last 7 years. I was a computer programmer since 1980 but my company was put out of business by Far East competition and prospects for getting a job in Ohio in the computer industry at my age were slim to none. My wife continued to work while we switched roles. Lately we have been taking care of my aging mother-in-law where I am the primary care giver. She has Alzheimers and other complications so life is a bit of a surprise from day to day. I round out my time being an avid genealogist. I used to be a full time musician and recording engineer but haven't touched the studio in quite a few months. Guess the polymer clay addiction has taken hold.

I served in the Air Force for a year during Viet Nam but was medically discharged. I then spent a year in college studying commercial art but switched majors to computers after finding the job prospects for an art major in my area were not very good and since I was married, I couldn't really pick up and move. Computers paid the bills but it also allowed me to explore my art school training with computer graphics. I used this skill to design the commercial graphics for a few of the companies I worked for. It was also a step into design web pages which I continue to do for my own company and for genealogy. My wife and I have been doing craft shows for the last few years selling Bonsai, Lucky Bamboo and handmade fountains but am looking forward to adding the polymer products and phasing out the live plants.

With my mother-in-law's illness progressing, it is getting to the point that my wife will have to quit her job to help. That means either working as a greeter for WalMart or trying to make a living with Polymer Clay products. I will choose the latter for now!

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